Dads Can’t Breastfeed!

I know a lot of guys that cringe at even the sound of that.  They just don’t know how to help, don’t know anything about it, or just plain and simple don’t want anything to do with it.  They picture their beautiful wives and girlfriends, turned into monsters by lack of sleep and hormones!  I think what some guys fail to realize is the importance that breastfeeding can have in your child’s life.

First, if you’re going to be a father, there’s a couple things we can all agree you need to take care of:

  1. The kid(s).  Obviously, this is the most important part, kids benefit hugely from a having a father in their lives, and I’m sure we’ll get into that in another blog post.
  2. The relationship.  Whether you’re with the mom, separated, adoptive parents, or any form of parenting; chances are you have someone else helping you out.  This post is mostly for those of you in a more traditional setting, when mom + dad + kid = a lot of questions.
  3. All the other stuff.  I’m talking financial stuff, work stuff, extended family stuff, all sorts of good ‘stuff.’  This stuff, in my opinion, should typically take a back seat to your kids, but that’s a debate for another time.

So, your wife/girlfriend/baby mama says:  “I want to breastfeed.”

What do you do?

Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll know how to help a bit.  But first, let’s cross a few things off.  Assuming you’re the father in the traditional sense, you can’t breastfeed your kid.  Period.  Your body just won’t do it.  So the only thing left is to help, and I think we need to keep in mind the most important thing of fatherhood we agreed on above, the kiddo.

A lot of this is common sense, but here’s a few things for dads to try if they want to take an active role in breastfeeding:

  • Be supportive.  She needs a cheerleader.  Be there for her, you need to make sure she knows she’s doing an awesome job and that she has you in her corner.
  • Be thoughtful.  This one goes a step further, don’t just tell her you support breastfeeding, but actively try to help out.  See if she needs a glass of water, pick up a new book or magazine on your way home, or something else that will help her out.
  • Be willing to get up in the middle of the night.  For the first couple of weeks (at least) that baby is going to want to eat every few hours in the middle of the night.  Don’t always make her get up.  Take the nightshift sometimes, go get the kiddo, bring them over and hand off to mom.  Trust me, if mom doesn’t have to get up in the middle of the night every time, it’s easier on everyone the next morning (especially you!)
  • Be a multi-tasker.  If she’s getting up in the middle of the night, get up and make breakfast, or maybe run the errands in the morning.  Any little extra thing you do will help immensely.  An ounce of effort will probably feel like a ton of help to her, and that’s good for the whole family in the long run.

Remember to try and be a team whenever you can.  It’s best for the kid and definitely best for the two of you in the long run.  Despite all of its benefits, breastfeeding isn’t easy, but helpful dads can make it a lot better.  Hopefully some of the things in this post help you to help her!

Trapped?

This one is a touchy subject for me.  It took me a while to even share it within a small, trusted group, and it’s taken me quite some time to come to terms with it.

Sometimes you can feel trapped when parenting, especially when you’re a young parent.

Now, I’ve heard some people say it before, or ask me if I feel trapped or stuck, and I usually try and steer clear of the subject.  The fact is, parents can feel a little trapped, and I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.  If you’re a parent, or have ever read any parenting blog or magazine, talked to parents at all…you know what I mean.  The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, wanna do something this weekend?”

“Yeah sure!  What were you-oh wait I can’t actually, I have the little guy!”

“Oh..uhh ok well can’t you find a babysitter or something?”

“I mean I guess I could, but I kind of want to hang out with my kiddo…you wanna come to the park with us or something?”

“Umm no that’s ok, I’ll hit you up later.”

Unless you have a lot of great friends that also happen to be parents of young kids, you know how hard it is to find time to hang out with your friends.  I think this goes for all parents.  You might be more likely to have friends that have kids later on in life, but you’re still bound to have some peers without kids, and they just don’t really understand how valuable your time is now.

It can be tough to make all of your decisions around a new person.  I’m not talking about being selfish, but on the other hand, being completely selfless isn’t a walk in the park.  A parent’s life revolves around their child, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Parenting is a long, difficult journey.  It’s extremely rewarding, but you also don’t really know what you’re signing up for when you start.

I think the hardest part of parenting for me, is the lack of freedom.  And, until recently, I thought I was alone.  I thought that maybe I just didn’t get it, or maybe I just wasn’t a great parent if I was thinking about myself too much, or even at all.

I had a conversation last week about this with some friends.  I joked that someday I’m going to live out of a backpack and travel the world, it might just be when I’m 55 instead of when I’m 25.  So maybe I wait until he’s on his own, or maybe I pick a closer destination, or a shorter trip, or maybe I even bring him with me!  Don’t worry, I’ve already picked out a kid’s backpack and size 4 hiking boots if the little one wants to come along, I kind of hope he does!  To my surprise, I found out I wasn’t crazy, and that many parents cope with similar feelings.  It’s important to know that you’re not the only one out there.

I guess what I’m saying, is:  never stop dreaming.

Parents lose sight of themselves sometimes.  Parenting is a selfless act.  If you’ve given your child a life full of love and support, what else do they need?

Well, I think they need parents that will be with them, spend time with them, and be present.  A kid needs someone that can dream with them and then help them achieve their own dreams.  A child needs a role model, not only in parenting, but also a role model when dealing with life’s challenges, staying positive, and sometimes reaching for the stars.

I still plan on living life fully, maybe just not in the traditional sequence.  For now, I have to realize that the little guy comes first, and show him a life of fulfillment.

And how exactly do you expect to give your child a life full of love, if you’ve lost your love of life?

The Struggle of Coparenting

Ariadna, Mónica i Sergi

You’re not in a relationship.

…and it’s still complicated.

I can hear the collective sigh of frustration.  I know.  I get it.  Coparenting is tough.  But it’s also so very important for your kids!  The other day, I found myself clicking through random articles on the web.  I came across one about the “Best Arrangement for Kids of Divorced Parents.”  Being ever so curious, I opened it.  The article just said what we’ve all heard a hundred times before:  it’s important to have both parents in the picture.

Well of course it is!  That’s easy to say for a researcher with no kids, or for a parent in the perfect relationship.  But what about the rest of us?

The article conveniently left out the fact that coparenting is difficult.  It’s hard to deal with the other parent sometimes.  It’s hard to be flexible, to be understanding.  It’s tough to agree on the same rules and the same schedule.  Every time you drop him off or pick him up, it’s important to make sure you both know the child is the most important part of the relationship.

I’ve been pretty lucky, both of us are in the picture, and we both get a long pretty well, for my son’s sake.  It can still be difficult though, especially when you two don’t agree on something.  Try to remember that the little human in the carseat is still the most important thing to your world.  If you truly want what’s best for them, it’s important to try and make it work with both parents.

You may not think the other parent is amazing, but your kid probably still loves them, and they’re very lucky to have both parents in the picture.  Every time you drop them off, you’re teaching your child that family is important, even if you don’t get along.  You’re teaching your child respect and love.

If you have trouble (like me) try some of these tips for coparenting!

  • Try and have some consistency with rules, schedules, etc.
  • Focus on the kids, not on your feelings or frustrations.
  • Always treat the other parent with respect.  Never say anything bad about them in front of the kids.
  • Try to commit to honest, frequent conversation with the other parent.
  • Be flexible with your time.  If you want a few extra hours with the little one this week, make sure to return the favor.
  • Remember what’s most important, you kiddo!

Don’t Forget About You!

CalvinHobbesParenting

The number one thing people tell you about parenting?

Kids come first.

End of story.  No discussion, no questions.

Now, I don’t disagree with this advice, but there’s a fine distinction between the “kids come first”, and the “I have to do what’s best for my kids” approach.  The moment you do something for yourself, there are plenty of people ready to write you off as a selfish parent.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to you kids.  Ask your kiddo, “Do you like it better when mom and dad are stressed out, or when we’re happy.”  Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Thankfully, people are starting to realize that if you want to raise happy, healthy kids, you have to be healthy and happy too!  This is important to remember, and I noticed it the most in this Proud to Parent program.  Every meeting, we go through a few questions at the beginning.  Guess which question is the hardest to answer….

“What have you done for yourself this week?”

This might seem like a strange question to ask, especially coming from the “drop everything for the kids” approach to parenting.  But it makes a lot of sense, and I think people need to remember that.  Any parent, no matter what age, will tell you that parenting is exhausting at times.  Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it.  But it’s also so incredibly rewarding, and in order to get the most out of parenting, you have to be able to take a step back and reflect on it.

If you’re like me, it’s always hard to take time for yourself.  Between work, school, kids, and every other obligation I’m signed up for, “me-time” isn’t exactly a top priority.  You feel guilty, you can’t stop thinking about work tomorrow, or that exam coming up, you miss your kids.  But I’ve also started to see how important it is.  Trust me, if I’ve had time to hang out with a friend or relax and read a book, I have way more fun with my son.  Sleeping too; man does getting enough sleep help…

So don’t be afraid to help yourself help your kids.  If you need a break, that’s ok.  If you need a night out or time to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not entitled to that.  Parenting is a full time job, and full time jobs have vacation time for a reason.  Everybody needs a vacation, even if it’s just one night.  Trust me, taking a day to recharge, catch up with an old friend, do some yoga, take a nap, whatever, will pay back tenfold.  If taking a night to yourself lets you be able to relax and have fun with the kids all weekend, it’s totally worth it!

So let me ask, what have you done for yourself this week?

How can I be a Leader when I’m not Even Ready to Parent?

Cam PhotoLeadership

Leadership is kind of a funny word.  Oxford describes it as “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so hard right?

Except for the bit about leading (what is leading anyway?)…oh and finding a group of people that believes in you…oh and the bit about actually being able to lead them, having the time to do it, being able to speak so that those people will listen to you, and even getting people to realize that you could be a leader.

So, other than all that, I could be a leader, or you could be, right?

Exactly!  From the moment your child is born, you’re a leader.  Parents are leaders.  Think about it, this is probably one of the only times in most of our lives that someone depends almost entirely on us…for everything.  Our kids literally couldn’t survive without us (No pressure, right??).  So if we’re leaders for our kiddos, why does it stop there?

Being a Young Parent Leader

Being a young parent provides an amazing opportunity to become a leader.  Parenthood teaches people a lot about themselves and about others.  Even though ‘leading’ a 3 year old kid in his day-to-day life might be a bit different from coaching a team or managing a department, I bet there’s more similarities than you think.  I mean, those little eyes look up to you whenever they need guidance, and they probably will for most of your life.  People always need guidance, but with kids, it’s especially important to provide guidance.  Sometimes people think parenthood defines a parent, without realizing that every parent defines their own path of parenthood.

Especially when you’re a ‘young’ parent, people seem to think the doors to your future start closing.  Some people think “young parent” and “successful” are totally incompatible things.  Personally I look for every single opportunity to prove those people wrong.  Hey, I may not be perfect, but I can sure be a decent dad and a successful guy.  I refuse to let someone else label my parenthood is a limiting factor in my life.  All other parts being equal, for some reason, when you’re a “young” parent, some people tend to forget about the good things parenthood does.  Why is it when we see young parents, the “Congratulations!” go out the window, and in comes the questions:

“Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Will you be able to finish school?”

“Do you have enough money for to raise a child?”

I’m not even sure if people expect answers, they just love to point out that parenthood is going to be difficult.  Thanks for the heads up random stranger on the street, I had no idea I looked “too young” to have a kid.  Is it hard?  Sure it is, but parenthood isn’t exactly easy, whether you’ve got a fresh high school diploma or you have a social security check in your hand.  But, if everything in life was easy, how would we grow?  How would we ever rise to the occasion?  Being a young parent sure is hard, but it can also be an amazing step toward a life that we, as individuals and parents, can be proud of.

So really, being a young parent is an amazing way to become a leader.  There is no single force in my life as strong as my son.  Through him, I have grown stronger, learned and accomplished more, and reached new highs in my life.  Stop worrying about all the doors people say get shut, and start looking for the open window.  Think outside the box.  I’ve had more opportunities to help people since becoming a father than I can count, and I’m very proud of what fatherhood has done for me.  Looking into my son’s eyes, I have found motivation, responsibility, determination, confidence, inspiration, and so much more.

I dare you to ask someone about some traits leaders have.

And I bet you $5 they’ll say one of those traits.

-Cam