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Parenting & Kids

Cheat Sheet for Expectant First-Time Fathers

Conduct a search of “ways to prepare for baby,” and it’s hardly a surprise that most info out there is aimed at moms-to-be. The reasons are as obvious as, well, a big, pregnant belly. But as Father’s Day just came and went on June 17, let’s spare a thought for how dads-to-be can get in fighting shape for the earthquake-level shift from regular dude to committed dad.

 

So here you go, soon-to-be fathers: Here's our top eight things to think about, talk about, and do before your baby comes:

 

1. Spend time alone with your partner. You probably already know that couple's time is going to shift pretty far down the list once the baby is here. Instead of bemoaning that fact, take advantage of the time you have now—not in a sad or wistful way, but deliberately. Be intentional about “storing up” some fun and romantic memories that you can savor later. Be romantic. What you do (go to the fanciest restaurant in town, binge-watch a TV series, take long walks) is less important than that you make the dedicated time to share.


2. Hash out “who’ll do what” details. The thought here is to sidestep some typical resentments that can crop up between new parents by discussing those details beforehand, without making assumptions. Discuss whether your partner is planning to nurse exclusively or if you’ll be handling some bottle feedings. Agree on a “baby visitor” policy, so you’re not caught seething when you anticipated just-you-three when she’s readying the guest room for her mom. Talk about sleep (will you co-sleep with the baby? Are you sharing night soothing duties?), sex (yeah, no, not for a while at least, but you should still talk about it), housework, cooking, and all that good stuff.


3. Read some parenting books. Catch up not just on books about fatherhood, though those can be a good bet. Browse the parenting shelf at the library or bookstore, and ask other dads for titles of the most enlightening or helpful books they read. Check out anything that makes you feel more competent and confident and less alone.


4. Handle some practical tasks. Get busy and cook as many freezable meals as time allows. Deep-clean your home. Grab that baby-stuff list and go shopping, making sure (if a baby shower didn’t cover it) that you have enough supplies for the early weeks, such as small-size diapers, wipes, and enough onesies and crib sheets and burp clothes that you won’t need to do laundry every day. Be sure your bills are up to date, and set up auto-withdrawals for regular expenses if you haven’t already. If you’re taking time off from work—and we hope you are—get things in order there, preparing lists and instructions for whoever’s filling in for you. Oh, and put together all the baby furniture now, while you're still able to get some sleep at night.


5. Talk to other dads. Think about the fathers you’re closest to. Whether that’s your own dad or brother or best friend, find one or two new or veteran dads you can count on to be really honest. Avoid the guys who’ll tell you it’s all horrible (no one needs negativity right now); you want a straight-up picture of the things you can expect to see, do, experience, and feel.


6. Go to parenting and childbirth classes. If you were thinking for even a second that you didn’t need to attend these classes with your significant other, you were thinking wrong! Even if childbirth doesn’t go the way you prefer or imagine (or have seen in every sitcom ever), the various options and outcomes will be covered in a good childbirth class. Ask questions. Make lists. If your hospital or another outlet, such as a library or community center, offers parenting classes, sign up. Trust us, you can use all the how-to's and what-to-expect's you can get.


7. Learn some new skills. Never held/changed/fed a newborn before? So you feel less all-thumbs, ask people you know—the coworker who just had a baby, the neighbor with the twins—if they’ll show you some basic skills: how to swaddle soothe a baby, how to heat up a bottle, how to fold and unfold your new stroller. Another good tip: Contact your hospital or local fire department and ask about the correct way to install an infant car seat in your car.


8. Get ready to fall in love. Bonding isn’t always instant, but it does happen. If you’re worried you won’t go head over heels, stop. You will. See you next Father’s Day!

8 Reflections on Why We Appreciate Our Mothers

Before you had children, your Mother’s Day wishes to your own mom (or mother figure) might have run more toward the generic: heartfelt, but perhaps a little one-size-fits-all: “Thanks for all you do for me…”

But now you’re a mother, and the picture has changed. If you’re a fairly new parent, you might be going into this holiday with your eyes just a bit more open when it comes to your mother. Raise your hand if, at various points during your motherhood journey so far, an image of your mom dealing with the same issues and annoyances popped to mind and you thought: How on earth did she do all that?! I can barely hold it together!

She probably hoped you’d one day walk in her shoes. Well, that day has come. This Mother’s Day, we asked some moms what they have found they appreciate more about their mom now that they themselves are mothers, and pulled together their best mom-appreciations:


1. She fed you, every day. Over and over. And over. As soon as one meal is cleared away, another looms, and the week stretches ahead, filled with as-yet- unplanned meals. If you’ve already made the seemingly obvious but somehow still startling realization that these kids need to be fed every day (really?!), then you know what we mean. The realization garners respect for the woman (even if it wasn’t always her cooking and she didn’t always cook from scratch) who made sure there was food on the table.

2. She listened, or faked it pretty well when she had to. She tried her best to answer every question, from where do birds go at night to why doesn’t he like me? Try to think about that the 456th time your toddler pipes up with a “but whyyyyy?”

3. She shopped, sometimes a lot. And mostly before the Internet! If you needed new shoes or gym clothes or a birthday gift for your best friend, what did she do? She put aside work and other tasks to go shopping—at stores. There was no Amazon she could use to stock up on diapers and wipes with a few lunch-hour clicks.

4. She tolerated your phases. Your mom went along with the time you wore your Halloween princess costume for three solid weeks at age 6. She gritted her teeth and let you paint your room (or, okay, just the one wall) deep purple when you were 15. She nodded and sighed through your vegan phase at 17, even if she did—because she’s really quite savvytell you it was up to you to shop for and cook your own meals.

5. She taught you things. Some moms shared their knitting skills or how to debone a chicken. Others were the driving instructor, or the one who taught you how to put together IKEA furniture, weed a garden, score a great bargain, or balance a checkbook. Even if she never sat you down to teach you specific things, you learned. Think about it.

6. She laid down the law. Not every mother’s set of rules and regulations was the same (and you may remember that your friends had far fewer rules to follow than poor little you), but chances are she made clear that there were some lines you were not supposed to cross. Knowing that now, as you’re navigating your own discipline principles and rule-setting scenarios, you have to appreciate how tough it must have been to look at your adorably pouty face and say, no, it actually is time for bed.

7. She pushed you harder than anyone else would dare to, or care to. It’s a rare mom whowants her children to reach three-quarters of their potential. The same way you want to see your sons and daughters succeed and live a fulfilling lifehowever that may be definedthat’s what she wanted for you. If she shoved you a little harder than most? It may be better to reframe what at the time felt like nagging into an extra-fierce dose of love. She believed in you!

8. She was herself. Think about this the next time you feel stressed and guilty about workingor the opposite, when you feel you’re maybe not the best role model for staying home: Are you doing the best you can to be the best possible parent to your children? Chances are excellent she was doing the same and trying, in whatever way she knew how, coming from her own unique background and in her own spot in history, to be your mom but still be herself. Your mom may not always have given you what you wanted at the time, but she likely brought plenty to the table (besides dinner!): a goofy sense of humor, storytelling chops, an uncanny ability to find the missing soccer cleat five minutes before the game, her memory for reciting Shakespeare sonnets or baseball stats, the way she knew when you needed to talk, or preferred to remain silent. She brought herself.

What do you appreciate most about your mom?

Unique Parenting Practices Around the World

Back in 2011, writer and Yale Law School professor Amy Chua set off a storm of controversy when she published Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a slim manifesto about how she’d chosen to raise her two daughters the “Chinese way,” pushing them to excel at everything they did to extremes that some parents found shocking. But a fair share of readers thought she had a great point—had American kids gotten too soft and coddled? Did the Chinese have something valuable to teach us about parenting?

You could look back at the Tiger Mom controversy and see it as the leading edge of a trend: What do parents around the world do, and what can we learn from them?

In Chua’s wake more recently are several books that shed light on global parenting practices, such as Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé: One American  Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, in which she marvels about French babies sleeping through the night, and the more recent Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children, by Sara Zaske, who observes German parents being far more relaxed than she might be about such things as allowing first-graders to walk to school solo.

On a more global note, PhD and mom of four Christine Gros-Loh, a Korean-American who spent time raising her family in Japan, came out with Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, in which she marvels at Japanese kids working out playground dilemmas without parental intervention and riding the subway solo. The list goes on, including Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl’s The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids.

What might we learn from these happy Danish children and free-range German kids? In the spirit of curiosity, rather than controversy, let’s take a parenting-trend world tour. Did you know that…

Finnish children don’t go to kindergarten (or formally learn to read) until they’re 7? It’s true. And yet children in this small Scandinavian country regularly outbest American students on global measures of math and other subjects. The difference may be that even without formal schooling until an age at which most American kids have already taken standardized tests, Finnish kids have access to high-quality, affordable childcare, with an across-the-board curriculum that includes a lot of play.

It’s commonplace for babies in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to nap in the frigid outdoors? If you pass homes or daycare centers, it’s not odd to see carriages parked outside with well-wrapped infants and babies peacefully snoozing inside. The idea is that in the cold wintertime, the fresh air promotes good sleep and good health (and considering that staying cooped up indoors all the time is known to spread germs, it’s not a crazy notion).

French children aren’t picky eaters? It’s largely true. While American parents may assume that little ones’ tastes are bland and limited (and respond with “kid food” like chicken nuggets and plain carrot sticks), French parents do notnor do they allow much between-meal snacking. There, even the littlest ones in state-funded crèches (childcare centers) eat several-course hot meals that might not be out of place at the local cafe.

Swiss newborns get hammocks? In some Swiss maternity wards, a baby-sized hammock called a hängematte is provided, allowing babies to gently bounce and swing. It’s meant to simulate the movement in the womb and serve as a transition to the world. (You can buy them on Amazon!)

Spanish and Argentine babies (and kids) stay up late. Perhaps because these cultures emphasize social and family togetherness, few parents see much of a reason to send their little ones off to bed quite as early as most American parents. Late evening meal times, combined with a daytime siesta for everyone, mean it’s not such a big deal, or at all unheard of, to keep kids up until as late as 10 p.m.

Polynesian children care for each other? In the Polynesian islands, infants are cared for by their parents, but as soon as a child can walk, he or she is largely looked after by older kidseven preschoolers. This leads to self-reliant children and kids who are quite adept at soothing their younger siblings, cousins, and friends.

Aka moms and dads share all the tasks? Among the remote African Aka tribe, you’re as apt to see fathers caring for babies are you are to see mothers hunting for food, and vice versa.

Got any global parenting tips and trends to share?

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