What every dad needs to know before parenthood

‘Prepare yourself for sleepless nights’ is probably the most common response to the announcement that you are about to become a father for the first time, following congratulations of course, but this is only one of a number of changes that will impact on your lifestyle.

1. Too tired to Tango

This seems to be an obvious result of having a young child in the house, but the effects on a dad can vary enormously for several reasons.  Not least of these is the fact that all children are different, so some will sleep better than others.  I have vivid memories of wandering around the bedroom with a small child in my arms, trying desperately to sing him back to sleep at two in the morning.  Amazingly he seems to have come through my constant renditions of old Rolf Harris hits without any noticeable effects and has enjoyed a normal childhood.

If you have been lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps through the night initially, may I point you towards the BBC Health website.  The research they quote suggests that 50 per cent of children who slept through in the first six months, start to wake at night after this period.  This just goes to show that the odds are stacked against you getting any regular sleep.  On this basis I can recommend brushing up on ‘Two Little Boys’ and ‘Once a Jolly Swagman’, not too sure about ‘Stairway to Heaven’ though.

2. In the dog house

Far be it from me to claim any understanding of the effects that giving birth and raising a young child have on a woman, but tears, pain and complete exhaustion have all come to the surface during the early years of raising our children. 

Amongst the circle of dads that I know this is commonly referred to as ‘mood swings’, the consequences of which will see you residing in the infamous ‘dog house’.  The most common cause of this amongst my friends seems to be pub related and seems to relate to a difference in the male/female definition of a ‘quick pint’.

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3. Driving dad crazy

Unless you are currently using a two seater sports car then things should be fine initially, although be aware that car seats, buggies, changing bags and all the other baby associated paraphernalia do take up a lot of space. 

Fast forward a couple of years and if you now have more than one child your dreams of motoring nirvana will now include estate cars and people carriers, mind you all that extra boot space comes in handy if you play golf.

4. Are we there yet?

There are plenty of people, far braver than me, who take their children on long haul flights quite successfully.  Personally the thought of trying to amuse my children in a confined space for eight hours or more fills me with the kind of fear that only used to surface around report time at school.  Therefore we tend to drive on our holidays, at least you can stop and let them out, not normally an option with air travel. 

This does however bring its own unique set of problems, some of which can be solved by a bit of pre-planning, enough food, drinks and in car entertainments are always a good start.  You will find though that your mental arithmetic skills are regularly called into use to calculate the time, mileage and actual speed, to the next service station. 

Just to add to the amusement these skills are normally called into use fifty yards past the slip road for the previous rest stop, quite often preceded by the ‘I’m busting’ chorus from the rear seats.  Children do not pre-plan, get used to it.

5. Empty wallet syndrome

I left this until the end because although it is an important consideration, most parents seem to cope, either by increasing their income or making sacrifices in other areas. 

Nevertheless you need to be aware that children are expensive, they need to be fed and watered, but most of all they grow constantly, especially if you have just bought them new shoes.  There are some horrific statistics estimating the average cost of raising a child to the age of 21, an article in the Guardian last year quoted £200,000. 

On this basis I have estimated that with our current family spending, by the time my five children have all reached this age my bank account would be in the black to the tune of £460,000.  Obviously several factors may effect this calculation, not least having that much money in the first place, but it does make me feel much better, profitable parenting how cool is that!

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