Category Archive : Practical Dad Skills

Before you became a father, life had enough responsibilities already. You have your role at work and responsibilities there. You may have responsibilities with your own family that need to be attended to. If you complete volunteer work or even a sport/activity in your personal time you will have responsibilities there. Within your relationship you will have responsibilities to your partner. Plus on top of all of this are any financial responsibilities that are tied to these life areas. Juggling these responsibilities is busy enough as it is, but then once you enter fatherhood and become a parent, your responsibilities increase significantly and place pressure on all other areas of life. Learning how to be a dad is challenging enough within its own right, but learning how to add the responsibilities of fatherhood to your already full life, and keeping it all going, takes the difficulty level up a notch.

Any information included in this post is of a general nature and for informational purposes only. If you require support specific to your needs please seek support from your relevant health professional. 

Define Your Responsibilities

Before you can start juggling, you need to know what it is that you are in fact going to juggle. This means taking a moment to write down all the things that you have responsibilities for. Some examples might include:

  • Work Responsibilities
    • Start and finish times of work?
    • Is overtime needed at times?
    • Are you in charge of projects or a team?
  • Financial Responsibilities
    • Debts and bills to pay
    • Are you the primary income earner?
    • Other essentials, such as baby medical bills, food and clothes
  • Personal Responsibilties
    • Self care activities (enjoyable tasks)
    • Maintaining your health (physical and mental)
    • Maintaining friendships and social outings
  • Family Responsibilities
    • Supporting your partners needs (emotional and practical)
    • Making time for family activities
    • Any responsibilities to extended family? (i.e. caring for your own parents)
  • Parenting Responsibilties
    • Feeding and cleaning baby
    • Spending time with baby/bonding
    • Helping with sleep time
  • Other Responsibilities
    • Household jobs or chores
    • Running errands
    • Grocery shopping

This list can become quite large, but it is important to look at what it is that you are doing on a regular basis. It is also important to write it down, as it allows our brain to actually see what we have to do, we are more likely to remember what we need to complete in future, and it makes it easier to sort out and prioritise. You could type out the list as well, however I personally prefer writing because it allows me to use my hands to process my thoughts (really important if your style of learning is hands on). Once written down, I like to split my responsibilities into domains or areas of life, and then list the responsibilities under each domain. Splitting into this format then helps with the next step.

Prioritise What Is Most Important To You

Knowing what is important to you will help you prioritise your responsibilities and sort out what actually needs to be done, and what isn’t a priority. In some cases, you may find that you can get rid of some things on your list and not do them at all, however what I have found is that I ended up changing how much I did certain things based on what was important to me. So how do you decide what is important?

To do this, I look at each life domain that I have written down and decide what do I value most. I then also ask myself, what is a must do task or responsibility that if not done, would lead to a severe consequence (consequences may differ per person, as it depends on what you value, but typically it might be a loss of health, relationship or financial stability). Once I have sorted my responsibilities into these categories, it usually becomes clear what responsibilities are most important to me.

So if you value time with your family, you will likely find that your priorities will be to do with looking after your child, your relationship and spending time together. And if you find yourself spending more time focusing on work, household chores and focusing on finances, you may find that your parenting journey is missing something. Once again, its not that we stop paying attention to those other areas as they are likely just as important, but if our energy is focusing on things we don’t value then we are going to end up feeling drained.

Involve Your Partner

Unless you are parenting on your own, we need to include our partners in this conversation because it is important that we share similar views on priorities. It is also important to remember that these priorities are shared, and there may be tasks that you both decide to split, share or complete on your own. So you may decide to split the household chores, or share certain parenting responsibilities, but even for work responsibilities or financial responsibilities it will be important to communicate these things so you can plan out how you are going to manage these responsibilities around the other demands.

The biggest pitfall we can face as new fathers is feeling like we need to sort things out on our own. We might get caught in the trap of thinking that our partners are too tired or already have their hands full and so we don’t want to burden them. However, communicating our responsibilities and our concerns about how we are going to balance everything is important as it lets our partner into our minds so they are more aware of how we are feeling. It also allows them to communicate to us their thoughts on priorities and how they feel they can support you with juggling everything.

Remember that your relationship is a partnership, and partnerships rely on clear, solid communication. So take any opportunity you can to communicate with your significant other.

Schedule In Self Care

Hopefully going through this process, you have identified yourself as a priority and have put self care as being important on the list. However, it is not uncommon to put ourselves last among all the other priorities that we have to consider. Often we justify this by saying ‘looking after baby is more important’, ‘my wife is exhausted and I need to do more’, or ‘we need the money so let’s not go out anywhere’. And its not that these aren’t legitimate truths, because they are all valid points, however at the core of all these priorities, and for all these priorities to be juggled effectively, they require you to be at the top of your game.

You can’t look after baby and your partner effectively if you are feeling groggy, frustrated or down all the time. You won’t be able to perform your best at work if you are stressed and not looking after your mental health. It becomes harder to stay on top of the small house tasks if your energy levels are depleted and you aren’t feeling well. Looking at finances without having a clear head space may make us feel overwhelmed rather than help us figure out how to budget well. All these priorities can’t be juggled without someone to do the juggling, so prioritise yourself somewhere near the top of your list.

Now, this doesn’t always mean you need to focus solely on self care and yourself, but it is about setting aside some regular time for yourself and the things you enjoy doing. Day to day, that might look like 5-10mins of alone time when you can gather your thoughts, or your commute to and from work where you can enjoy listening to music (that isn’t nursery rhymes). If possible, throw in exercise a few times a week for 30mins or so, but even once a week is better than nothing. You might catch up with friends in person once or twice a month, but keep in touch through messaging throughout the week. You may need to be creative with how you fit this in amongst everything else, but make sure you set yourself as a priority.

You Got This!

Juggling your responsibilities isn’t always easy, and we need to go easy on ourselves when we do drop the ball and miss something. For most of you, it will all end up working out without a plan, because you end up just figuring it out as each day goes on and learn what works and what doesn’t work. But for those who want a structure to what they are doing, remember the following steps:

  • Prioritise what is important to you by thinking about what you value the most
  • Talk to your partner and seek support with managing your priorities
  • Prioritise your self care

And most of all, enjoy the journey as much as you can. Be present, watch your little one grow and know that at the end of the day, you are doing a good job.

You’ve just had a baby, you’re in the midst of diapers, feeds and feeling like a zombie. The last thing on your mind is imagining how you want life to look in five years. If you were like me, it was hard enough to see past the next day let alone what life would look like years from now. But this baby that you now have responsibility for is the exact reason why you need to think ahead. Not only because of the increased financial responsibility, but because at the center of every family are the parents, and it is important for us as parents to consider the life we want for ourselves, because this will help with our happiness, which in turn will help with your childs happiness. Though, it is probably best to wait out the first 3-6 months, you have enough on your plate!

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Nobody likes being sick, and we don’t like seeing others get sick either. When you’re at work and someone comes in coughing and sneezing, you steer clear and hope you don’t catch the bug. As a parent, my thoughts were always on ‘when will my daughter get sick’ and ‘how to prevent them from getting sick’, or ‘can newborns get sick?’ Especially when I started seeing other babies fall ill. After getting about 9 months in, my daughter had been illness free, and I was thinking to myself that she must have some superhuman immune system and we’ll be in the clear by her 1st birthday. And then, it happened.

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I have always struggled to get into regular exercise habits. I start up, get into a really good pattern for 3-4 months, and then something happens like falling sick or going on holiday, where I stop working out for 1-2 weeks. After this, it takes me a good few months to get back into a routine before the same cycle occurs again. In fact, once my wife fell pregnant, I again attempted to get into a good routine with the hopes it would continue once baby arrived. I even managed to break my old cycles and workout for a solid 6-7 months, 4 days a week for a little over an hour each morning. I also started to see some physical results of my training (as well as an increase in strength and stamina).

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Becoming a dad is a life changing experience, but one of the hardest parts of this change is to know how to best support your partner. There is no doubt that for new mothers out there, it is a dramatic change for them to go through. Physically they have had to carry a baby and endure those body changes, they have had to give birth and endure the recovery post birth (whether it be a C-section or natural birth), and then for many they now become the primary carer looking after baby more days than not. And for the dad’s (or the non-primary caregiver), it’s trying to navigate your own experience and making sense of it all, trying to take care of this little human and then supporting your partner with the changes that they themselves are going through. This can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and lots of dad’s (myself included) find themselves asking how to be a supportive husband or spouse in the best way possible.

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When my wife was pregnant, we attended some pregnancy classes together to learn about life after birth, and everything that is involved in looking after a baby. One of the things they talked about was playtime and bonding with your child and how important this was. It all made sense, and we could see how important it was, and they took us through some ideas on how to play, and how this helped with baby’s development. But you see, as I mentioned in my post Expectations Vs Reality – What To Expect As A New Dad’ I had no experience playing with newborns, or even babies really. My experience was toddlers and above, so I really had no idea what play time was actually like for a newborn.

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How to find time to relax with a newborn, a question I also found myself asking regularly, often coming up with the same answer – you don’t find time! Relaxation becomes a thing of the past when you are caring for a little human, and you may often question when you will be able to find the time. And in my experience, what I found was not that I ‘found time’ to relax with a newborn, but rather I had to change my mindset towards what I was already doing. Finding ‘relaxation’ within my duties as a father, enjoying the moment and practicing this idea you may have heard about called ‘mindfulness’.

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There are many questions that I began asking once my daughter had come along. How often does a newborn need to feed? How many wet nappies is normal? Is my baby’s poo colour normal? But no question was more pressing than finding out how to get sleep with a newborn. As I mentioned in my previous post ‘Expectations VS Reality – What to Expect as A New Dad‘, there are quite a few changes that occur when you become a father, but the most challenging change I found was adjusting to the new sleep pattern that a newborn entails. This was such a challenge that I found myself Googling for answers a few times a day in the first few weeks. I don’t know if I ever found a single answer that worked, but I tried a lot of strategies that were recommended and my wife and I were lucky enough to find some semblance of normal sleep after the first 7 – 8 months. Hopefully through reading my journey, it will help you with yours.

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I sometimes think back to where my mind was at prior to having a baby, when my wife was still pregnant and we were in the ‘expecting phase’. At the time we were just over the moon to be having a baby, so I thought I knew what to expect as a new dad. And the challenge is that nothing can really prepare you. You can read tonnes of blogs, watch YouTube videos of peoples experiences, or even have friends tell you the honest truth. But none of that will prepare you, because you haven’t been through it yourself. You have nothing to compare those stories against in your own personal experience bank. So what your brain does compare the stories to, are experiences that it thinks are related. Let me run through some of my own personal examples.

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