Being a dad has been the most incredible adventure of my life. Emphasis on adventure! There's nothing quite like being a dad (moms are awesome too, but I can't speak to that experience). I remember when I found out that we were expecting our first child. I was so excited and so freaked out! And I wanted to prepare myself for fatherhood in every way possible.
If you're preparing for fatherhood, here are some things you can do:
1. Do your research.
Read as much as you can about becoming a dad and what it takes to be a dad (the tasks and the relational aspect). There are plenty of books, blogs and podcasts about being a dad. A few of my favorites are the websites Fatherly.com and AllProDad.com, YouTube's Dude Dad and the books "The Birth Guy's Go-To Guide for New Dads: How To Support Your Partner Through Birth, Breastfeeding and Beyond" and "Be the Dad She Needs You To Be: The Indelible Imprint a Father Leaves on His Daughter's Life."
2. Talk to other dads.
Experience is a great teacher! Talk to new dads and those who have years of experience. There is immense value in learning from both groups. Talking to experienced dads can also help you decide the type of father you want to be.
3. Finish those household projects.
Got unfinished projects that you haven't had time to finish? Well, now's the time. No need to have those hanging over your head after the baby arrives.
4. Make a plan for responsibilities.
Talk with Mom about who will do what. This isn't a one-time conversation either. Be open about your expectations of each other and parenthood. You need to discuss this before the baby gets here and you're both exhausted. The goal is to make sure you both have sufficient baby time and the ability to get sleep when you can.
5. Talk about parenting with Mom.
There are different types and philosophies of parenting. Whether you're married or not, discuss how you want to raise your child.
These questions can get you started:
— How can I best support the method of feeding you choose?
— Where will the baby sleep?
— Will both of you return to work? If so, when?
— What about child care? (Child care is often in short supply, so if you'll be seeking child care, start now. Apply everywhere you can, and be prepared for long wait lists.)
6. Start buying those baby supplies.
There's no time like the present to purchase what you need. Make a list, and buy throughout the pregnancy. Decide on a diapering system, and stock up. If you're using disposable diapers, buy different sizes and brands. You never know how the baby will react to certain brands. (Pro tip: Don't open the diapers, and keep receipts. You can always exchange them as long as you know where you got them.)
7. Take care of yourself physically.
Becoming a parent takes a lot of energy. If you need to make some healthier choices for yourself, do it now. It's much easier to make life changes before your child is born.
8. Talk to your employer.
It's about more than just taking time off after your baby is born. Will you have the flexibility to attend doctor appointments? Will your job allow you to occasionally work from home?
9. Attend doctor appointments.
You need to go to as many prenatal doctor appointments as possible now. Your role is significant. Ask all the questions you can think of.
10. Spend time with your friends and family.
You may have all the time in the world right now, but that's gonna change when your little one arrives. That's the life of a new parent. Spend time with your friends now. If they aren't parents, let them know your time is about to get REAL stretched. If they're parents, they've been there, and they get it.
11. Don't stress yourself out.
The only way to know how to be a dad is to BE A DAD. No two kids or experiences are alike, so don't worry that you won't be prepared. Learn as much as you can now without putting too much pressure on yourself or Mom. If you're both first-time parents, it's a big learning curve. Do the best you can.
Like I said: Being a dad is an adventure. Your role is crucial in the development of your child. They need you, and you have what it takes to be a great dad.
Mitchell Qualls is vice president of operations at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at email@example.com.