Yes, you’ve made New Year’s Resolutions before, and kept to them religiously, sometimes for as long as 48 hours, but this year is different.
This year you’re not just making yourself promises you know you’ll never keep — and if you can’t let yourself off the hook, who can — you’re making resolutions that will effect that little kid you’ve fallen hopelessly in love with.
For him/her, of course, you’ll pledge to do things, and actually do them, because suddenly dying young because of your unhealthy lifestyle, for example, doesn’t just seem like an unpleasant notion; it’s a clear and present danger to the happiness of your child.
Here, helpfully, is our list of the 7 New Year’s Resolutions all dads should make (and keep).
1. Put down the phone, pick up the child
Ever since Apple started advising us about how much time we’re spending staring at our omnipresent screens every day (is three hours a day normal?), it’s got me thinking about just how much parenting time we’re losing to these weapons of mass distraction.
Go to any park and watch parents not watching their children play. How many times have you seen a dad pushing a swing with one hand, and checking messages with the other?
The greatest gift you can give your children might be your time — and dads in particular often don’t get to give nearly enough — but your attention is another very cheap choice.
Being present for those moments when they’re grinning because they’ve found a new stick, or because dirt tastes good, isn’t that much to ask. You can check Instagram later, even though it feels urgent now, and yes, if you must, you can use the phone to take yet another photo of your kid. But that’s it.
Sure, it’s not always possible to turn your phone off, but if you’re honest with yourself you’ll probably admit that it could stay in your pocket a lot more than it does.
2. Get back to your fighting weight
It’s called a Dad Bod for a reason, and it is genuinely shocking how quickly your manly physique can go from six-pack cracker jack to Jack Black. Lack of sleep doesn’t help, of course, but it’s often the loss of the time you used to have for exercising that’s the problem.
You need to lose the weight, not just because carrying it around is unhealthy, and because shifting it will give you more of the energy you now need for dad duties, but because your life expectancy is suddenly in play.
Everyone does the math — how old will I be at her 21st, and her 30th — and suddenly you have a renewed desire to stay on this planet, and the fact is that being overweight has the potential to take years off your life.
A study published in Nature Communications, involving more than 600,000 people, found that for every two pounds (91 grams) you are over your ideal body weight, you reduce your life expectancy by two months. How many kilos are you over your fighting weight?
That’s right, it’s time to get back to the gym. Here’s how to get rid of that Dad bod for good.
3. Romance your partner
This one should be the easiest resolution of all — you used to love doing it after all, and arguably your success at it is why you now have a child together — but again, it’s all about finding the time.
Bringing back the romance — even if it’s just a candlelit night in with pizza, because you don’t feel you’re ready to go out without the baby yet — is absolutely vital, and the longer you put off doing it, the harder, and weirder, it’s going to be.
You might feel like some small, baby-shaped character crept into your life late at night and stole away all that “spare” time you used to have, but this is why parents, and other grown-ups, talk about “making” time. You just have to find it. Somehow.
4. No more Angry Dad
I can’t prove it, but I reckon even Zen buddhists would get angry with their children sometimes. I’ve seen previously calm, cool and collected blokes start to misplace their shit because of a misbehaving child, or one that just won’t stop crying, no matter which enticements, threats or foods are offered.
In short, we all get angry sometimes, and yet we all know it’s one of those things we have to try and keep a lid on. Forget all that hippy illogic about internalising your anger being bad for you and just suck it up, try to stay calm, and then go outside and shout at the trees, or kick the hell out of one, later on.
The cliche of the angry, shouty, split-flecked father is an ugly one, and people who can’t control their temper make terrible dads, it’s that simple. While your child is young, and thus annoying in ways that will seem cute and loveable by the time they’re a teenager, is a good time to get practising. Make 2019 your year of Inner Calm (at least around the child).
5. Give up smoking
Let’s face it, the jury is in on this one. Smoking will kill you, and if you want to live long enough to see all those milestones in your child’s life, you simply have to stop. Do it this year.
That same study in Nature Communications that covered obesity also found that smoking had the biggest single influence on shortening of lifespan. A pack-a-day smoker, on average, will lose seven years of life.
Give up, however, the researchers say, and you’re a good chance of living as long as someone who never took up the darts in the first place. Also, in case no one has told you, you stink. And your second-hand smoke isn’t doing your family any good, either, and has been linked to SIDS.
6. Cut your credit-card spending
This obviously isn’t advice that relates uniquely to fathers, because everyone should cut back on their credit-card debt.
According to a survey by finder.com.au, the average debt carried by each adult Australian is a staggering $4268, although those with higher incomes average more like $5978. Scarily even those households with no income had similar credit-card debt, at an average of $3774.
We all know, of course, that banks love credit cards, and that banks — thank you, Royal Commission — are not our friends. Paying the interest on those card debts is dead money of the very worst kind.
Yes, you had debt in your old life, too, but now you have another mouth to feed it’s more important than ever that you better manage your money. Try the simple credo of not spending what you you don’t have, and do a budget — one that takes into account the new, child-related outgoings.
7. Manage your stress better
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told me not long ago that he doesn’t suffer any ill-effects from stress, and that when he walks into his house at the end of a long day, he leaves the work worries outside and refuses to let them in.
That ability to compartmentalise is no doubt one of the skills that separates CEO types from the rest of us, but it does show that managing stress is possible, although we’d all no doubt like to be better at it.
Personally, I’ve noticed since having kids that they are an incredible salve for stress, because you might walk into the house in a foul mood and hating your job, but one look at that beatific, unworried and unharried face and it can all fall off your shoulders. What else matters, really, when you’ve got a little miracle like that in your life?
Managing your stress — like giving up smoking or losing weight — is obviously one of those things that will help your live longer as well, because it’s clearly not good for your heart health.
Be resolute about your resolutions.
In the end, deep inside, you know you can be a better person, and a better father, in 2019. You just need to actually commit to your resolutions, this time, for the first time. Let’s face it, you’ve probably never had better inspiration to do so.