Spare your applause, but I’m going to be a dad in less than a month. That makes this the last few weeks of my life as a non-parent. Whatever we think it takes to become a man, how many beards we need to grow, how many alligators we’re required to wrestle, how muscular and shiny we need to be, really, the litmus test is probably how well we can protect and look after the people around us who need protecting and looking after. So pretty soon I’m going to have to put away childish things and take up more adult pastimes like sashaying around South London with a baby attached to me pretending not to be self-conscious, uncertain and a bit frightened. I’m going to have to change nappies, pull silly faces, make weird noises that don’t mean anything. At some point I’m going to be required to weep at a table in Starbucks while the apple of my eye shits on the floor.
The truth is I know that the initial stage of being a dad will be a surreal experience, and possibly one that doesn’t enhance my sense of masculinity – it could possibly do the polar opposite. I might feel redundant, emasculated, useless, unable to pass on my valuable life lessons or teach my child karate or very basic DJing skills. I’m almost certain that those early stages will just require thoughtfulness, kind words and a skin as thick as cowhide. So with all of that in mind, I put it to my female pals, the vast swathes of fairly new mums, I put it to them to give me some pointers on how to be a good dad during that first year. Their responses were littered with capital letters and exclamation marks, which made me think that a little piece like this might be even more necessary than I thought. Anyway, based on their responses, here are some rules of early fatherhood that I shall be following to the letter, feel free to add your own in the comments bit…
“She is always, ALWAYS more tired than you”
This was a consensus amongst mums, which suggests that when nerves are frayed and no one’s quite getting the nine hours required to keep your sanity intact, it mightn’t be the best time to start moaning because you’re a bit sleepy too. Suck it up, be considerate. Don’t be a dick.
Make lots of tea. As in LOADS.
People love to joke that they never make it through a cup of tea, or that they only ever drink it cold, but this doesn’t mean that, as a man, you shouldn’t provide an endless conveyor belt of hot refreshments that may or may not be enjoyed. Make yourself useful, show that you care. Don’t be a dick.
Don’t be disagreeable
This is really an extension of Rule 1, but let’s essentially repeat it because it’s super-important. It’s about being kind and understanding and knowing that whatever petty argument you think you’re winning doesn’t actually matter. You might as well be yelling into a vacuum so just shut the fuck up and say some nice shit instead. Or if you want the shorthand version of this rule, it’s ‘don’t be a dick’.
Do your fair share of the work, and do it willingly and positively
Extract that oldy woldy picket fence, food on the table bullshit from your inner wish list because the world doesn’t operate like that any more. We’re all women’s lib, we watch box sets and listen to podcasts, and the last time anyone checked part of being a man included cooking for your tired woman who’s had a hungry mini-me brutalising her nipples for what feels like FOREVER. So don’t be a dick. While you’re at it, do some washing up, change as many nappies as you can, drag a hoover around a bit, take over with cuddles, get the baby to sleep on your own. Possibly dust stuff or wander around with a j-cloth at least pretending to look useful.
If you’re wealthy enough to have a nanny, ensure she’s not hot
This applies to barely anyone, but if you happen to be one of those people who have banknotes spilling out of your pockets and onto the pavement when you walk, you might be considering calling for reinforcements. In which case, the first and only rule of Hiring a Nanny Club is that she shouldn’t look like something out of a porno, all great arse, blowjay lips and massive bangers. Your sole requirement is that she is at least half as good looking as your wife/life partner, but preferably three times uglier and with horrible tits. Not my words. Oh yeah, and don’t be a dick.
Accept your place in the general scheme of things
It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent the last decade riding the crest of a popularity wave with people falling at your feet in adoration, in the homestead you’re now at least three down in the list of Important People. Possibly further, because your mum has started coming over for regular visits and she knows what she’s doing, and there’s a girl who knows when to turn up with baked goods. But rather than sink into a deep malaise that ends with you crying in your woman’s lap because you don’t feel loved enough, just suck it up and know that you are at least half responsible for everything that’s happening. Don’t be a pussy. Neither be a dick.
Don’t be flippant or argumentative
You might have noticed that this is basically a wholesale repeat of rules 1 and 3, and again that’s because this is probably the most important lesson you will ever learn in your entire life. It requires biting of lips, meditative breathing, a mature, secure mind, and an innate ability not to be a dick.
Don’t get fresh
It seems that one of the great ironies of conception is that it leads to a fairly stark downturn in bedroom activity from the time the new arrival finally arrives until the bosom area on a woman becomes less an udder and more a sexy pair of tits again. The consensus here seems to be to bide your time, don’t rush to make sex happen, but definitely be open to it when the opportunity arises. Decent amounts of sleep and a vagina that no longer requires gigantic panty liners could serve as clues as to when to try your luck. Most importantly though, don’t be a dick.
Remember how much you love your lady, and ensure she feels loved
My sister Annie summed this up pretty well when she said “keep telling her she’s beautiful, even though her hair is falling out, she is covered in baby sick and she’s forgotten to put her boob away since the last feed.” Because whatever the weather and however anything is going, it’s important to remember that the baby is a direct result of that shared love, and that makes it literally as groovy as fuck. Which is the maximum level of groovy you can get. I should also probably write the words ‘don’t be a dick’, because it’s become a THING, hasn’t it?
NEVER offer to “babysit”
“It’s your child, it’s not babysitting,” says Ceri. Lots of people on Facebook LIKE this. This suggests that it is very important and something we should all know about. Almost as important as ‘don’t be a dick’. But not quite.