I recently found out I am going to be a grandmother for the first time. My son will be 32 when his child is born. I’ve been asking my daughter-in-law a lot of questions about how things are done these days. Will they be using disposable diapers? What about circumcision if it’s a boy? How does she feel about attachment parenting, daycare, and participation trophies? (Okay, I didn’t actually ask about that last thing. Yet.)
The only thing I’ve asked my son about is their views on spanking. Really, that question was for my daughter-in-law, too, because I was pretty sure he doesn’t believe in it, but I wasn’t sure about his wife. But the truth is, I should be asking my son these questions, as well. Millennial dads are far more involved with their kids than most of their own dads were.
One thing about which I’m confident is that being a great parent will be a high priority for my son. Where dads of past generations focused on being a good provider, millennial dads recognize there’s a lot more to being a good parent than keeping a roof over his family’s head and putting food on the table. Millennial dads have a lot of questions that aren’t always best addressed by asking their own dads. So, I wanted to put together a few parenting tips — correction, parenting hacks — for my son and other millennial dads.
- Buy the big 800-count pack of baby wipes. Keep them everywhere. No room in your house should be without a handy box of wipes. Keep them in your car. Tuck them into your cargo shorts and your backpack. Remember that there is no such thing as using too many wipes.
- Turn off your phone, the TV, and the computer. Trust me when I say that there is nothing on earth that is as fascinating and entertaining as your baby. But you won’t realize that if your focus is elsewhere.
- If you have a bad day at work, check your crappy mood at the front door. If you need to, hit the gym on your way home to work out your frustrations. Sit in your car for a few minutes and listen to some soothing music or take some deep breaths. The moment you walk through that front door, you are Daddy. Your child deserves a daddy who is fully present and focused.
- Skip the expensive toys. Your baby doesn’t need an expensive electronic jump seat with a simulated solar system or a $500 rain-forest gym. What your baby does need is you. Start with cuddling, feeding, bathing, and as they get older, move on to reading to them, singing songs to them, and playing patty-cake. Your child will love having you down on the floor with them — zoom-zooming with cheap toy cars or helping pick up a doll’s outfit — far more than any fancy, expensive toys — even the ones labeled learning toys.
- Choose age-appropriate experiences. Don’t book tickets for Disney World to celebrate your child’s first birthday. Kids rarely remember anything that happens in their lives before age 7. So, unless your idea of fun is traveling with an infant and paying $135 apiece to push a stroller around all day, put off the Disney World trip for a few years.
- Take a break if you need one. This is not a situation where being the macho man is called for. If your baby is having a bad day, don’t be afraid to ask for help, or just take a few minutes to take some deep breaths and regroup.
- Take your baby with you. Babies are very portable before they begin to walk, so take advantage of the opportunity to take your child with you when you run errands. It’s a great opportunity for bonding and is also good stimulation for your child.
- Take care of yourself. You still matter, even though all the attention is on your partner and your new baby. But you can’t take care of them unless you first take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating right and getting some exercise. For the first few weeks, getting enough sleep may be one of the biggest challenges you face, but it should be one of your priorities.
This is one of the most exciting times of your life. While it’s true that having a baby radically changes your lifestyle, the rewards are priceless. Savor every moment, even the mundane ones. These years will pass by in the blink of an eye. Trust me. This is something I do understand.