Fatherhood is amazing — and it’s amazingly tough. You might have romanticized ideas about how great your relationship with your baby will be as they grow and develop. Or you might have nightmares about messing it up somehow. And sometimes, you probably have both. But you don’t have to wing it. Fortunately, this is a path that many have walked before you.
Even though fatherhood doesn’t come with an instruction manual, we’re hoping these tips will be the next best thing. So take a deep breath, buckle up, and get ready for eight wonderful ways you can be awesome as a new dad.
1. BE AVAILABLE
No one wants “Cats in the Cradle” to be their parenting theme song, so don’t let it happen! Decide right now to make time for your child. Put family needs first right from the start, and make availability your first awesome dad habit.
If you wait until later to start leaving work on time or taking vacation days to care for your sick tot, it will be a much bigger struggle for your supervisors and colleagues. Let them know from day one that your baby is your top priority, and they’ll respect that call as time goes on. Plus, you’ll never have to regret missing that piano recital or parent-teacher conference.
2. BE FLEXIBLE
The first thing to do with all your preconceived ideas about being a dad is giving them up. Parenting can’t be done by the book. Every kid, and every dad, is different. That means every milestone, growth spurt, and session of catch will be unique. Just because it went one way for you and your dad, doesn’t mean it will go the same way for you.
Give up your expectations and embrace all the possibilities of this new relationship. This makes room for you to be the best dad you can be (and it makes space for your kid to be exactly who they’re supposed to be.)
3. BE AN EXAMPLE
Help your kid become their best by showing them your best. Treat them the way you wanted to be treated when you were younger, and treat them the way you want them to treat others.
It’s okay to share your wisdom through well-timed chats, but nothing makes a bigger impression than seeing those words in action. Make a commitment to teach by example, and both you and your little one will be better for it.
4. BE PLAYFUL
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the heavy responsibilities of fatherhood, but don’t let all the serious stuff paralyze you. Awesome dads are fun dads. It’s okay to play around, have fun, and laugh. Give yourself permission to roll up those sleeves, get down on the floor, and have a blast with your child.
Best of all, playing with your baby doesn’t have to be planned out. Some of the best bonding moments are spontaneous. So keep your eye out for opportunities to be silly or make a funny face; those playful times will help see you through when stress levels start to rise.
5. BE AFFECTIONATE
Don’t shy away from showing your baby just how much you love them. Be affectionate in both words and action. Parent-child relationships are one of the special places where expressing how we feel isn’t wrought with worry about rejection. Enjoy this privilege of fatherhood through hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and plenty of “I love you’s.”
As your kid grows, find fun ways to show them they’re important. A note in your child’s lunch or a “way to go” text is sure to put a smile on their face and a bounce in their step.
6. BE CONSISTENT
Whether it’s making it home for dinner or following through on a promise, consistency is a hallmark of awesome dads. It’s not the funnest part of fatherhood, but this one habit can save you years of worry and frustration as your child grows.
When your child knows they can count on you to do what you say, they learn that the world is a safe place. That gives them the freedom to try new things and even push the limits. This way you teach them about trust and also model how to be trustworthy.
7. BE A PARTNER
There’s no such thing as “mom duties” or “dad duties.” You and your baby’s mom are partners, so act like that from the start.
If you’re not sure how to pitch in, go ahead and ask what you can do. Take on the role of dad full-throttle and you’ll wow everyone with how awesome you are, not just as a dad but as a real partner in your relationship and family.
8. BE FORGIVING
If you skip every other recommendation on this list, don’t skip this one. Nothing else in life comes with a bigger (or more instant) side of guilt than parenthood. You’re going to have lots of chances to beat yourself up and wish you did something different. But don’t fall down that rabbit hole!
Be willing and ready to forgive yourself. This gives you a fresh fatherhood slate every day. And moving forward without carrying around guilt and regret will truly make you an awesome dad.