From the hood to fatherhood.
In mid-November of 2022, my son came into the world, making me a first-time father.
Before this, I was indifferent to having children.
I suppose I figured it would happen eventually, but I never chased it.
Now, I can’t imagine him not being here. It’s a great feeling.
Coming from where I’m from, men became fathers with mixed feelings. For some, becoming a new dad was an unfortunate side effect of an uncontrolled sex life.
For others, they made the decision to do well no matter what.
If you are in the latter category, this post is for you.
The principles I share here will help expectant fathers learn timeless skills that will make anyone rock solid in any life arena.
Fatherhood has positive and protective long-term effects on your brain.
1. Develop your leadership skills
The first fundamental principle of fatherhood is leadership. When you become a father, you also become a role model and a guide. Engaged fathers raise children with higher IQs and better social and emotional skills.1
But being a good leader, and creating a positive impact on the world takes time and development.
I learned many things about being a leader through growing up in the hood, overcoming alcoholism, becoming a professional boxer, and earning a degree in physics. These things helped me to develop my own leadership philosophy:
- Having a purpose
- Taking responsibility for myself
- Being honest no matter what
- Making decisions and becoming proactive
2. Be willing to learn on the fly
Like Bruce Lee once said, to be a dad, you have to “be water, my friend.“
Both men and women face complex emotional upheaval when facing parenthood. While postpartum depression is a term typically reserved for new moms, men can experience anxiety, depression, and increased stress over what their new role is or the incompetence of taking care of a child.2
There is no unified thought process or behavior that will drive you in everything. Adaptability is going to be your friend as a new parent and in life.
This applies to discipline down the road but also to the logistics of caring for an infant.
Most baby gear is purely for convenience and sold as an absolute need. Approach all purchases for your little one with the idea that most things are unnecessary but make life easier. Don’t underestimate what your friends will be willing to gift you at your baby shower.
At the end of the day, you can’t really know what will work because all babies are different.
Here is a quick checklist for the essentials you need before the baby’s arrival:
- A way to feed yourselves in the first weeks after bringing home your newborn baby
- Diapers and baby wipes
- A diaper changing table, attachment, or a place to change the baby
- A safe place for your new baby to sleep
- A way to transport the baby like a car seat and stroller
- A way to feed the baby whether it be breastfeeding accessories or bottles and formula
3. Learn to control your emotions
When you learn to control your emotions, you can choose your reactions instead of simply reacting to your environment. It leads to a better sense of well-being and better overall mental health.
Studies show that children with great dads are more employable, have better relationships, higher IQs, and have more social mobility into middle age.3 While fathers that fly off the handle are more likely to raise children with emotional and behavioral problems.4
Learn to think through things, don’t fly off the handle and be a hothead. Controlling your emotions will come in handy when you’re new to parenthood during those middle-of-the-night feedings and during the birth experience in general.
Children don’t tend to care about you; all they can focus on is their emotions. But they’ll learn to respond and react based on how you react.
Check out this podcast onHow To Control Your Mind, Body, & Emotions to learn more about how I tamed my own emotions and grew into a leader.
4. Take parental leave even if you own your own business
So far, caring for a newborn is extremely time-consuming. No one warns you just how little they can do for themselves. They can’t even sleep without help. So right now, my experience is figuring out how to still get work done while making sure the kid is ok.
If you can swing it, take parental leave even if you own your own business. As a business owner, you want to be able to step away without the whole ship sinking. In some states, there are programs for this if you plan a year in advance. Childcare won’t always require the same amount of energy but it’s a high investment in the first weeks of your new baby’s life.
If possible, bringing in a family member could help ease the stress of getting things done. In addition to taking care of your business, remember to put your kid on your healthcare. It’s about a 30-day grace window and you’ll be visiting the doctor at least every 2 months to ensure your child is hitting development milestones.
5. Seek advice from good parents around you
I tried to ask the advice of all the people I knew who had children with the behavior I want mine to model. Most of the stuff won’t matter until later, but the biggest thing is the one I already knew—be the best version of myself. That’s the only way to bring out the best in him.
Do the best you can to leave the world better than you found it.
That starts from within.
Work through your trauma.
Confront your demons.
It’s your job to confront your issues and prevent them from being passed on to the next person and the next generation even if it wasn’t your ‘fault’.
And don’t be too good to ask for help or advice from people who have been there before. Though I’m still in my early days of being a new dad, I’m confident in my ability to raise my son to be the best version of himself.
6. Stop acting like you’re going to live forever
Don’t wander through life thinking you have all the time in the world.
Let’s say you live 80 or 90 years. Toward the end, you’re going to have to dial it back a little. You can’t start working on your jumper at 90. It’s not gonna happen. You might be in your late 20s now with thoughts of retiring around 60.
That’s only 40 summers to craft your life into something you can be proud of.
Now, there are people who accomplished things late in life and men often don’t hit their stride until their 40s, see Stan Lee, Bruce Willis, Sam Jackson, etc…
But don’t put off for later what you have the energy, stamina, and youthful flexibility to do today.
Focus on your health and work toward a definite purpose. And avoid dumb things that make life unnecessarily difficult, like drinking.
7. Improve your relationship
Healthy relationships are undefeated for raising a kid. The ability of parents to work together directly affects your child’s behavioral development.5 Healthy relationships are undefeated for raising a kid. Even if you aren’t married, supportive co-parenting is much better than single parenthood when it comes to how it affects the child.
Don’t stay in relationships that don’t work, but recognize that every upheaval, partner change, cycling in and out of a child’s life creates an unstable environment that is difficult for a child to grow.
Final thoughts on how to prepare for fatherhood
Fatherhood is a difficult journey but it’s proven to have long-term positive and protective health effects for men.6 Your role may be different from your child’s mother but it’s just as vital. So to prepare for fatherhood do this:
- Become a leader by being self-led
- Be willing to make mistakes and learn on the fly
- Control your emotions
- Take time off
- Seek the advice of the fathers that came before you
- Live with intention and urgency
- Improve your relationship with your child’s mother
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Philpott, L. F., Leahy-Warren, P., FitzGerald, S., & Savage, E. (2017). Stress in fathers in the perinatal period: A systematic review. Midwifery, 55, 113–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2017.09.016 (accessed Mar. 2, 2023) ↩
Daniel N. Why do some dads get more involved than others? Evidence from a large British cohort, _Evolution and Human Behavio_r, Volume 29, Issue 6, 2008, Pages 416-423.e1, ISSN 1090-5138, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2008.06.002 (accessed Mar. 2, 2023) ↩
Yoon, S., Kim, M., Yang, J., Lee, J. Y., Latelle, A., Wang, J., Zhang, Y., & Schoppe-Sullivan, S. (2021). Patterns of Father Involvement and Child Development among Families with Low Income. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 8(12), 1164. https://doi.org/10.3390/children8121164 (accessed Mar. 2, 2023) ↩
Karberg, E., & Cabrera, N. Family Change and Co-parenting in Resident Couples and Children's Behavioral Problems. Journal of family studies, 26(2), 243–259. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1080/13229400.2017.1367714 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7394471/ (accessed Mar. 2, 2023) ↩
Kotelchuck, Milton. (2022). The Impact of Fatherhood on Men’s Health and Development. 10.1007/978-3-030-75645-1_4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354448458_The_Impact_of_Fatherhood_on_Men's_Health_and_Development (accessed Mar. 2, 2023) ↩