By Chris Casazza
So okay, you are a newly minted dad and you’ve somewhat wrapped your head around the idea that you and your partner can be trusted to
take care of a little human being. You also find that this new little bugger affects everything from sleep to work to going to the bathroom. Now, with all of these changes you may find little psychic energy to plan anything – you are just reacting to what baby needs, your partner’s needs and oh yeah, maybe getting a few minutes to yourself. If you stay too long in this reactive state you will find yourself strung-out and snapping at things that before seemed like you had the capacity to handle. This is where setting some expectations can ward off simmering resentments and give you a sense of fortitude even in spite of all the new changes having a baby involves. Sometime in the first six weeks I recommend you outline roles and expectations for your family and make a list of things to address. Before baby arrives is even better! This process will help you feel more engaged and in control of things and help give you a sense of intention in what you do. Here are a few important areas I recommend discussing and dad, you be the one that initiates and outlines the conversation.
- Finances: Look at your inflows and outflows. Are there places you can cut expenses? Will there be a parent staying home? Can you afford going down to one salary? Find out how much is daycare and how will that fit into the budget.
- Housecleaning: Setting up expectations about who does what and when is very helpful. See if you can afford a housecleaner a couple of times a month. A chart of weekly chores and switching once a month can sometimes work too.
- Grocery shopping/cooking: Who will do the weekly shopping and preparation of meals? Maybe one of you could make the menu, the other one buys it, and both take turns preparing the meal.
- Getting up in the night: I know many of your partners may be nursing baby, but later you can help by giving your baby a bottle at certain shifts or labeling the expressed milk.
- Making medical appointments/signing up for classes: You can feel more engaged if you take an active role in things like making the first pediatrician appointments, signing up for PEPS, etc.
- House projects: Yes, I know the honey-do list seems endless, but spell out expectations and timeframe for those things. It is helpful to have a short and long list. Obviously things like making sure the lock on your front door works takes precedence over that swimming pool you may want in the back yard. So prioritize and set reasonable goals for getting them done. Things will take longer having a new little one around.
- Time for yourself: This might be the hardest time to find, but self-care is crucial for new parents. See where you can regularly fit in even 30 minutes in your day to do something that builds you up. Exercise is restorative, and reading a book or meditation works as well. Often it can be hard for moms to leave baby, so one tip I have for dads is to make a pedicure/massage appointment for mom and take the baby while she recharges.
And finally with all of this, remember that these expectations will evolve and change as your baby grows, but what stays the same is that they constantly need to be addressed. Dads, you can ward off resentment between you and your partner and keep your marriage strong by initiating the spelling out of expectations and adjusting your roles. This will also help you feel more engaged as a dad and deepen your sense of confidence. When expectations are spelled out it frees you up to feel more at home with yourself and gives you more energy to experience your baby and the joys of being a new dad.
About the Author
Chris Casazza is a self-proclaimed “dadvocate” and father to his two boys ages 10 and 13. He owns a part-time psychotherapy practice in Seattle and Redmond that specializes in working with new fathers. In 2012 Chris helped launch PEPS for Dads, a program which now launches multiple groups every year. Chris was awarded the 2012 “Spirit of PEPS” Award for his contributions to creating the Dads programming at PEPS. In his spare time he enjoys skiing with his family and playing tennis. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.