Dear Dads: there are many things you need to know before your first child is born, many are life-changing lessons, some will last for a season. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but this list contains are some of the most important to remember:
1. Bye-bye sleep. Wake up time is now whenever your son or daughter decides it is. And just when you think your child is on a routine, guess what? They're not.
2. Your wife will worry. And it's your job to reassure her. Don't try to solve all her problems. Instead, just listen, nod, and offer a comforting word.
3. No one is judging you. It will be awkward the first dozen times you take your baby somewhere and it will be even more awkward changing a diaper or dealing with a meltdown. Just remember, every parent has been there.
4. You will get frustrated. Babies get fussy and they cry for seemingly no reason. Combine that with your exhaustion and it's a lot to handle. Remember to breathe.
5. Your priorities will change. You will want to get home from work as soon as possible. You'll want to spend weekends with your wife and baby. You will want to be involved in each and every important decision in your child's life. Own it.
6. You will drive past parks and judge them based on the quality of their playground equipment.
7. Mommy needs a break. You'll need — and want — to take baby out by yourself. Don't be nervous; view it as a chance to bond with your child.
8. It's the most rewarding time of your life. You will be challenged, exhausted, and stressed, but a day with your family will be better than anything else you've ever done.
9. You will worry about things you never thought about. Like do I have sunscreen for the kids? Do I have diapers? Does this outfit match? Get used to it.
10. You will make more trips to Target than should be legally allowed.
11. There will be problems. Breastfeeding won't go smoothly or your wife might have the baby blues. Don't expect perfection. Instead, anticipate problems and help solve them.
12. You will be a cheerleader for your wife, especially during breast-feeding.
13. Find a babysitter you trust. You will need date nights. Oh, and babysitters are expensive.
14. There will be more photos and videos in your life than you ever thought possible. Create folders on your computer to organize them, invest in a hard drive, and print pictures often. A bonus tip — make duplicates for your mother-in-law. It'll pay off handsomely.
15. Get used to the words "college fund." It's a great place for any extra money you earn throughout the year.
16. And the numbers "401k." See above.
17. You will plan your entire day around baby's nap time.
18. Your mother-in-law will have full access to your house. Always make sure you're clothed.
19. Buy thank you cards and stamps in bulk. There will be gifts and there will be gifts from relatives you haven't seen in years. You will need thank you cards.
20. You will be washing bottles at 2 a.m.
21. Clean out your DVR before baby arrives. First, you'll be too tired to watch shows at night anyway. Second, the DVR will soon be filled with episodes of "Sesame Street" and "Baby Einstein."
22. Remember poker night or Sundays spent watching football? Yeah, not anymore.
23. Cheaper is not better. Buy the more expensive crib and rocker. It'll be worth it.
24. As good as you think your life is now, it's nothing compared to the arrival and growth of your child.
25. Everyone has advice. Parents and non-parents will offer you unsolicited advice about how you're doing. Smile, nod, and tune it out. You know who to trust.
26. Your conversations will change. You will have lengthy, detailed, obsessive conversations about your child's "output." This and other topics will consume you for a while.
27. You might slowly drift apart from your friends who don't have children. It's OK. Those friends will be replaced by new dads just like you.
28. Remember going to the gym four times a week? Not a chance.
29. You will want to record each and every humorous and tender moment. Keep a journal, a blog or a scrapbook. These are moments you will never get back. Write them down while they are fresh in your mind.
30. You will want to be a better man. There is so much knowledge and guidance that your children will look to you for. You can't gain all that knowledge at once; simply be more open and curious and it will come.
31. Your best qualities will emerge — problem-solving, patience, discipline. This is when you need them the most.
32. You will be silly. You will make up songs, dance like a ballerina, fall on the floor like a comedian and discover your inner actor. Kids bring out the silly in all of us.
33. You will feel powerless. This little life that you are responsible for weighs only a few pounds and is no longer than your forearm. However, it's as if a ton of pressure has been placed on you. It's not always easy to handle but with time, practice, and patience, you will.
34. You will develop dad buddies. They will be your lifeline.
35. You will want to clean your house. Things that didn't bother you before — like dust on the table or dirt on the floor — will catch your eye and you will think, "I don't want my baby putting that in her mouth."
36. Your brain will be filled with nursery rhymes. And you will wake up singing them.
37. Your time no longer belongs to you; you exist based on someone else's schedule. Just when you're ready to walk out the door for work, the baby will spit up all over you. Don't get upset. Just realize it's part of fatherhood.
38. Your wife will call you at work to explain how miserable, exhausting and painful her day is. You must acknowledge her agony and reassure her. Then bring her flowers or her favorite meal.
39. You will wonder how you ever lived without this child in your life.
40. Prepare for an emotional onslaught. Even if you're not a crier, the pure and overwhelming joy of bringing your child — YOUR child — home from the hospital is as powerful a feeling as there is. Enjoy the emotions. They're for real.
41. You will love your wife even more. Sure, you vowed to love her until the end of days. But once you see her produce a life that you both created, that love ascends to a new and more powerful level. Honor her every day.