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Dear dad-to-be, your journey to fatherhood has just begun. And if that scares you, fret not, my tips and tricks might just make it easier!
Dear New Father-to-be,
As the Big Day comes closer, I am sure you are being asked/forced to read up on Fatherhood. I am sure you’re given gems like ‘Six ways to be the best dad in the Universe,’ ‘What Dads do better than Mums.’ Not to forget the ‘father’ of them all ‘What to expect when you are expecting?’
You can ignore them all. I am here to welcome you to The Club, and guide you through what’s coming your way.
Pour yourself a stiff one, put your feet up, and let’s do this! Here are some truths about fatherhood.
Nothing and no one has ever prepared us for this moment. Especially in India. If there was a public campaign on how hard this is, the population would not be as high as it is now!
The myth of being an entitled Indian male gets Hulk Smashed when you become a Father in a nuclear household. Honestly, the manual goes something like this: Get wife pregnant – Wait for baby to be born – Bring baby home – Handover baby to Grandmum – End.
And where there is ignorance, how can arrogance be far behind! ‘I am good, very good, very very good with kids…’ ‘My niece grew up at my house for a year and a half. I can handle kids…’
Bollocks! This is the biggest myth of all.
Sure people are good with kids – when they have to take care of them for short periods of time. It’s easy making a child happy for 30 minutes. Try doing it for 48 X 30 minutes!
And, it’s abstract hard till you actually start doing it. Further, it’s doubly, triply harder if you are an Indian Male in any sense. Suddenly, you are at the bottom of the pecking order, no more Numero Uno. To make it worse, you now have to be at the beck and call of a little creature.
I struggled with this for a while. It takes time to get used to not being the First One – the first one to be kissed, the first one to be cared for. After years of just the two of you, to be upstaged by this new human being takes time to sink in.
Of course, you are most likely a more enlightened Indian Male than I am, so this may be easier for you.
But, if you feel any of this, don’t fret, you are not alone.
God surely made it easier for Dads till the child is born, but boy once born, Dads have to work harder! Kids instinctively recognise their mother, with Dads they are like ‘Ewww! Who’s this hairy, smelly bugger? Get away from me!’
Like with any relationship, Dads have to earn the child’s trust. A child truly trusts you when they allow you to feed them and put them to sleep. These are critical skills that you will have to master.
Children are like dogs but dogs are definitely not like children. And those who say they are – either do not have children or have forgotten what it feels like to have young children. Like dogs, kids are all about energy. They feed off your energy more than your words, especially when they are younger.
It’s uncanny how quickly they can pick up your vibe! And, since you cannot control their behaviour, the only thing you can control is your reactions to their behaviour.
I was prone to smack my firstborn till I realised that he has no idea of why he does certain things. Things like pouring my aftershave down the drain, or stealing medicine from the fridge and drinking it like juice.
I realised that kids have no idea of consequences, and so I started holding his hands, and instead of smacking him, I’d smack myself. This way, he gets the message, and the smack reboots my brain and makes me calmer. It’s crazy, but it works!
Cesar Milan’s book ‘How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond’ helped me a lot. Give it a go.
Kids feel and feel a lot in a short span of time. Imagine feeling each and every emoji on your phone in a span of 10 mins. It’s emotionally exhausting!
Kids can go from calm to happy to sad to rage in a matter of minutes. As adults, these emotional changes wreak havoc on our system. It’s difficult to keep calm through all of this, and all you can do is try.
Keep calm and carry on.
For good or bad, kids look up to their parents. Kids are the biggest Big Brother in the world. They hang on to your words and follow your actions. This puts real pressure on who you are, and who you want to become for your kid.
Self-reflection leading to change is not a pretty process, but it just may be worth it for a new and improved you!
The times – they are a-changin’
Becoming a Dad is a big change in itself. Within this macro change, you are going to experience other micro-changes as well. Now, it’s difficult to predict what these changes will be because it’s an individual thing.
Here are some of the changes that have happened to me:
Becoming a Dad makes one pray more. You pray when your wife goes into labour, you pray for a healthy child, you pray when they fall sick. When they recover, when they take their first steps, their first sounds, when their poop is not the right shade of brown. You pray when they fall and miss the table corner by a whisker – the list is seemingly endless.
The biggest change is that one become less judgemental and more accepting of people’s flaws. Saying ‘Good job!’ or ‘Well done’ even for small things becomes second nature.
Having a kid forces you to become more organised. Hell, I now make To-Do lists and carry a hanky with me at all times. Who’d have thought?! I certainly didn’t!
Also, you become better at analysing risks, since at home you have a creature that loves the ‘What If I do this?’ game!
I pray (there I go!) this doesn’t happen to you, but both my wife and I cannot bear to watch dark, morbid, unhappy content anymore. Really, I can’t explain why, but it’s like a switch has gone Off. I used to love it before, but can’t bear it any more.
A few words of advice
It’s difficult to be prescriptive because everyone has to find what works best for them, but here are some general bits of advice.
Play music and play lots of it! If you can sing, play an instrument, or do both then this is a huge plus and is only going to make your life easier. They sleep faster, easier and many a tear have stopped because of music.
Most Dads forget to play with their kids. Don’t be that guy. Throw them high and catch ‘em. Pull their ears. Or play with their hair. Tickle ‘em. Wrestle with them. Make them jump to you from high places. Hang them upside down.
Just don’t drop ‘em!
Call me old fashioned, but I’d choose the hospital any day over a home birth. I’d rather have expert help on hand rather than having to rush if anything goes wrong.
In case anything goes wrong, and you have to make a choice between the mum and the child. Choose the Mum. Always.
I’m sure money is being spent like flowing water. It’s only going to get more expensive from here on. Anything child-related is expensive and it’s mind-blowing how much we spend, and how easily we spend it. If you haven’t planned your finances, then now is a good time to start.
Get your insurances in place: Life – Medical – Accident
Plan your investments. Financial planners estimate that marriage, education and retirement expenses are expected to rise between 2X – 4X of the current rates in the next 15-20 years
(Yes, it is scary and overwhelming. Stay Calm. Stay Loose.)
Fight to watch the birth – You’ll feel guilty as hell, your penis will fight to crawl back inside your body. And, here’s a bonus – it’s like watching Alien as it pushes itself outside. Completely worth it!
Take pics like a tourist – You have proof in case they mix up the babies in the ward. But, no flash, please!
Check if the footrests are tight – Our first time it wasn’t, and trust me, that is the last thing she needs!
Check if the Air Con works – Our second time around, it didn’t and it was a nightmare for my wife.
The Bilirubin Count – The hospital should do it, but good for you to know. It’s a test for baby jaundice
The Audio Test – On day two or three they will do a hearing test for the baby. If they don’t, ask for it
Help Mum (I mean your partner, in case you are wondering who Mum is).
They really have the toughest job on this planet. Mums go through things we can’t comprehend, endure the pain we can’t even imagine, sacrifice their sense of self to keep the baby happy. The absolute least we can do is help in any way possible.
It is not gonna be easy what with the pressures of the Indian workplace – but there will always be moments where you’d have a choice between a drink with friends/colleagues and going home. Pick the latter.
She deserves the break.
It is the li’l hands hugging you tight. The face lighting up after seeing you after a long, hard day. And the wee voice calling, ‘Dad/Dada’ nineteen to a dozen. Running to you when they need a cuddle, or when they fall. Uninhibited laughter when you play with them. Big fat tears when you scold them. Watching the creature you helped created grow healthy and strong
All this is truly the best a man can get. (It was never Gillette in the first place)
Welcome to The Club.
You are a Dad now. And forever.
Picture credits: Still from Samsung’s ad on YouTube
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P V Shyam Mrithyunjayan
A [work in progress] husband and father of two beautiful boys,
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