The more of these you ace, the easier your coming ordeal … I mean period of life-altering wonder, will be.
1. Pub time
Yeah, mum needs a break more than you do. She’s been wearing the same trackies for 10 days, and her nipples are cracked, and her body has been through hell and back (and often back to hell). So give her a break.
But you need a break too. So wet the baby’s head. Get out, if you can, for an hour on a Saturday afternoon to drink beer with a handful of idiots.
2. The bundy clock
Here’s the secret about going back to work: it’s a relief. Sure, you’ll miss a bit of early childhood bonding time. But for a maternity leave mum, those afternoon hours drag out longer than the last four minutes of the grand final when you’re a man down and a point up.
Arrive just 10 minutes after you should — bus was late, boss needed a report re-written, foot was caught in a giant clam, whatever — and two things will happen.
A. You’ll walk through the door to a shitshow meltdown, having taken (or worse, missed) five where-the-hell-are-you calls, and B. You’ll have the kid dumped on you immediately by an angry sort of female Hulk Hogan clone.
Punch out on time, or beforehand. Play the sympathy card shamelessly.
3. The dad walkaway
The kid has been hyperventilation screaming since you wouldn’t let him play with the saws two hours ago at Bunnings. Your headache is pounding so hard that your skull is visibly throbbing, like a frog’s throat. And now the kid’s slapped the applicator syringe with the last skerrick of baby Panadol across the room.
I used to argue with my kid when this happened as if it was a logical, rational being. This is — obviously — a mistake.
“I can hear you. I can hear you. I CAN HEAR YOU. I know. Enough. Enough please, mate. Enough! I will give you a thousand dollars if you shut up for 30 seconds.”
Babies are real shits. A one-sided discourse pointing out that they’re misbehaving, or that their wailing is self-defeating, only makes you angrier. Leave the baby crying and come back in five minutes. If this sounds like you, you might — like me — be a naturally angry git.
Whatever else you do, prepare some coping mechanisms, and it can’t be stressed enough: DON’T SHAKE THE BABY.
4. The nappy change
Well thanks, Captain Obvious, I’ll remember to learn to change a fucking nappy. Yes, fair enough. But it’s not the mechanics that take time to learn, it’s the baby whispering.
Changing a nappy on a cooperative kid is such an enormous piece of piss that you could freeze it and ice-sculpt a life-sized yellow Big Bird out of the block.
Changing a kid that’s flailing about is like trying to push a chestburster back into John Hurt’s, er, chest.
The best thing I figured out was having a toy that he loved, but that he was only given to play with during changes. Leave it beside the change table. The 60 seconds of fascination was usually enough to get me over the line.
5. Patience around no sex
Obviously. And not just because this will get you back on the proverbial horse faster than whining about it, like a sad, slappable incel. As apprentice septic tank pumpers learn on their first day: it’s shit, just suck it up.
6. Befriending new dad friends
Once, I chose mates on the usual male criteria: bloke randomly assigned to be roommate at uni, for example, or guy I went over the falls in front of at Boomerang Beach one day, or shared love of beer/football/niche TV.
Not anymore. I will now happily hang out with a neighbourhood serial killer who smells like farts and has weeping facial buboes if pottering alongside his kid will keep my kid happy, quiet and occupied for an hour. Your kids share a preschool? It’s meant to be.
7. The furtive shower wank
See #5. Not since you moved into the share house in second-year uni has a female housemate’s Cetaphil shower lotion looked so tempting.
8. Childcare generally
Apply early, apply often, and attend each centre’s guided tour with the forced good manners of a guy dating a mobster’s daughter on his first home visit. You think the opportunity to pay them $164 a day is a rort, but it is a gift. A shitty gift, gift-wrapped by the leathery, clacking claws of capitalism. But a gift nonetheless.
9. Navigating Centrelink
Navigating parental leave payments and childcare rebates is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the welfare industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.
Make no mistake: Centrelink’s people may work hard but their systems are a Kafkaesque dystopian labyrinth.
There’s nothing else for it but dogged perseverance, and starting the 90-minute hold times and pointless bureaucratic makework as early as you can.
10. The defrost button
There are husky white families in rural Oregon who bury weapons in anticipation of coming race wars and whose reinforced basements are filled with tinned food.
These families have fewer supplies put aside than you’ll need for the first three months: a tricky time where you’ll gorge on anything that’s even technically food.
Master the art of cramming the freezer with portion-sized meals you can zap and consume in five minutes. Then master the art of re-stocking these supplies — via aunts and uncles, grandparents, Safeway, permafrost mammoth, anything — with as little effort as possible.
11. The nanny
Ha! Just kidding. Don’t nail the nanny. Nanny sexing shenanigans have ruined marriages of everyone from Jude Law to Arnie, and they’re both more attractive than you. You don’t even have fame to compel your better half to stick around afterwards.
Also, don’t hire a heavyset nanny to reduce temptation, if that’s not your thing; in times of stress, you might find them attractive anyway. If you must hire a nanny, go for one who’s so far out of your league she’d never shag you. It might help for #7.
READ MORE FROM BEN SMITHURST:
- You’re becoming a dad? 10 unexpected ways you’re about to change
- Seven things expecting dads can do to keep their partner happy
- 8 ludicrous baby inventions we didn’t need (and one we did)