These are the golden nuggets of advice Dan Colasimone has latched on to in his first two years as a dad.
You’ll get bombarded with advice before and after becoming a dad – the trick is to filter out the useless stuff and concentrate on the valuable tips.
As a father of an almost-two-year-old and an almost-two-week-old, I’ve had a long think about the most useful advice I’ve received and condensed it into 10 digestible chunks for your convenience.
This is the stuff that makes daily life with a baby easier and better – or at least it has for me.
1. Every meal doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced
One of the most helpful things I’ve heard was, ‘eating healthy doesn’t mean every meal has to be healthy’.
Sure, stick to wholesome, natural food, but as long as your kid is getting a balance across a 24- or 48-hour period, they are getting what they need.
So, if they have a serve of broccoli with their lunch, you don’t have to feel guilty if all they’ll eat for dinner is a plate of plain pasta with cheese.
I also now use this logic for myself when my wife gets angry at me for eating crap (“I had lettuce on my sandwich at lunch, so nachos for dinner is fine”).
2. Be flexible
You will go into parenthood with a bunch of pre-formed ideas about how you’re going to run the show. You’ll have broken most of those by the time your baby is six months old.
The sooner you learn to bend your own rules, the easier things will go for you.
Sure, there will be overarching beliefs you want to stick to, but sometimes the day-to-day experience doesn’t match up with the ideal scenario in your head.
To use a superficial example, I was vehemently anti-babychino before I actually had a kid (waste of money, total scam, etc) and now I get my toddler one every time I go to the café because it buys me a precious 10 minutes to enjoy my own coffee.
3. Kids’ heads are sturdier than you think
The first few times your kid falls over and thumps their head on the ground, or coffee table, you feel like the worst person in the world.
Aside from a bit of a cry, they are usually perfectly fine. Babies and little toddlers are designed to absorb plenty of knocks – they are both fearless and ridiculously uncoordinated – so don’t stress when it happens.
4. Breast feeding is great, but bottle feeding could save your bacon
Your partner will be under a lot of pressure to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is good. But not everyone can do it.
If she has to switch from breast to bottle, be her cheerleader, her rock of support and help her fend off any snarky comments she receives from other women who feel the need to be judgemental.
That’s the most I’ve ever written the word “breast” in one paragraph.
5. Tell the truth
It’s so, so easy to lie to your child. They are really dumb. OK, that’s harsh. But seriously, they don’t know shit. It’s just better not to be dishonest, though.
Telling them cheeky white lies all the time will temporarily get you out of annoying conversations, but it’s setting patterns for their entire childhood that are pretty unhealthy.
Eventually they will tweak that you aren’t always being honest, and not only will they start to doubt everything you say, they will learn to be dishonest right back at ya.
So instead of fibbing and saying “there’s no more yoghurt left”, tell the truth and say “I don’t want you to have any more because it’s dinner time soon”. And let the screams wash over you.
6. Give yourself time off, but make sure your partner gets time off too
This is the hardest thing my wife and I have had to grapple with around having a baby.
It can become almost impossible to have time to yourself – to play golf, to go out for a few drinks, to get to a footy game – without making your partner’s life difficult.
Say you’ve been at work all day and want to stop off for a few beers before coming home. That sounds very reasonable to you, but to her that means an extra couple of hours looking after the kid solo.
Whether she has been at work herself or taking care of the little one all day, those two extra hours on the coal face are a huge ask.
The thing is, we all need that time to ourselves to stay, you know, sane. So have a chat about it and come up with a workaround.
You deserve some relaxing time, but so does she. And in order for that to happen you are both going to have to put your hand up for solo sessions with the kid.
It might feel like a massive burden to spend your Saturday morning on child duty while she goes out for breakfast, but if you want time off too, you’ve gotta do the hard yards.
7. … and make sure you have a regular date night
Literally everyone will tell you this, “make sure you keep the romance alive”, but it’s easier said than done.
Just like solo time, though, partner time is essential for your health. Make it happen and make it a regular thing, even if regular means once a month.
Hire a babysitter, recruit grandma, make your ‘date night’ a ‘date afternoon’ – do whatever it takes to retain that relationship spark that got you here in the first place.
8. Routine helps, but be prepared to break it
Establishing a routine in terms of feeds, naps and going to bed was a game-changer for us.
After a hectic first few weeks, we decided it was time to become a lot stricter with our daily schedule, and it helped both us and the baby immensely.
Strict doesn’t mean fanatical, though. There are days when it’s better to break that routine than stick to it religiously.
If you’re having dinner with friends, rather than rushing home to implement your five-step evening plan, skip bath time for one night and let the kid eat later and fall asleep on the couch.
A bit of a change up will do them good.
9. Read all the time
Everyone from doctors to teachers to grandparents will tell you to read to your kids all the time. And they’re right.
This was important 100 years ago and is even more so now, when there are a million distractions and dozens of electronic devices available to supplant books.
By taking time to read to your child, you’re establishing a good habit for life, educating them in a fun way and helping their imagination thrive.
I have a little rule that I never say no when my daughter brings me a book, and all that time reading together has led to some of our best bonding experiences.
10. Don’t buy toys
You don’t need to. Your child’s cute little face will make every relative and friend and acquaintance want to shower them with gifts for the first few years of their life.
Anything you buy will just be another toy in the pile. Save your money for beers. I mean education. Your child’s education and stuff.
READ MORE FROM DAN COLASIMONE:
- How a baby will change all the relationships in your life
- Stuffing up is part of being a dad, so let’s talk about it
- As a new dad you have to learn quickly – it’s no longer about you