New Dad Survival Guide – 8 Essential Tips

I was going to do a post on what dads could do during delivery but decided that was too difficult because so much depends on the guy. Some men get all silent and queasy whereas others are all Steven Spielberg with a camera saying “This is amazing! Honey, I don’t know how you’re doing this!?”.

However, once you get home the rules become a little more universal – assuming you’re at work and your partner is at home with the newborn – so here are just a few tips to help make the first few weeks and months smoother for new dads and moms alike:

#1 Give a heads up.

If you’re going to be late coming home don’t wait until the last minute to tell her. Remember when you’d have to do chin ups and you knew you had to do 20? You’d get to 18 and think “I only have two more to go, I can make it” then some asshat comes along and says “Gimme 10 more”. How much do you like that guy? Not so much. 

#2 Come home and get in the house.

When you get home this is not the time to chit chat with the neighbour over the fence about how life with a new baby is going. Assume that it is always Lord of the Rings orc war in the house and get inside to relieve the day shift because your wife has probably been walking around with that baby thinking “I only have to hang in there 30 more minutes….29…..28.” (see point above).

#3 Get excited about the baby.

I know, I know, you love that little weeble more that anything, but most new mothers are wired with this demented sense of responsibility so even if their baby is screaming like a rabid howler monkey they don’t want to leave it. So if you go in and say something like “take a shower, I’ve missed him all day and I can’t wait to hold him” she will be more willing to go bathe, eat or generally reset to be less crazy. It’s win-win.

#4 Don’t ask “What’s for Dinner?”

If everyone in the house is alive when you get home that’s a successful day. My friend’s husband asked her why dinner wasn’t ready because “she’d been sitting at home all day doing nothing”. Aw, Buddy, c’mon. If you ask “What’s for dinner?” the answer may very well be “Your left testicle”. Eat cereal, order take-out or drink pumped breastmilk. Wing it.

#5 Don’t go on about how hard your day was.

Even if your day consisted of a rectal exam from angry silver back gorillas, she can probably trump you. Not only can she trump you but it may include details that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about and don’t want to hear. You’re tired. You’re stressed. But it will just open Pandora’s box and it ain’t worth it. Also consider that this is someone who is up all night looking at your peaceful, sleeping vulnerable body. Don’t give her a reason to smother you with a nursing pillow. She’s probably already plotted your death a couple of times by now so don’t push her over the edge.

#6 Don’t say you’re babysitting.

The mother of your child may be too tired to catch this slip but any woman who has had more than 20 minutes of consecutive sleep is going to do a slow, Chucky-head-turn and hiss “You’re not babysitting. You’re parenting.” In your defense, I totally understand this statement. If you’re not the primary caregiver and you’re stepping in to take care of the baby then you are technically babysitting. Terms like “Daddy Duty”, “On call” and “At the helm” are always safer alternatives.

#7 Don’t lie on your back and hold the baby above your head facing you.

They puke. It’s the infant equivalent of the Funny Home Video guy pitching to the kid with the baseball bat and getting squared in the pills. Everybody likes lying on their backs, holding the baby in the air and fly them over their face. Babies LOVE this and this joy often sends a surge of yak right into your who’s-daddy’s-airplane-open-mouth. They give no warning. They are vomit grenades.

#8 Be CIA guy.

Too often I think Fathers get shoved to the side and it’s all about the baby, and to a lesser extent, the mom. Don’t worry about it and just be a gazelle in the grassland because you’re in the trenches, and there’s no glory in the trenches. Be like those awesome CIA guys with the silly putty in their ear who silently, seamlessly gets the odd glass of water, loads the dishwasher and does that slow motion body block when your dirty cousin with the cold sores tries to stick her finger in the baby’s mouth. Your work will go unnoticed at first but when the dust settles you’ll be revered and adored.

Your job at this time is really important. Some guys totally get it right off the bat, and to you I say, “right on”. You’re the voice of reason, the pillar of strength and the cavalry wrapped into one. You need to be there for your partner because she’s probably like Newt when Ripley first finds her in Aliens – terrified, tired, dirty and overwhelmed and the worst time is mostly at night. Mostly.

It takes a great guy to step up and dig in during those first few months, but a guy who says “I’ll be home early, I’m bringing dinner and I want to take the baby for a walk as soon as I get home”, now that’s a fucking man.


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  • I will do my best to live up to these totally attainable Daddy-goals. My wife deserves it, and I hope I don’t screw this up too bad. Thanks for the hopeful words!

  • Loved this article, haha! Sent it to my husband who is soon to be a first-time dad… hopefully most of these were no-brainers for him… 😉

  • Man here. This is all obvious except # 7. Jesus if your men don’t do this, you should have found a nerdier man before getting married.

  • Just found this well, because I’m well past this stage! I was looking for some funny tips for new dads because my male doctor is taking a 2mos. paternity leave!

    I got a chuckle out of some of the dad’s comments about this being silly because what man wouldn’t know this? My answer: Lots. I worked with traumatized children & some fathers (and mothers) were absolutely clueless on how to raise a emotionally healthy child.

    I personally thought they were right on, & wish I had this to post on the fridge in June1980. (and ’82, 84 & ’89). Love the left testicle for dinner….would that be with brussel sprouts and tapioca for desert?

    Must go now and create a fridge memo for this.

  • Excellent advice! Some of you are incredulous that this even needs to be advised. My dad actually broke ALL of these rules with my mom. Also, I had friends (male and female, but mostly male) who would spend as much time as possible at work to get away from the chaos of wife and kids. So sadly, we really do need to remind some people of these rules. Thank you for doing so! Luckily, I have a husband who has no need to be reminded. We are complete equals in parenting and everything else in life.

  • OMG – love the Aliens reference! "Mostly." My sis and I love that line!
    Also – love this advice. Sending to the husband/father of our unborn child now.

  • I think you need to add "don’t tell her how to do her job even if you have read 50 fucking books on parenting"…that really gets me when my husband says something like "shouldn’t you bath him today?" or something stupid like that.

  • This made me laugh so hard, I cried. Then found myself sitting and laughing/crying for a solid 10 minutes. The "Lord of the Rings Orc War…" quote was the funniest thing I’ve read in ages.

  • Are there any men that responded to this? I only see responses from women. You only provided one useful tip, which was number 7. The rest of the stuff is just what pisses you off.

    • I’m going to go with, “what pisses [women] off” is probably a good place to start in the hyper-hormonal, exhaustive maelstrom of new parenthood. I appreciated the whole thing.

  • Chicken, I love you! I just sent this to my husband…. he will love it too, especially the part about sitting home doing nothing all day!

  • Oh my. I just found you via an iVillage post, and oh my. So happy right now. I’ve just devoured 5 of your posts and I want more more more.

    Pinning this sucker, too.

  • This is so true, but of you are in the unfortunate position that you are the husband who is staying at home with the baby waiting for wife-mom, the full-time outside the house breadwinner and the full-time breast feeding mother, basically y’all better hire a maid, a cook, and get yerselves some good antipsychotics, because you are both Newt all the time.

  • Love this. And everything else I have read so far on your site. Thank you! I was wondering if you could write a post of essential tips for fathers-to-be? I am 5 weeks pregnant and struggling with explaining why I cry when the soup burns on the stove or why I deal with things by lying in the fetal position with the covers over my head. I’m begging you!!! I can’t make it through to the end unless I can get the hub to understand what being hormonal means. His life may very well hinge on it!

  • Of course all parents are different re: their roles and expectations, but I have to say as excited as my husband is for our first to arrive, it is already apparent that he has no clue what his role is. My 2 brothers were the same, and one advised us that, tho he adored the kids, he "really didn’t realize that I had kids, or what that meant, for about 6-8 years. I just thought my wife would handle everything in that dept".
    So I think your list here is full of great reminders, even if we think they should be obvious to our DHs.

  • Having raised two kids my wife and I would like to say that even though it’s meant to be satirical, you are exaggerating it a lot… I don’t know about other kids but ours pretty much slept 16 hours a day. We decided we were not going to carry them around all the time not to make them too needy. Following routines made it a piece of cake, so please stop scaring new dads – it’s hard for the first two weeks, then it’s just a matter of repeating the same things over and over.

  • this blog post kind of angers me. It’s sexist to assume the man is the one to "tip-toe" around the woman, just as much as women don’t want to hear their husbands complain i’m sure it would be exhausting to come home from a hard day at work to hear your wife complain about HER day. It also doesn’t even mention the fact that some parents do half-half maternity/paternity leaves, it just seems so geared towards men being completely subdued/cast away. Having a child should be just as much of a big deal for BOTH parents.

  • Oh. My. F-ing. Word. I have been a fan of this site for a while but this post pushed me over the edge into a high gear obsession! I was laughing so hard I choaked on my own spit! Very well written! Keep up the amazing advice and hilarious comments!

  • This was HILARIOUS! Too bad I couldn't have had my husband read this before he found out the 'What no to do's' the hard way!

  • i WISH my husband would take the advice about not asking what's for dinner…. we both work outside the home and carpool together, and still when we get home – AT THE SAME TIME!- this is the first question out of his mouth!

  • Lady, you have just shot into the realm of genius. I laughed at the photos. I laughed at the 10 Things To Never Say to a Pregnant Woman and furiously took notes.

    And now this. When my wife and I have kids, I am taking this stuff to the bank (although most of it is reasonably self evident, I would have thought – like asking what's for dinner.)

    I love the fact that you use terms like 'asshat' which I haven't heard since I lived in Canada, but when you quoted Aliens to me, I was stunned and euphoric, all at once. Mostly.

    Milady, your brilliance is a pleasure to behold. Please keep this up – I must show my wife!!

    • Dear Dad, a lot of parents now were raised by parents who were raised by parents who started parenting in the 50’s. It is an evolution type thing, each male generation does more and more.

  • This is hilarious and very true all through parenthood. We have 4 kiddos (7, 5, 5 and 11 months) and it is as true now on baby 4 as it was the first time, maybe more so. The number 1, 2 and 5 had me laughing to tears.

  • I have busted my a** working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week (manual labor; not a desk job) with 3 hours of travel time. I have also been a stay-at-home mom. Can you guess which job required more energy? It sure as hell wasn’t the one that brought home a pay check! So yes, stay-at-home moms & any mother who is the primary care giver has every right to want to rip a mans head off when he boo-hoos about how hard his day at work was. If it was really THAT rough & us women have it sooo easy, then taking over for an hour or 2 after work should be like a vacation for him, right? 😉

  • Hi Pregnant Chicken and all.

    Honestly i am surprised that we need to have most of this explicitly stated and then lauded by mothers and fathers. Most things on this list.

    Speaks volumes of the expectations many of us grew up with. Maybe some of us (new mom’s and dad’s) had parental/male role models to set those expectations.

    My wife, delivered our son thru C-section. It was natural and not-forced-obvious for me to

    1. Come home in time or early. ( and i used to work any and all hours of the day and night !… I still kinda do)

    2. I just loved the baby…. Didnt need to pretend anything. I actually believe all dad’s love their babies. Far more than they want to admit in company (strange!, but i guess it about furthering the stereo-type everyone like to laud/laugh over). Somehow mom’s/girls like to further this stereotype more than men… And men as usual agree.

    3. Dinner was never responsibility of only "One of us"… Even though she cooks far more than me. Living in NYC, i guess ordering was always easy for us. So dinner was never a chore but a joint activity for us. Me, mostly sous-chef. And She the 30 minute expert. So for me, Dinner was mostly .. a daily conversation. Of what will we do for dinner tomorrow and day after .. and get stuff on the way, along with once in a while the new bottle of wine we tried at our friend’s place… And first year of my son .. it was far more of the same.

    4. Not using the "Babysitting" and Avoiding baby puke….. are only real tip… Other’s are: "If you dont know this already then you are not a fully adult human being yet… and belong in dorm rooms playing beer pong."

    – Jake.
    A regular Dad.

  • OMG. Like Carolyn, I adore point number 4. Still laughing! I’m late to the party (reading this) because I have a little wee one at home and don’t have much free time to read. But MAN… I’m glad I got to read this now. SO freakin’ funny! Are you sure you’re an art director, and not a writer?

  • As a soon to be father (t-minus 3 weeks). This seems like it will be extremely useful.
    My wife may be back here in a couple months to thank you for the advice.

  • i’m due in 3 1/2 weeks – saw the link to here on my DDC board.
    you are f*#(ing brilliant, and YES, there is a david sedaris parallel to be drawn.
    dh will be reading this tonight. : )

  • Oh my God, I nearly shat myself when I saw that dads had commented. Way to go, guys.
    Maybe I should have named the post "Tips for the Person Who Isn’t the Primary Caregiver" but it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.
    I’m so happy to hear that more of you fellas exist. You’re like a mystical band of unicorns that toot candy. Fantastic!

  • As a stay at home father, I can agree with many of the points here. My wife, unfortunately, doesn’t know when she finishes work until she’s actually in the car. I can deal with that. The talking with the neighbors is a deal-breaker, though.

  • Per #4 above, who are these peacefully sleeping dads? I have a 7 day old and I haven’t slept more than 4 hours in a row since. My wife had a C-Section and there’s not much option but to get up and help out. I love both of my sons and have been up 95% of the time when they wake up at night. I’m the dad and it’s my responsibility as much as my wife’s. Not all of us men are mouth-breathing, butt-scratching, baby-shunning monsters.

    That being said, this is hilarious and completely true. To any of the men reading this, I have two things to share that will help you live a long, happy life:
    1. Happy Wife, Happy Life.
    2. If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

  • As a soon-to-be new mom I think this is fan-flippin-tastic! I will be holding this list up to my husbands face when he gets home today, like I will be doing with a baby in a couple months.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you

  • SO hysterical and SO true!!! Love #3!!!

    Luckily my hubby was not as clueless as some can be, especially since I was "blessed" (not!) with a mega case of post-partum depression after baby #2 (pregnancy #5).

    I hope these wonderful tidbits of advice (with REAL great info behind the humour!) are spread far and wide to manage future dads!!!

    thx for sharing your wit and wisdom! 😉

  • That pretty much describes our experience in the first 2 months of our daughter’s life. She’s 9 months old so things are mostly better. Mostly.

    My favorite part of this post (as I’m sure you can guess):

    "You need to be there for your spouse because she’s probably like Newt when Ripley first finds her in Aliens – terrified, tired, dirty and overwhelmed and the worst time is mostly at night. Mostly."

    Oh YES.

  • This is awesome – And my daughter is two now, but I am a stay at home mom, so most rules still apply…Come home on time…Don’t ask me why the house isn’t clean…If you mention "dinner" it must also be congruent with "I am ordering" or "I am making"…Totally epic, and a truly funny read. I am sharing this with everyone I know!!!

  • OMG this is sooooo funny, and soooooooo true!!
    I wish you would’ve posted this about 14 – 15 months ago – my hubby needed this. ESPECIALLY 3, 4, 5 & 8.
    Thank you. Future new moms thank you.

  • You forgot to remind dads NEVER to complain about how tired they are. If they must complain, do it to someone other than their wife who has been up several times a night with the baby that they too are trying desperately to like.

  • OMG hilarious.. I think these rules could apply in general.. especially the first two. I have a 7 month old, and I still feel that way when he doesn’t appear when he’s supposed to. Great List, I am soo passing this on.

  • Oh man, you make me heave and weave with the idea that David Sedaris has even been mentioned on my site let alone in reference to anything I wrote. I must do a Nancy-Wilson-Heart-High-Kick in my full-length mirror (I’ll post something about pulling an ass muscle while doing it tomorrow).
    Carolyn, I’ve been wanting to use ‘testicle’ in a post for a while so I’m glad you liked it.

  • Again, more brilliance from The Chicken. Well done! It took me 7 minutes to wipe the tears of mirth away long enough to focus on typing after reading number four. Every Dad should read this. Golden.

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