After nearly a year of fatherhood, I have gained. what I consider, a decent bit of insightful knowledge. Mostly, I have learned how little I know. But, I will share with you now, the pieces I think you will find most helpful.
First off, fall back in love with your family. Both blood and chosen ones. Those closest to you will want more time when you have less to share, but this is when you need them most. Remember, they mostly want time with your newborn, but also will miss you. There is no shame in taking a buddy you used to only see through a drunken haze and catching up over coffee.
Set expectations (and be honest in your ignorance) with your business partners, investors, employees, and clients. Most of them are looking for your guidance on this because although it might seem like an afterthought to you, it can be life changing for them. Everyone likes babies, not everyone loves surprises, especially when it effects their livelihood.
Be aware that some of your friends do not want kids. Some do not even care to see pictures of your kid. If they do, they will ask and if they don’t, it’s okay, take comfort in knowing they will still like you, despite your buybuy BABY meets Pinterest looking Facebook wall.
The entire idea of “sleeping when your dead” no longer applies. Is your baby here yet? No? Then sleep now! Sleep a lot. Even when you have to build a crib, go get ice cream and work an 80 hour week, you still have relatively limitless time for sleep, take advantage of it. I once read that insomnia is the feeling that you are never really asleep but never really awake either. I get that now.
Reevaluate your priorities. The half dozen boards you joined at 25 may no longer need you, and, really, you may no longer need them. Walker Evans taught me this a half decade ago but I was too naive to understand. You might need to step away to make room for family, but also to make room for the next 25 year old you to gain those experiences. My approach was slightly different: I just sat down each of my executive directors/board chairs and negotiated a new role where I could leverage my connections for the organizations without having the time commitment of monthly meetings. Regardless, make time. On a good day the most time you get with your kid is a few hours and you will have plenty of more necessary reasons to miss too many of those.
Do not fear dirty diapers. Poop, pee, vomit, and tears are not scary. The fear of them falling off the changing table is the really scary stuff.
Sick days will really throw off your plans, so get ahead when you can. No matter how great your daycare is (we have the best,) your kid will get sick often and that means that you and your partner need to be home with him. This is a good time to point out how lucky we are to have high-quality child care, because so many can’t. That being said, it does cause a change of plans. If I had the time, I would create a company where pediatric med students are available to hang out with your kid on sick days. The daycares could give out their info with the dreaded “pick up your kiddo” call. I have no doubt it would do quite well. Note to all other readers: please steal this idea. This, like many of my ventures, is really just something I want to exist.
Speaking of your little one getting sick, you, too, will get sick. When your sick child is awake at 4 a.m. crying for mama and the closest things you can provide (because mama hasn’t slept in days) are kisses and comfort, you will take his coughs to the face, every single one. You will then catch whatever insane bug he caught from daycare. As soon as he finally goes back to school, your face will break out with something called “hand, foot and mouth”. You will look like a monster for several weeks. Still, this is significantly better than him being sick because at least you can talk and bitch about it on social media.
Build a tee-pee. Kids love tee-pees. Also, build him a sensory board. In fact do whatever your partner wants you to do. Especially when they do most of the hard work- so if they want anything for your child, just do it.
Make time for you and help your partner make time for his or herself as well. I play music, go to concerts, and catch a movie here and there. She does book club, ladies nights and comedy shows. We make it work, we can do better, remember you can always do better.
You are not alone. Even if you are the first among your close friends to have a kid, you have plenty of great examples to lean on. You have mentors, family and clients that have been through this all before. You belong to a new fraternity now, one where oddly sleeping is not only understood but overcome. Remember, The Beatles had kids, Andre 3000 had a kid with Erykah Badu (that is awesome), and Jay-Z had a daughter with Beyonce. Listen to this song a lot. You can do this.
More than anything else, I hope that you have the support of a partner without whom you could not run your businesses, throw festivals, make music or write long winded LinkedIn letters to yourself.
Also, having a child really is the bee’s knees. I wrote this from 4-5 a.m. with my snoring son in my arms. As his first birthday approaches, I know whatever Grayson will be, he will be a good one.
Timothy Wolf Tiptoes
By Timothy Wolf Starr, Contributor