So, in honour of all of the end of year lists out there, I thought I’d quickly share what I’ve learned just over the past year (Matilda is only 14 months). I don’t think listing only five will be enough, so perhaps I’ll carry this over. I’ll see. Well, let’s get this started.
1. You sleep more than you think.
We’ve all heard the stories when you don’t have a kid and you’re preparing to have that first child: “Oh, say goodbye to sleep” or “You’ll never have a good night sleep again”. Well, I’m here to say that it’s not entirely true. Yes, I will say that the first few days absolutely, positively suck. It’s the worst. I’ll never forget being in the hospital and watching nurses come in and out of the room checking in on Matilda and taking her out of the room. In those first few days I probably had about 5 hours of sleep. However, this quickly stabilizes and you need to work on a system with your wife almost immediately. If she is breastfeeding then she will likely pump and ask you wife to store some that you can use in a bottle to handle those late night feedings. So, the system we used was quite simple: We fed her at 8/9 and then I took the feeding at 11/12 while my wife slept. My wife then took the 2/3 a.m. shift and I took the 5/6 a.m. shift (because you’re already up early for work). Then, the next will be at 8/9 a.m. and off you go. If you time it correctly you can get about 5 hours a sleep a night. Trust me, it’s not that bad. But, and here’s a quick tip, if you want to be a good husband get up for that 2/3 a.m. shift too just to keep your wife company.
2. Start sleep training early
Yes, I started six days in and I have no regrets and neither does my wife. But, for this to work, you need to agree on a few things right away:
1. The baby sleeps in a separate room right away. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Health Canada says something else. Listen, our room was right across the hall from the nursery. I’ll easily get across there if something is wrong. We had one of those video baby monitors that we watched constantly. We never had to deal with the fiasco of other parents of moving a child out of the room. All I know is that it was the best decision we ever made.
2. You’re consistent with you sleep pattern. We started putting her in her crib at 8/9 p.m. every night. Bottle, cuddle, bed – always when she was awake.
3. Be strong. There will be crying. There will be frustrations. There will be moments when it never works and you’re at the brink. Just stay strong (note: if you haven’t been through this, just head the words.
Needless to say, it’s worked. Matilda today points to her crib to sleep, self-soothes and slept through the night at 9 weeks old. In fact, if I’m even five minutes late on my bed time, the freak-out reaches epic proportions. Perhaps it’s worked too well.
3. No more television
Pretty self-explanatory, but we no longer have the television on while she’s awake. She’s far too interested in and just stares. We’ve only reintroduced it recently in increments, but again, it’s one of those things that’s worked too well. She now follows us around holding her books and follows us wanting her to read to us.
4. Stay disciplined
This kind of works with what I said earlier, but you need to be consistent with everything you and your wife do. Yes, I would love to stay out until 9 – 10 p.m. with my little one. But, guess what? If I do that, I’m screwing with her bed time and she won’t be the same for the next few days. Learn how to multi-task. You can still do EVERYTHING you always did, you just need to do it when you’re doing something else. For instance, on Sundays, I get up early to start the laundry, and prep for dinner. While dinner is cooking I do the folding and ironing. Yeah, you might finish your day at 9:30 but things get done and you don’t live in a sty. I bought a jogging stroller so that I can still go run and if anything, in the summer, after I put her down, I go for a nice evening run. Your child is number one, work your life around hers and you’ll reap rewards later. It only lasts for so long – or so they say.
5. This is the greatest moment of my life
Listen, nothing else matters. From her first words (da-da), to hearing her giggle, to her smile, to her first steps to now walking and hugging me with a huge smile on her face, having a child is the greatest thing in the world. I don’t think I can quite articulate it, but my daughter is the only thing I think about each day. My career ambition almost disappeared at once. I wanted big things for me, but now I want big things for her and my family I want her to be happy and never know fear. I want her to know that I will always love her no matter what and she’ll never have to worry about living up to some ridiculous expectations, because she’ll always be that little girl in my eyes. I know she will grow up quickly, but savour these moments. Savour everything and know that everything is/was worth it.
I know I’ve learned more, but perhaps I’ll share those for another day.