It’s been one and a half years since I first became a father. And while social media might make you think that fatherhood is such an easy, fun, glamorous and picture-perfect thing to be in, the truth is, it’s not all that. Because behind the smiles you show on camera are sleepless nights, countless fights with your spouse after being exhausted taking care of the baby and sacrifices that other people don’t see and more so, appreciate.
So whatever difficulty you have been imagining inside your head on how hard it is to become a parent, well, imagine that times a hundred. Because nothing ever prepared me for this. I keep telling my friends that I found it easier to adjust to living together with my wife after we got married than having a baby. Because the latter is really, really hard.
And so, in celebration of Father’s Day, I’d like to share my thoughts on what I have learned in the past year and a half of becoming a first time dad.
Things I Learned as a First Time Dad
Fatherhood taught me to be selfless.
Before it used to be me, me, me.
Now? It’s the complete opposite. It’s all about the baby.
It’s so difficult that I even feel depressed sometimes because I can’t do the things I was able to do when I was single.
Partying all night? Forget it.
Blogging at a coffee shop until late? You wish!
I lost time to exercise, I ate a lot to counter the sleepless nights and yes, I gained a lot of weight.
I guess fatherhood taught me to be selfless and to think about myself last. But that’s not healthy so my wish is to bring back my “me” time and the balance in my life in the coming months.
Babies prefer mom and sometimes you feel jealous
One thing that you’ll discover when you are a dad is that babies prefer one parent for some things and the other parent for other things.
As a new dad, sometimes I feel jealous when PGG Junior prefers his mom. I mean, all babies prefer mom for a majority of things, don’t they?
Because what I’ve discovered is that baby wants mom for sleep time and cuddling, but he wants dad for playing, adventure and thrill. Yes, I admit I feel ignored in some cases, but that is the reality of life. Kids prefer their moms to soothe them, but they prefer their dads for FUN. Not really a bad thing, if you think about it.
Pee and poop are everywhere
Like it or not, pee and poop will be everywhere. You have to clean it and it’s part of the deal of having a baby.
I’m kind of a hands-on parent so I don’t mind touching poop. (I know, right? Where was the supposedly “cool” Chris you read about on PGG before?) Well, it’s still me but now I’m a dad so instead of spending the whole night at a club, I’m cleaning poop.
But I have to accept it. I’m no longer in my twenties being single and happy go lucky. I’m now married with a kid so it’s part of me growing up, being matured and becoming a parent.
Bathing the baby is the scariest part for me
I don’t know about other dads out there, but giving your baby a bath is one of the scariest parts of being a parent to a baby under two years old. Bathrooms are slippery and if your kid is like mine who is too playful and sometimes hyperactive, giving him a bath is terrifying. You have to be careful to make sure he doesn’t slip, doesn’t hit his head on the tub and most important of all, doesn’t drown. Yes guys, infants can drown even if the water in the baby bath tub is just two inches.
You need to teach your kid to socialize
I’m scared about this generation of kids. Most of them, like ours, live in a condo where the space is small and it’s harder to socialize with other kids, unlike during our generation where you could simply meet, play and make friends with other kids in the next door neighborhood.
To make sure that my baby, PGG Junior, knows how to interact with other people, we bring him down to the condo’s amenities area to socialize with other kids. We also bring him to Kidzoona, ball pit and other similar playgrounds to make sure that he meets new playmates.
Making your kid aware of God as early as possible
Coming from a religious family, I make sure to bring my kid to Church every Sundays and teach him to pray. Even if he doesn’t fully understand, he needs to slowly get the habit of listening (and talking) with God. This will help him in his upbringing so that he would grow up as a righteous person.
Lessening gadget and screen time
The generation of kids these days are born in the era of the Internet. And it’s not healthy.
I learned that dads and moms should lessen gadget, screen and TV time of their kids and allow them to play with non-tech toys, games and activities because they will need it for their motor skills, sports and P.E. classes in school.
Listen to what your parents say, not just what the pedia says
During my first few months as a dad, my wife and I OBEYED everything that the pedia said. Everything down to the last detail.
However, my baby lost weight because we were too restrictive on food and we based it only on what the pedia said. If the pedia forgot to mention some types of food, we don’t give it.
The end result? Our baby lost weight.
Experience is the best teacher, so listen to the tips coming from grandpa and grandma (READ: your parents) and not just what the pedia says. Because your parents know how to raise a kid. You are proof of that.
Budget and travels with your wife plummets… tremendously
Once you have a baby, travel decreases a LOT.
The primary reason is it’s very inconvenient. Picture this: going to the church on Sundays requires my wife and I to bring two backpacks and one stroller. Now how much more would it be if we go for an out-of-town or out-of-the-country travel?
I remembering the hassle flying to Russia last year for the FIFA World Cup with the whole family. We have one large luggage containing only baby stuff, and two separate medium-sized luggages for myself and my wife’s. Heck, our baby has more stuff then both my wife and I combined!
Apart from inconvenience is the cost. Travelling now has gotten more expensive. You have one additional pax with you.
And speaking of cost. Everything now should be budgeted. Being the dad and the head of the family, you now have another mouth to feed so you have to work harder to bring food to the family.
* * * *
With all the difficulties I mentioned above, I really wonder how young/teenage parents do it and I’m impressed by their ability to raise a kid at such a young age. Because if I look back at my younger self, I don’t think I can become a parent in my teens or early 20s. I’m just not prepared nor psyched for it and I don’t think I’ll make it without any help. But now, that I’m more matured and grown-up, I think I’m able to handle it better with my wife by my side.
And despite all the hardships, not everything is as bad as it seems. Because on the bright side…
Seeing your baby smile at you is the best thing in the world. Even if you are too exhausted from work and from taking care of him, once he smiles, all those bad feelings go away.
When your baby cries when you leave him as you go to the office, you are torn between staying home and reporting to work. Because you realize that this tiny little human NEEDS you because YOU ARE EVERYTHING to him. Your sacrifices at work now has a purpose. It has more meaning and more value – it’s for your kid’s future.
Whenever I come home from a hard day at work, and as soon as my baby hears me turning the keys into the locks to open the door of our apartment, he would start screaming DADA because he knows I’m there. (Dada because he’s still trying to learn how to say Daddy). Then once I open the door, my baby will charge to me to hug me tight and to welcome me home. He is very excited to see me. And YES guys, that is one of the best FEELINGS in the world.
So far, this is what I’ve experienced as a new dad. It is a life-changing experience mixed with pure joy and countless sacrifices that often go unnoticed.
I’m still new to this game but my wish is to become a great dad to PGG Junior.
To my dad, I can now see how hard it was raising me as a kid. I now appreciate your sacrifices even more especially when I became a dad myself.
And so to my dad and to all the dads reading this, Happy Father’s Day!