New-father-fears: sex, money, freedom—guys sweat this stuff. Here’s advice for keeping your cool – Birth of a Father
Naturally you’re worried. All you know is the baby’s due soon and you have no idea what to expect. You’re worried about money, your marriage, time and sex. In short, you’re doing the new-father shuffle. Everyone’s telling you to relax, but nobody’s saying much that’s helpful. Until now. Read this and relax–at least until you’re done reading it. Then you can make a new list of stuff to sweat.
THE FEAR YOU WON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY
“It keeps me up every night,” says my friend Jeff. “My wife is the big earner, and she’s taking time off. We’re buying our first house for what seems like a fortune. I have no idea if two can survive on my salary, let alone three.”
Like Jeff, most expectant fathers overestimate the financial hit they’re about to take. Sure, there are some big-ticket items–the crib, the stroller, the industrial-strength diaper whiz. Half these things will magically materialize courtesy of friends and family, and none of the other half will come close to costing as much as last year’s outlay on bachelor parties.
Most of my friends and I were concerned with three things: buying a house, buying a car and paying for child care. The guys who had the easiest time of it were the ones who did none of the above. One friend got laid off right right after his kid was born. “To not have a job just killed me,” Mark says. “But five years later, our finances are in great shape and I look back at the eight months I stayed home with the baby as one of the happiest times of my life.” Another friend, Bill, not only got laid off–he had twins! How’d his family survive? “We kept our cheap apartment, trading space for money,” he says.
Here’s some advice from Peter Finch and Delia Marshall’s book, How to Raise Kids Without Going Broke, that I tell myself repeatedly: If you focus on the big purchases and do your homework there, you’ll probably have enough left over for things like trips to Disney World.
[right arrow]IMPORTANT ADVICE: If she quits working for a while, try to avoid the feeling that she’s spending your money.
THE FEAR YOU’LL FEEL LEFT OUT
Within days of your baby’s birth, you’ll be well aware of the mother-child bond. You may even think your relationship with your wife is taking a back seat to the baby.
It won’t always be that way. Your marriage will actually become stronger. You and your wife are co-captains on a team with common goals, and talking about them will make for some excellent, cherished late-night chats. Plus, after weeks of attending to a newborn, your wife will look to you for adult company. Next to a kid with a zero-word vocabulary and a predilection to soil his pants without so much as an “Oops,” you are a comparison gainer.
But do make yourself useful. Be the relief pitcher. At 11 p.m., when nothing we tried got our daughter to sleep, I’d strap her into the baby carrier and take her on long walks outside. I always returned with a sleeping baby.
[right arrow] IMPORTANT ADVICE: Never criticize your wife’s parenting techniques. She already has one mother.
THE FEAR YOU’LL LOSE YOUR FREEDOM
“I travel on business and had a chance to go to one of the hottest parties in Vegas–at Baby’s Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a Girls Gone Wild video release parry,” says James, an ad-sales guy. “I had a choice of staying over or getting back to my family. I took the red-eye back. I never thought I’d say this, but there was a better baby waiting for me at home.”
Your world will be split between two types of friends: those with kids and those without. Soon you will distance yourself from childless bachelors faster than George W. Bush ran from the Enron crowd. And you’ll be so slaphappy you just won’t care. When you have a child, you actually gain freedom because your priorities have been established for you.
[right arrow] IMPORTANT ADVICE: Those dreams you never acted on but don’t want to let go of? It’s put-up-or-shut-up time.
YOU’LL NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN
Most guys are obsessed with How much sex am I going to get after the baby’s horn? How much you get during the pregnancy can be a good indication. The same hormonal rushes that make your partner’s love rockets crash and burn in months two and three–and then flare up again later on–will continue after she gives birth.
Make the most of the six weeks of no sex after childbirth to help her regain her spirit. If you encourage her to do things that make her feel better about herself, she’ll feel better about making you feel better. Let her rest; she’ll come to you when she feels ready.
Especially if she’s breastfeeding, get ready to deal with vaginal dryness (the remedy: Astroglide). But think twice before asking her to stop breastfeeding, which burns calories and puts her in a good mood. Remember: You will have enormous influence over her decision to breastfeed or not (read The Nursing Motber’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S.).
In fact, given time and a show of patience, your partner will want to have sex as much as you do. Never insist she spend less time with the kid. Don’t banish Junior to Siberia, either–even Cinemax and Viagra are powerless against a plaintive cry from a far-off room. Soon both of you will be talking about whether you’re in the mood for a special or a plain vanilla. And that’s when you’ll really know your life has changed for the better.
[right arrow] Want to put her in the mood? Talk about the baby.
RELATED ARTICLE: THE ANXIOUS DAD
When we were expecting our first, the only people we knew with kids were our neighbors; the woman looked awful and was constantly bitchy, so fear was a factor for me; But my wife was beautiful and sex was plentiful; we had a book that showed some fun positions for when she got really big. We used all of them–twice.
Los Angeles disc jockey Mark Thompson (the Mark and Brian show), father of three
One of the scariest things about impending fatherhood is the realization that I am never going to be the adult I thought I would be when I had a child. I still feel like a kid in many ways.
Actor Ben Stiller, father-to-be
I knew in my heart that I could take care of a child, but I was still nervous that I somehow wouldn’t be able to do it. It was both an unknown and something I cared about so much. But once my son came into this world, that fear disappeared.
Actor Dean Cain, father of one
Christopher Napolitano is an editor at Playboy and the father of 3-year-old Clara. He lives in Brooklyn. N.Y.
“Guys love to deflect any thought about themselves or what they should be doing,” says CHRISTOPHER NAPOLITANO, who wrote about the stuff that expectant dads sweat over in “New-Father Fears” (pg. 112). “Usually men voice their uncertainties in terms of what challenges their wives are facing.” But they also have their own fears-and money, lack of sex and losing their “guyness” often top the list. “When my wife was pregnant, I walked around in a haze, concentrating on ‘manly’ stuff like getting the house in order and building things in a frenzy,” Napolitano says. “What got me really into fatherhood was being at the birth. It became clear that the most important things in our lives would be loving and providing for our child. Career, wealth and prestige no longer mattered.” Napolitano and his wife, Sarah Ross, have a 3-year-old daughter, Clara.
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