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Relationships

What I Learnt in My First Year Being a Father

2nd April 2020 was the date when I became a father to my gorgeous angel Ira. Now if you observe the date closely, this was the exact period when the pandemic had made its roots pretty strong in India. This was the exact week when nationwide lockdown was announced. We had not even realized yet, how big all this was going to be. Since it was a pre-planned delivery, I had to take all the prior permissions from authorities and police station so that we could reach the hospital without any hassle.

Honestly, the lockdown worked in my favor immensely. In normal scenario, I would have taken merely 2 weeks of paternity leave and would have joined back my office. That means, I would have not seen my baby for more than 12 hours in a day. But as you know, the lockdown introduced a new culture to the entire world – Work from Home. This became the biggest blessing for all new fathers like me. I could see my daughter anytime throughout the day. I could see her grow so closely, which I had not even imagined otherwise. So how is my feeling of being a father? What does fatherhood mean to me? I thought of sharing my experience with you all which could be helpful to someone, and while writing this, I too might find something new about fatherhood.

It’s Okay To Be Clueless

What I realized after 16 months of being a father is that the journey you pursue during the pregnancy stage is different than the journey you start after being a father. When your child is born, it is very normal to be clueless about many things. You will not know everything about your baby and the routines. You need not know everything. Sometimes less information is more useful because you follow one direction without getting confused. Our parents had become parents more than 30 years ago. In last 30 years, too many things have changed. Most importantly, medical science has changed a lot. Your parents may not remember everything they went through during their initial parenthood. Therefore, you do not need to rely on your parents’ advice each time. Being clueless develops different relationships. You would try to connect with someone who is in similar situation like yours. You learn more. You try to find answers. Today, everything is available on Google and YouTube. So whenever you are clueless about anything, always remember that everything is ‘figureout-able’.

Connections Develop Slowly

That moment when you take your baby in your hands for the first time; it is priceless. You can not express this in words. But when days pass slowly, you may realize that you are trying to take extra efforts to have that deep connect with your baby. That strong emotional bond which a father should have with his child. Honestly, it does not come immediately. This is a gradual process. If you try to compare your connection with the baby similar to your wife, then you might feel disappointed. The bonding between mother and the infant is completely different. Your baby may not respond to your actions similar to the way he responds to his mother. But that’s okay. It is still a new life trying to figure out things in this new world. You have to give it time. Soon you will realise that the connection with your child is being developed slowly.

Doctor > Relatives

The moment you become a parent, there will be multiple advices from your relatives to a single problem. The options are endless. But they are your ‘experienced advisors’. You can not ignore them completely. Especially advices coming from your grandparents. It is important to respect their opinion, because their solutions had worked in their times, but this may or may not work for us always. Having said this, only one person knows what is best for the baby – Your Doctor. He will always give a practical advice considering the Indian rituals and customs, which will be still relevant and scientifically proven. As I mentioned before, the medical science has changed immensely and it changes everyday. If we rely on historic rituals then it could be harmful to the baby. Just to give an example, our Pedriatitian asked to strictly avoid bottled milk. He explained it to us scientifically how harmful it is for the babies and using it is almost like committing a crime. Whereas bottled milk is pretty normal to our parents’ generation and few of our relatives were shocked when we said we do not use it for our baby. One thing you need to remember is not to harm your relatives feelings. Just listen to their advice, and later do what suits you better. Finding a right balance between two sets of opinion is the real key here.

Usain Bolt vs. Shreya Ghoshal

Now you have heard this statement many times that ‘each child is different’ or ‘every child grows with a different potential’. While you have heard these facts before, in reality you might start comparing your child’s growth with other kids. This could happen subconsciously too. The question is – is it really worth thinking about? When our daughter was growing post 6 months, we felt that she is much smarter than the other babies of her age. But at one point we realized that each kid is going to be faster than others in a unique way. We can not and we should not expect the growth to happen with the same pace as others. Be it motors skills, cognitive or academic learning. Another thing to avoid is to put your babies into any kind of contests or competitions. When you put them into contests like ‘number of animals recognized’ or ‘number of letters spoken without mistake’, we are teaching them to confuse excellence with winning. As if, that is the only way to learn something new is to outdo others.

We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly the path to mental health. We invite them to see their peers not as potential friends or collaborators but as obstacles to their own success. … Finally we lead children to regard whatever they are doing as mean to end : The point isn’t to paint or read or design a science experiment, but to win. The act of painting, reading, or designing is thereby devalued in the child’s mind.

– Alfie Kohn, The Myth of the Spoiled Child

My YouTube Teachers

I literally learnt everything about the key steps of being a father on YouTube. It is a treasure of information. Especially when you are confused about any topic. You will find all the answers with logic. Learning on YouTube also helps in developing a new perspective. It will make you think from all the angles, eventually helping towards giving best to your child. So be a learner and gain new perspectives of being a father everyday. You don’t have to follow everything blindly. But at least you will know where you are going extremely wrong. We found many answers which helped in changing the baby’s routine positively in terms of her eating habit, sleeping habit etc.

Being a Father by not being a Father

I distinctly remember a dialogue from the famous Netflix series Money Heist, where the newly married guy asks another person who is an experienced father, “how do you become a great father? can you give me some tips?”. That guy simply answers while taking a puff from his cigarette, “I just don’t behave like a father”.

Unknowingly, we try to impose a behavior of ‘being a father’ with our own prior experiences. There is a set definition or a character set in our minds about ‘Fathers’. If you come to think of it, who defines how a father should be? Who certifies that? Instead of entering into the historic and societal definition of fatherhood, find your own definition. And the best way to do it is by not being a father. What I mean here is don’t let the feeling of ‘being a father’ overocupy your thoughts while being with your child. Imagine how you will treat your nephew or your niece. You will still be caring but also most cheerful to make them happy and engaging. Do the same thing with your child and I can surely say that this will create a special bond. Because nobody is born a perfect father. It is a gradual process. If you don’t focus on the end goal of being a perfect father, and focus on everyday journey of spending quality time with your child, you are on a right path.

So this is it. These are few things which I learnt in the first year. And I know I will learn more because it is a yearly growth for me as a father along with my daughter. Probably I’ve forgotten some topics. Feel free to add them in the comments below.

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