Father, this is for you, especially the first-time dad. Are you prepared for fatherhood? Guest writer Deepak Reju shares 12 things every new father needs to know. His article appeared first here on The Biblical Counsleing Coalition website and is used with permission.
So your wife is expecting? How kind of God to give you a child. There are many things to think about as you prepare for fatherhood. Here are 12 for you to consider as you get ready to meet your son or daughter.
1. You will mess up.
Ouch. What a way to start. Of all the things to start with, why that? The Bible tells me that you are a sinner (as am I), and consequently, you are going to need God’s grace every day. Just remember that now . . . and don’t forget it, because you’ll need to remember it many times in the years ahead. You will say dumb things. You’ll forget things. You’ll get angry, tired, and frustrated (especially in the first few months when you are sleep deprived). You’re imperfect.
So, ask your wife now for grace. Remind yourself now of your need for grace. Ask God now to let you be a father who is characterized by grace. Grace-filled parenting—that’s what you and your child will need.
2. Your wife needs you.
More than likely, your wife’s been a little sick recently. Morning sickness takes over; she is nauseous all of the time and often on the verge of throwing up. This part of the pregnancy is difficult, but sickness is a good sign because it means your baby is still growing.
Even if your wife isn’t sick (some women aren’t), she will definitely be exhausted. So she will need more help at home. You’ll need to pick up some of the slack, both now and especially after the baby arrives. As a guy, don’t be shy or stubborn about the domestic duties. Take out the trash. Do the dishes and laundry. Cook dinner. If you haven’t helped like this before, consider it a very practical way to show your wife you love her. If you are wondering how to build intimacy with your wife during this difficult time, this is really the best way to start.
She needs your help right now!
The most common question throughout your wife’s pregnancy should be, “Anything I can do to help you?” Make sure to check in with her regularly to see how you can serve her both before and after the baby arrives.
3. Be humble enough to ask for advice.
Ask dads you respect for fatherly advice. What lessons have they learned? What mistakes have they made? Take some time to read about parenting; find a good book or read from sources you trust on the Internet. If your church has one, go to a parenting class. Listen to podcasts.
Whatever you read, listen to, or attend, do it together with your wife so you can get on the same page about parenting. Talk with your wife about your fears, joys, and expectations. Pray for your baby with her. Pray for a healthy child and for the Lord to sustain your wife, but begin also to pray for your child to know God’s love.
If you don’t do anything in preparation for becoming a parent, you’ll take on your family’s default posture and parent like your parents did. For some of us, that may be a good thing, but for many of us, it is not.
4. God is in control.
As a father, you are going to desire to control your child or be “sovereign” in his life in a way that only God can. In your baby’s first year of life, you are reminded of this fact when you want the baby to do something (sleep, eat, burp, stop crying) and yet nothing you do seems to help. These moments don’t happen all of the time, but they do happen and serve as a good reminder of who is really in control.
Imagine this situation: It’s the middle of the night. You’ve fed the baby, given her a clean diaper, and she refuses to go back to sleep. Even worse, she’s crying nonstop. You get this sinking feeling of doom, and a thought flashes across your mind, “I’m not in control anymore.”
Those moments are good reminders: God is their Lord; He is sovereign over your baby’s heart and life; you are not. This won’t be the last time you have to remember that God is in control and not you. This might seem scary at first (who likes to not be in control?). But when you realize that God knows what’s best for you and your child, you will be able to trust Him for your long parenting days and sometimes even longer nights.
5. Be warned: Your sex life will change.
For some guys it starts in pregnancy. Your wife is sick, so sex slows down. As the pregnancy progresses, sex can be awkward. After the baby, she’ll need to recover (and recovery is longer after a C-section). As the baby is up at all hours of the night, you’ll both desperately want sleep, but you will (secretly) yearn to be intimate with her. In the midst of all this, you’ll miss her more.
Don’t worry, eventually intimacy will come back. One more way to help your wife through this time is by accepting that this is a difficult season for intimacy and not pressuring her to be intimate when she is not ready for it.
6. Get on the same page about visitors before the baby arrives.
Some couples want their family around soon after the birth. Other couples need a little space before family or friends start their invasion.
Make sure you talk to your wife about her desires before the baby comes. Does she want her parents around? When can your family see the child? What if her friends from church or work ask about coming over? Answer these questions now rather than at the spur of the moment after the baby is born.
7. The delivery is both scary and amazing.
The first time I saw my wife deliver a baby, I was speechless. Blood. Body fluids. Doctors and nurses everywhere. Machines, lights, sounds. The eager anticipation for the moment to arrive. The pain of contractions, and patiently loving your wife through the highs and lows of every contraction. It was a lot to take in, and that’s just for a normal delivery.
Very few things in my life fit in the category of a miracle, but childbirth certainly does. The moment is breathtaking. When my wife got pregnant with our second child, I approached the birth with the attitude: “Been there, done that.” But I was wrong! The second birth was just as miraculous and wondrous as the first.
8. Parenting is a great picture of God.
After you become a father, you will grow in your understanding of God’s love for you. Parenting is a great picture of God’s love for His children.
Every time you pick up your crying child and hold him, it will remind you of how God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). When your child scrapes his knee and you clean and bandage it, think about how God comforts you in your distress (2 Corinthians 1). If your child wakes you in the middle of the night, don’t forget that God never sleeps, but He is watching over you day and night (Psalm 121:3–4). If your child makes a mistake, think about how God disciplines us in His love and also forgives when we ask, no matter how often we fail (Hebrews 12:7–11; 1 John 1:9–10). Thinking about all of the ways God is a perfect Father to both you and your child will fill you with thankfulness.
9. Be prepared for sleep deprivation.
You’ll have less sleep all-around and some sleepless nights. It’s incredible how one little person can cause so much tiredness. Talk with your wife about how you can help her get rest, whether it’s by staying up with the baby at night or making sure she is able to nap during the day.
It’s your job to make sure she rests as much as possible and doesn’t feel a lot of pressure to take care of stuff around the house. You pick up the slack wherever possible so that she is able to rest.
10. Adjust your expectations.
Don’t assume that you will be able to do everything in the same ways that you did before. You will need to adjust your expectations and the expectations of your family and friends about what travel, hospitality, time hanging out, etc., will look like after the baby is born.
Don’t make any major commitments before the baby is born that would hinder your ability to serve your family after the baby is born. Once you have settled into a new normal, post-baby, you can re-evaluate your commitments and decide what would be wise to take back on.
11. Begin praying for your child’s salvation.
Because you haven’t met your son or daughter yet, there is an opportunity for you to dream the impossible dream. Your son or daughter might be smart enough and politically savvy enough to one day become President of the United States. Impossible? Tell that to Bill Clinton or Barak Obama’s mother. Or, maybe you’ll settle for a major league baseball or an NFL player.
My father wanted his kids to be doctors and lawyers and financiers, so he’d have people to take care of him in his old age. Most parents though, as they go through the highs and lows of parenting, move from the impossible dream to a more realistic dream—I just want my child to marry well, to provide for himself, and to be a decent contributing member of society.
But the most important hope for every Christian parent is only something God could grant—that He would save your child (Jonah 2:9). Begin to pray even now that your child would one day become a Christian. Better to have a son who is a faithful, God-fearing plumber than an unbelieving president.
12. Look to the best of fathers.
The greatest Father, the Father of all fathers, is our heavenly Father. He gives us the ultimate picture of what true fatherhood looks like. Looking to the examples set by other fathers and reading books written by experienced dads can be helpful. With each good father, we get a glimpse of how to grow in love for our children. But as they teach us principles and tell us stories about parenting, we only get one piece of the picture of what a real father might be.
The only complete picture of fatherhood comes as we look to God. True fatherhood is found in the character of the One who was willing to send His Son to die on the cross for sinners like you and me. He alone knows how to parent us perfectly. Where your parenting falls short, as it certainly will, you can look to God who does all things well. You can depend on Him to do what you can’t do and to give you wisdom when you don’t have any. Look to God and depend on Him in the days ahead.
I’ve been a father for many years now. There have been plenty of good days and bad days. But through it all, our heavenly Father has remained faithful to my family. Because God has been faithful in the past, I can look to the future with confidence that He will remain the same—present, faithful, forgiving, and loving to me, my wife, and our five children (1 Thessalonians 5:24). With many years of parenting left to go, I am so thankful to my faithful God who gives grace in abundance to those who do not deserve it.
Join the Conversation
Do you know a first-time dad who is getting ready for the big changes of fatherhood?
If this was helpful, you can find a much more extensive version in the New Growth Press booklet Preparing for Fatherhood. Mail him a copy, or even better, read it along with him, and talk and pray together about his entrance into fatherhood.