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An open letter to a new dad

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Hey new dad – welcome to the ranks,

This is all brand new, huh? A brave new world full of lessons to learn and lessons to teach, experiences to share, challenges to overcome and all those tender little moments you’re going to remember forever. Oh, and a whole new class of bodily fluids you never knew existed, too.

Being a dad’s great, but starting out I had no idea what to expect. It’s not something you can really prepare for until you’re there doing it. What really blew me away is just how much I could love and care for another human being. I swear it felt like my heart grew three full sizes. I also had no idea it would be this much fun – babies are dead-set clowns.

Watching your child develop is endlessly fascinating. Each day you experience something new, and your relationship with each other just keeps getting stronger. Whether she’s mangling a new word – currently she’s saying ‘ho, ho, ho’ – or stamping her feet and dancing every time the Bluey theme song comes on TV, she’s constantly bringing a smile to my face. 

I’ve seen new sides to my wife, too. The privilege of getting to watch her become a mother has only deepened my love and respect for her. While we’re more than a little sleep-deprived, I feel like we’re more of a team than we’ve ever been. Probably because we now have a common enemy – sorry, I meant responsibility.

Father’s Day is your day now. You’re probably asking yourself how this is all meant to go, what you’re meant to do. It’s a strange feeling, and you might be feeling a little bit like an imposter. Like you don’t belong. Father’s Day has new meaning now, and that’s going to take some getting used to, and that’s okay. You’ve got the whole rest of your life to figure it out.

For me, it used to be a day to honour and share with my dad. Now I’m reflecting on my relationship with my daughter and, in just a year and a bit, I’ve developed a far greater appreciation for the role my dad has played in my life, and the sacrifices he made for me. I guess now I’ve got a greater understanding and appreciation of the circle of life. This Father’s Day my daughter will only be 20 months old, so I don’t expect much more than a bit of breakfast, a lot of cuddles and plenty of time at the park. What more could you ever want?

So let me say this, new dad. Adjusting to this life in which you are no longer at the centre will take some getting used to. You are responsible for caring for this tiny, defenceless creature who depends on you for everything. You probably won’t have a more important or challenging task in your life. Lack of sleep is obviously tough, but you’ll adjust to that faster than you think. The most challenging thing, though, will be trying to balance anxiety about their welfare – should they really be jumping up and down on the couch with a hairdryer in their hand? – with the desire for them to discover the world and take the risks they need to grow. That’s a hard balance to strike.

You have to go into fatherhood with your mind and your heart open, because nothing can prepare you for what’s to come, and everybody’s journey is different. Believe in yourself. That’s the best advice I got from my dad, and so I’m sharing it with you. Dad to dad. With self-belief you can strive for your goals with confidence, while having the determination to persevere when the going gets tough.

Happy Father’s Day, and welcome to fatherhood. You’re going to love it here.

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