There's a certain irony in writing a site about being a new dad while currently being a new dad.
You can become an unwitting subject of the very thing that you write about.
Like, say, the classic new parent trap of having no time to do anything.
You used to just walk out the door. Now you're grabbing a car seat, diapers, the baby (don't forget the baby), a bottle, another diaper because the baby blew out theirs on the way out, and maybe even the keys.
I can't say it better than this comic. This is the funniest clip I've ever seen about being a new parent.
With three kids under 3 including six-month-old twins, man ... I laugh at how I used to think I was busy with one baby. The past few weeks? Finding time has been impossible.
No joke: The second I wrote "Finding time has been impossible," the sleeping baby I had on my chest woke up.
The irony is not lost on me that I had to take a four-hour break from writing this post because the small window of time to write it was swallowed up by babies who are the subject of a post about only leaving small windows of time to do anything on my own.
Here's the truth: Writing about being a new dad doesn't mean I have all the answers. It doesn't mean I magically have hours of time to myself, that my kids go down right away at night and sleep all night, and that I never have days where I basically want to lock the kids in a room, get in my car, and drive far away.
I think I've got a lot of good dad skills. I can hold my twin girls in their car seats in one arm and my toddler and their lunch boxes in another. I can steam clean three floors' worth of carpets with a baby strapped to my chest. I can sort of fix broken toys kinda-ish.
But there is no perfection in fatherhood. I really, truly hope you get that. If you are reading my posts — and dude, I love that you're investing time doing that — or looking at your friend's Facebook feed or watching a reality show about a family, it can be easy to think "That dad has it figured out. Why can't I ever do that? Why is his baby so well-behaved when all mine does is scream and poop? Why does he look like he's slept in the past week when I don't even need a Halloween costume because I'm basically The Walking Dead?"
Want to be super frustrated? Assume other dads have it all figured out
I do not have it figured out. They do not have it figured out. No one has it figured out.
On Instafather, I give you the best advice and guidance I can based on what I know works or what the best research I can find says. And I really believe it's true: if you are consistent and patient, you have a good chance of getting a calm, happy baby on a regular basis.
But the thing about babies? On some days, that little drooling bundle of onesies will just laugh at your attempts to "parent" them and will scream their face off while flinging poop at your face and kicking the food you prepared as they transform into a frothy, howling, baby-powdered werewolf.
You don't think Prince William has been rocking the royal baby in the midst of a screaming fit one night and exclaimed to no one in particular, "Why are you so upset?!?!" (Actually, he'd say, "It's bloody awful, this! Bugger all, you're full of beans!" .... because I imagine in my head he has a cockney accent.)
Do you think all of your friends with babies are how they appear on Facebook? Because I'm gonna take a guess that they don't post photos of how their infant slept one hour all night and then refused to take a nap and then blew out their diaper twice and then threw up on daddy's shirt and then cried the whole way to the park. You just see the park photo, when, naturally, seeing the playground swings put a huge smile on the baby's face.
Here's what you should do on those rough days
I want you to cut yourself some slack.
I want you to remind yourself that if you are comforting your baby and paying attention to them, you're already doing a great job.
I want you to stop comparing yourself to other dads. (That goes for moms comparing themselves to other moms, too!)
I want you to remember that every baby cries. Every baby has bad days where nothing soothes them. Every baby has days where they prefer the mom to the dad and vice versa. Every baby, at some point, will make the dad think "I swear they have it out for me."
I want you to take a deep breathe on one of those bad days and think of a little laugh or smile your baby did recently and how those are the moments you'll remember down the road.
Life is different when you become a dad. It's definitely been for me. I absolutely love fatherhood. I like the version of myself as a dad much better than old Andy.
And still, even with that, I'll find myself frustrated that I can't fit in 242 things in one ultra-productive day like I used to, and instead need to be satisfied that I get 1 or 2 things checked off my list. I'll get so exhausted that I can't think straight — you should hear the stories my wife can tell about her asking me something in the middle of the night and me incoherently rambling in response. To be fair, I watched her put cereal in the refrigerator before.
You can love being a father and get frustrated about the day-to-day life as a dad.
That's when it's clear: There is no such thing as parenting perfection.
All you can do is enjoy your baby being a baby. They will never again be as small as they are right this second — by tomorrow, they will have picked up a new skill or grew a little or not needed you to rock them as much. I can rock my girls to sleep, but my two-year-old son is already too big for it. I spent hundreds of hours rocking him to sleep, some nights wondering if they'd have to sell the house with me in the rocking chair because for the love of everything holy he wasn't sleeping. Now I'll spend zero hours rocking him. You don't get those hours back.
All you can do is keep perspective. Your baby will one day be able to tell you why they are mad. Your baby will not poop on you forever because if they do you have an entirely different set of problems. Your baby will sleep through the night even if right now you are sure that the Cubs will win the World Series sooner than your kid sleeps five hours in a row. Babies don't make sense, and they also can only gain skills at a certain rate. It's not a reflection on you as a dad.
All you can do is not get too upset when the day doesn't go as planned. You don't have the same control over your life you used to. That can be a pretty bad feeling, especially if you're the independent type. But unlike your pre-dad days, you have more impact on another person's life than you ever could have possible had before. Have you seen the way a baby's eyes light up when they see mom or dad? That's because you are their entire world.
So, yes, it is absolutely true for me right now that "finding time is impossible." And I'm going to have days where my wife tells me to take a nap because I'm being cranky and overwhelmed and need a break (she is a very smart woman).
You're going to have those days, too, although I'll assume my wife won't be telling you to take a nap because you'd be like, "Who are you and why are you in my home?"
Being a dad — being a parent — is tough enough. Don't make it harder on yourself by being frustrated you're not some idealized father.
In the end, we've all been peed on.