Fatherhood: The Guy’s Guide
An insider’s look at what it takes to be a great dad
Your Life is Not Over
You Will Sleep With Your Wife Again
The physical ups and downs of your wife's pregnancy should be preparing you for a near future of inconsistent intimacy. You may also have to adjust to your wife putting the baby first sometimes, and you may have to suspend some of the activities that you'd enjoyed as a couple. But your marriage can survive having a baby -- this is one of the reasons you got together in the first place. You just need to work at it in ways you didn't before.
"In general, dads notice changes in the levels of intimacy sooner than moms," Ault says. "I hear so many fathers say, 'She's so tired, nothing's happening.'" He suggests this intimacy-restoring idea: Take the baby all day on a Saturday while your wife relaxes and recharges. Then, hire a sitter and have a Saturday night date. "You've got a refreshed, well-rested mom up for anything."
And yes, it's true: Your wife may look a little, well, softer after giving birth. But if you're like most couples, the change probably bothers her more than you. "It's stupid to lie to your wife and tell her you haven't noticed she's gained weight," says New York City-based marriage counselor Sharyn Wolf, C.S.W. "You can tell her the pounds don't matter to you. But the important point is they do matter to her. What you should say is, 'I love you, whether you lose the weight or not.'"
Reassure your wife in very specific ways, Ault advises: "I know one father who would start at the top of his wife's head and go all the way down to her feet, telling her everything he loved about her body. When he came to her stretch marks, he said, 'I love those because they remind me of the beautiful child we created together.'"
You Can Have a Baby -- and Your Old Friends
"We never used to understand why it was so hard to do things with our friends after they had kids," Buschhorn says. "But after you have a kid you finally get it. You'd really just rather spend time with them. Or, Friday night, when the kid goes to bed, you'd rather spend time with your wife."
Having a baby will change your old friendships, especially with "the guys." You may become a less reliable poker or pickup basketball player, but you don't have to let those relationships die. "I never think that having a baby is a death sentence for anything you want to do," Ault says. Negotiate with your wife to restore some guy time by taking the baby off her hands on a Saturday or Sunday in exchange for a Thursday or Friday guy night. "A lot of couples make that work," Ault says. "But you can't go overboard. The point is not getting back the life you had. We have to give up some things we like to embrace other things we like differently."
You Can't Prepare for Everything
Before your baby arrives, there's a lot you can do to get ready. But there are a few things for which you just can't prepare: the pure joy you'll feel when your child smiles at you, the sheer happiness that will overwhelm you when he gives you his first hug, and the tear-jerking love you'll feel when you watch him asleep in his crib. "I find myself sitting there for 15 minutes staring at him sleeping," Hintze says. "There's nothing else that I could stare at for 15 minutes and still have a stupid grin on my face."
Even with all the work, all the sleepless nights, the payoff is truly incredible. "We can imagine what it's like to lose guy time and to work less," Ault says. "But we cannot imagine how much fun we're going to have -- and how much we're going to love our children."
One of the first nights I really felt that joy was when my 2-week-old fell asleep on my chest as we watched the original film version of Planet of the Apes. Now tell me, how can you top that?