ABCs of Becoming a New Dad – “A”

This is the first post in the series of ABCs for New Dads.

A

Allow. As a new dad, its important to allow yourself to reflect on your past. Understand that your childhood experiences (both good and bad; with or without a father) are there for you to draw upon to help you choose your path in becoming the dad you want to be for your newborn.
If you have some time till baby arrives, or even if your little one is already here, give yourself the time and space to churn on what being a dad really means to you and for your child. You have the opportunity to define your new role as a dad. Looking back, I was the oldest child in my family and had many younger cousins to help look out for them. Although I felt comfortable taking care of a baby in changing diapers, feeding and holding them, becoming ‘the dad’ brought on a whole new meaning and level of responsibility.
I remember the nervous anticipation in those few months and weeks before baby arrived. I dreamed of hanging out with my little one. We knew we were having a girl for our first born and I thought of how she was going to be daddy’s little girl. Would I be ‘ok’ with her dressing up and putting make-up on? As I chuckled at the thought of her as a teenager interested in boys, a more serious question is how can I be a role model for her idea of what a good husband and father is?
With my son, I thought of how much more active he would be as a baby compared to my daughter. I imagined introducing him to sports and taking him to his first Cubs game at Wrigley field. Allowing myself to think about what it means to be a dad brought on so many questions and helped me realize many of my pre-conceived notions of child care and raising kids.
While there will be many days of joy and happiness, there will also be times on your journey of fatherhood that give you pause, that irritate, frustrate, or maybe even infuriate you. Whatever the situation, you need to allow yourself to be present. Take it all in. Assess. Learn. Give yourself the opportunity to build your tool chest of ways to manage and respond. Know that your reactions also impart how others treat and react to you as a new dad. Give yourself (and your kids) the leeway to make mistakes… It is only by going through tough situations that you are able to grow, learn and shine the light on how to improve upon ways to grow into that ideal dad of yourself. (See also Patience)
Almost as important as your expectations of what it means to be a dad, is what your spouse’s ideas of you as a new dad as well! (See also Expectation)

Ambition. For many new dads, having a kid can and will impact your motivation and performance in your professional work life. While your daily routines will soon revolve around the care of your baby, you may find yourself mulling over how to become a better provider in your time and financial resources. (See time). It is a double edged sword, isn’t it? How do you carve out more of your time to be with and be present in the care of your baby while also having time for your job or other activities to bring in more income?
While having a new addition to the family can be a great motivator and fuel to your ambition to achieve and earn more, make sure that your ambitions are also your family’s ambitions… meaning that you need to make sure you’re on the same page with your partner in expectations for work and family time (aka baby care duties!)
As a healthcare consultant, I traveled weekly helping hospitals and healthcare organizations with their Electronic Medical Records (EMR). I was earning a six-figure income, but I was also living out of a suitcase Monday through Thursday. I was a hired gun; a free-agent who was well compensated but traded my time away from my family and my hands-on role as a dad away for money.
Once my wife and I found out she was pregnant with another baby, I had a choice… one that I’m incredibly blessed and thankful for… do I continue with my consulting job that paid the bills, school loans and provided for the family financially, or do I find a full time job as an employee to be home? I knew in my gut that something had to change.
I suppressed my ambition for money and the travel consulting lifestyle, knowing that I would want and need to be home for my wife during her pregnancy and certainly for my son in his first weeks and months of life. At the time of this writing, my daughter has just turned eight and my newborn son is eight months old! Time flies and your kids will only be small little babies for a few short months, so cherish those moments!
As a side note, if I wasn’t home and traveling, I might have missed how my little guy is also ambitious at eight months old trying to stand up on his own and cruising our furniture trying to walk! Ugh! They do grow up fast!
I can’t tell you that you need to be home every night and be the direct caregiver. For some of you, maybe your wife earns more and will be the primary breadwinner! To you I say kudos!
What’s your ambition? How will having a baby impact your work and professional life? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about it!

Anxiety. Feeling a bit worried and stressed out about the upcoming birth is certainly normal. Some new dads (and even us “seasoned dads who’ve been through it before” may or may not acknowledge it, but it’s okay to fear the unknown of ‘the what’ and ‘the how’ of childbirth when you’re not the one in control! Even from child to child, each pregnancy and labor can be distinctly different experiences from one kid to the next! The best thing to do is to read on, learn and soak in all the information you can to prepare yourself for this life changing event! Childbirth education, whether through books, online videos or courses, or in person will help you become familiar with each stage of labor. The more you know, the better prepared you will feel to decrease that stress and anxiety.
What are you most anxious about? Let me know in the comments below!

Appreciate this time as you make the transition to your role as a new dad! Learning the ropes of parenthood can be downright scary, and overwhelming. Having an attitude of appreciation and gratitude will serve you well as you not only reflect on your own paternal experience, but also identify what kind of father you chose to become!
I remember looking back thinking how excited (and at the same time freaked out) I was at the incredible responsibility of taking care of a little one and becoming a dad. Thinking about my dad, I have a new appreciation for him as I imagine how he must have felt during his transition. When I was born, we lived in a high-rise apartment building in the North side of Chicago in the 1970s. My parents were relatively new to the United States having immigrated from the Philippines looking to create a new life and legacy for their family.
While my Dad was an accountant at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago, he relished the American dream of opportunity. From network marketing and sales of 3D cameras, health supplements, and life insurance, to being a maintenance man at an apartment complex, to wedding limo driver, my dad hustled! He has always had multiple side-jobs as long as I can remember, trying to make extra money to provide for the family.
While I remember my dad often times being away at work during the day, I now appreciate his work ethic and drive to be a provider. In many ways, he too learned this from my Lolo (grandpa), who also later immigrated to the United States and while ‘retired’, he worked into his 70s and 80s as an overnight security guard at a local steel spring manufacturing plant. They worked hard not only for their immediate family, but also to earn money to send back to their homeland of the Philippines to provide support and financial resources for extended family. They started a non-profit organization that gave back to their home community and most importantly funded scholarships for students at their local grade school. To date, this foundation has helped over 30 children attend high school and college that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to without the support of my father.
Looking back, I’m incredibly proud of my dad’s accomplishments from where he began and the role he has been as a father. It’s important to lift up and appreciate your memories and life experiences with your father or father figure(s). Have appreciation for where you’ve been and excitement for the family you have. To date, I feel incredibly blessed that my kids will also get to know their Lolo. He has entered his retirement years spending time and helping care for my kids during the day the way that my Lolo & Lola did with me. I have a new appreciation for the saying ‘It takes a village [to raise kids]”. Thank You Dad & Lolo!
What do you appreciate about your own father? If you still have the opportunity to do so, have you told them ‘thank you’ lately?

Attention and presence in each moment with your partner and baby is a skill. You likely experienced a taste of this challenge during your wife’s pregnancy. Just as she may or may not have expressed each of her food cravings, cramping, back-aches, tiredness, and all the other things of being pregnant each moment with you during those long nine months, once baby arrives, it’s your job to continue to pay attention not only with your partner, but certainly with baby as well when he or she arrives! Babies will certainly tell you they need or want something just in time. When you’re an attentive new dad, don’t worry, you’ll learn what your baby wants & needs (See crying).

Attitude. Becoming a dad for most new fathers is a welcoming and rewarding experience. As is with anything in life, you determine your aptitude and altitude first with your attitude. Yes, it’s cheesy, but its also true! If you don’t have the right mindset in becoming a father and supportive partner, its easy to focus on the negatives of losing one’s bachelor-hood or status and time of being just a couple with you and your partner. For most of you, because you’re reading this, I know your heart is in the right place in wanting to become the best dad you can be for your kid(s)! You wouldn’t be here reading this or listening to my New Dad Guide podcast or following me on social media if you weren’t interested in learning what it takes to become a great father.
For all of you new dads, there will be times in this new path as a dad where you struggle in caring or empathy in either not necessarily know what to do, or not realizing the needs of your loved ones. Having the right mindset and attitude in any situation & conflict is key. I’ve heard it said that your attitude and response in times of stress and friction are the true signs of your character. What kind of dad do you want to be?

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Let me know what you guys think! Is there another ‘A’ attribute for a new dad that you would like to add? Please leave a comment below!

Thank you!

Steve 🙂

 

Steve Justo, RN MSN

 

ABCs for New Dads – ‘B’

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