New Dad, New Challenges – What I Learned My First Weeks as a Dad

financial planning for the new parent

The closest I’ll ever get to being a doctor

If you are a frequent reader of Finance & Flip Flops, then you know that “N” and I were expecting our first child on Halloween.  If you aren’t a regular reader — now you know!  Baby “O” entered this world on Sunday, November 2 and changed everything in our lives (who knew that four consecutive hours could be considered a good night’s sleep?).

Both “N” and “O” are happy and healthy, but the first few weeks of parenthood have certainly been a game changer.  While most parents talk about the perfection of their child and how beautiful the world has become (nothing but rainbows and sunshine), “N” and I tend to be a bit more realistic about this new chapter of our lives.  While I’m sure there are many great moments to come, our lives are currently consumed with the hiccups and challenges facing any new parent.

In an effort to help those coming behind me, here is my list of the ten things I learned in my first few weeks as a parent.

1 – Remember when you used to know how to handle most situations? Newsflash: NOT ANYMORE!

I have read dozens of books, scoured the Internet for hours, and endlessly interrogated my friends and family about having a new baby.  At the end of the day, I still have no ideas what to do when “O” starts screeching.  I like to refer to the hospital stay as a “faux parent bubble”.  The nurses and staff members were great, basically doing everything a parent should do for the first few days.

And then they kick you out.…Not cool!

That’s when the real test begins.  When do we feed him?  How should we dress him for the temperature outside?  Is he hot?  Cold?  Tired?  Hungry?  It’s essentially a guessing game!

2 – When you try something, you’ll be terrible at it

Eventually, after enough crying, you’ll muster up the courage to try something to calm him down.  For me, it took three days of being at home.  On Day 3, I decided that it was time to give the little guy a bath (is waiting three days too long?  Don’t judge me…).

I’ve given myself a shower once or twice in the past, and I watched the nurse give “O” a bath in the hospital. Therefore, I figured it was something that I could handle.  She made bathing a baby look like a breeze.

Spoiler Alert: Bathing “O” at home was not as easy as it appeared to be in that “parent bubble”.  There was water and soap everywhere, creating the most slippery blob of a screaming baby you could ever imagine (it was like someone dipped our child in a vat of olive oil).  It was hands down the worst bath that anyone has ever received.  I can honestly say that he left the bath as dirty as when he went in, but he survived…and I learned.  Bath Number 2 was considerably better.

It’s not just the bathing, however.  The first bottle, the first diaper change, the first swaddle…I was terrible at all of them.  Fortunately, I quickly learned to laugh at myself and move on.

"O" deciding what he thinks of this new world

“O” deciding what he thinks of this new world

3 – You will believe that your baby is the best looking baby ever made

I’m absolutely “that dad”.  My baby is the cutest thing that has ever been created.  No contest.  He might as well be an infantile supermodel.

And he is so advanced already—baby genius.

4 – Changing a diaper is a non-event

I have ten nieces and nephews.  That being said, you would think that I would have some diaper-changing experience.

But I don’t.  I never had to change one.  There was always someone in the room that could do it with their eyes closed.

Not only did I never have to change a diaper, but the thought of a dirty diaper was arguably the grossest thing imaginable.  Being knee-deep in a #2 diaper was a fate worse than death.  I wanted nothing to do with it…nor did my gag reflex.

And then “O” was born.  I immediately jumped to the front of the line, pushing people aside to get in there and quite literally “get my hands dirty”.  I changed that first diaper as though I had won the lottery.  #1, #2…didn’t matter.

The thought of a dirty diaper quickly changed as it became the equivalent of picking up Niles’ poop on a walk.  A non-event.

5 – You’ll check his breathing every 10 minutes

Newborns are quiet (or they are REALLY loud – there is no happy medium).  Sometimes, they’ll be so quiet that you’ll check their breathing every 10 minutes to make sure they are still alive.

The process of checking a baby’s breathing is hilarious.  “O” was swaddled and sleeping in his bassinet.  Because I couldn’t hear his breathing or see any movement, I needed to move in awkwardly close to his body to investigate.

As I investigated the rhythm of his chest to ensure that he was still alive, I was keenly aware of the slight possibility that I might awaken the crying beast by pulling his swaddle down the requisite two inches to view his upper body.

Sure enough, he was still breathing!  That time, and the last 20 times I had checked.  Sorry to disturb you “O”.  I’ll see you again in 10 minutes.

6 – You better like potential nicknames

When “N” and I were going through the name-picking process, we did the prudent thing and considered all possible nicknames for each choice.  We knew that at the end of the day, friends and family could call him whatever they chose.  We were ready for it, but we didn’t realize how quickly it would start.

Whether you like it not, you’d better be ready for the “creative” nicknames that somehow stick.

7 – You’ll take more pictures than you ever thought possible

Prior to having “O”, I had about 150 pictures on my cell phone.  Years of pictures totaled a whopping 150.  Most of them were of Niles.

The current number:  437.

*To be fair, Niles is still a large portion of the candid shots, but the bulk is glamor shots of “O”. “O” sleeping, “O” staring at the ceiling, “O” taking a bath, “O” having his first bottle, “O” and Niles…you get the picture (no pun intended).

8 – You’ll comment on every little change

I remember hearing parents talk about how their baby had changed so much in the past month, week, day, or meal.  I would silently sit and laugh, thinking to myself that all babies look the same.

I was completely wrong.

“He looks bigger.”  “His neck is so much stronger.”  “Did you see how long he was awake for?”  “Wow, he ate 3.5 ounces this feeding.”

Everything is amazing, and it all changes so fast.  I apologize to all those parents I had silently judged – I’m one of you now.

9 – Zippers vs. Buttons

If I could advise new parents on one thing, it would be to purchase and request ONLY zip-up onesies!  With an average of ten diaper changes a day, the seconds (and sanity) you save with a zip-up onesie, as opposed to a button-up, are critical.

As your child is squirming around and screaming, the buttons will never connect, or you’ll button it up wrong and have to start over. All these complications can be avoided by having a simple zipper.  You can’t make a mistake. Up or down. Zippers win.

Niles making sure we're protected

Niles making sure we’re protected

10 – Mom has become super-human

As much as I would like to believe that I’m contributing to the cause, Mom is ultimately running the show.

I’m back at work.  “N” is home doing the feedings, changing the diapers, and consoling “O” when he freaks out, all while completing the ordinary household tasks that need to be done.  Perhaps most impressively, she is able to do all of this on half the sleep of a normal person.

So yes…superhuman.  I’m in awe.

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2 Responses to New Dad, New Challenges – What I Learned My First Weeks as a Dad

  1. Brian K December 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    Great post Dan. As an expecting father this is great insight…..zippers it is! Congrats on the recent guest post and keep up the good work. Having been out of the business for 8 years your blog has sparked my interest again and has me evaluating and planning my financial strategy.


    • Daniel Zajac, CFP®, AIF®, CLU® December 5, 2014 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks for the comment Brian – If I’ve helped one person take a deeper look into their finances, it’s all worth it.
      Congratulations on the pending birth of you child. You’ll be an amazing dad.

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