Your first New Year's Eve as a new dad or dad-to-be is a test. Here's how not to make a total balls of it.
New Years Eve is traditionally a very, very boozy affair. Celebrating it any other way is downright Un-Australian, and likely to mean you end up on some sort of government watch-list, alongside ‘guys who don’t like cricket’ and ‘men who’ve never dreamed of owning a V8 Commodore’.
(V8 Falcons don’t count. I’m a Holden man. Deal with it.)
But for guys who are either about to have a bundle of joy delivered, or have recently become dads, this time of year changes in a number of very big ways.
So here’s a quick run-down on how things will be different, and the pitfalls you’re really going to want to avoid…
‘Pregnant’ doesn’t mean ‘designated driver’
When I realised that my wife would be pregnant over the summer holidays, I’ll admit that I was pretty excited about having a rock-solid designated driver for party season.
That excitement lasted about as long as it took between me having the thought, and saying to my wife “I’ve just realised you’re basically the designated drive-”
That’s as far as I got – for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I realised what I was about to say was probably the wrong thing to say… but mostly because of the look she flashed me.
You know… that look. The one that says “one more syllable and I will break you into a million pieces”.
So – to learn from my ineptitude, it’s probably best to not bring this up as an option. And it’s highly advisable not to assume that this is an option, either.
She’s carrying your child… so she’s highly unlikely to want to have to carry you home as well.
‘Do whatever you want’ is probably a trap
And by ‘probably a trap’, I mean ‘it’s definitely, always a trap’.
This is an inalienable truth in any partnership – especially when ‘do whatever you want, I don’t mind’ means that the person offering that up will be missing out on something they would otherwise want to be doing as well.
When she says ‘sure… head out with your mates on New Years… I’ll stay home and have a quiet one’, it’s entirely probable that you’ll end up paying for it in a big, big way.
If she’s expecting, and can’t head out to party until the wee hours, the right thing to do is to head home at a reasonable time and be a good partner. And it’s not just to keep the peace on the home front… there’s a very good reason for it – which we’ll discuss in a minute or two.
The wrong thing to do is crash through the front door at 7 in the morning, pee ‘somewhere near the toilet’ and then black out on the couch until midday.
If you’ve already had the visit from the stork and she’s stayed home to watch the baby while you’ve gone out, the right thing to do is to come home even earlier (as in, before the clock strikes 12) and ring in the new year with your family. In fact, your best bet is to stay home entirely!
Your single mates might give you some shit about it – but being a dad comes first. It’s okay to tell them to piss off and stop giving you grief. They don’t understand. Yet.
She might be feeling left out
We’ve all been to a party at some stage, and felt like a bit of a fifth wheel – and given that New Year’s Eve is one of those nights where it’s almost government mandated that everyone writes themselves off, it’s highly likely that your sober missus is going to feel like heading home early.
Like ‘just after the kiddie’s 9pm fireworks’ early.
And here’s where this one gets a bit difficult – because if you’ve been given the green light to have a few beers, and you’re having a grand old time, the last thing you want is the ‘it’s time to go home’ tap on the shoulder.
I’ll admit, I was guilty of this one on a number of occasions – where the desire to hang out with friends and get more beers in was rather selfishly put before how my wife was feeling.
We’ve talked about it all since then – and looking back on it, I really wasn’t focussed on what’s important… We were meant to be partners, and I was treating her like a weirdly insistent taxi driver that I didn’t remember booking for a 10.30pm pick-up.
You have responsibilities
If your missus is in the later stages of pregnancy, it’s worth bearing in mind (and not just for New Years…) that a drunk father-to-be is next to useless if the big moment decides to happen when you’re more liquored up than Mel Gibson.
First of all, you’re most likely to be on the hook for driving to the hospital, after making sure the delivery room bag is actually in the car. And I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded that driving drunk is a monumentally bad idea.
Plus, if you’re anything like me, then the first time you drive to hospital with a wife who’s in the advanced stages of labour, you’ll need your wits about you.
It’s remarkable how far you can get through traffic with surging adrenaline glands playing havoc, with your foot to the floor and one hand stabbing at the horn to get other drivers to move out of the way. Believe me – you don’t want to be trying that when you’re even halfway in the bag.
Put yourself in her shoes
Remember that time you went to a family function where everyone was drinking but you had to drive home? Add to that the feeling like you’ve just eaten a two-kilo steak, badly need to pee, and it feels like it’s hotter than trekking through the Serengeti.
That’s probably how she’s feeling, while you’re downing several cooling, cleansing ales and having a ball.
Putting yourself in her shoes at this point is actually good training for being a dad… you’ll need to develop a sense of selflessness, and for a lot of guys, that doesn’t come naturally. It certainly didn’t for me.
So this New Year’s, whether you’re about to be a dad, or you’ve got your first-born already, it’s time to realise that things are now different.
There will always be other parties. There will always be ample opportunity to see all your mates and have some fun.
But New Year’s Eve is a rock-solid chance for you to put your dad, or dad-to-be, skills into action.
It’s just another night on the calendar – but it’s a ripper of a night to show you, and your missus, that you’re committed to being a dad.