So a lot of my friends are parents now or becoming parents. Sure I’m only seven months into this gig but I think I’ve racked up enough miles to lay down a few words of wisdom or two. At the very least, I am close enough to the whole “new Dad” thing, and just far enough away to actually catch my breath about it all. My number one advice for any Dad-to-be’s or newly minted fathers is this: get in shape.
Yeah, Get In Shape.
I’ve said this before in a previous post “So you’re going to be a Dad (part 1)”, but I think it bears some repeating. Because raising a child is going to be a lot of work. Let me repeat that. It. Will. Be. A. Lot. Of. Work. In my previous post I wrote about how tired I was. How utterly physically exhausting it can be. Actually it would be true for moms as well, but this is a Dad site so I’ll reserve my comments for us guys (besides, I’m sure my wife will have a word or two to comment about it). But really, being a dad is no cakewalk. Let me enumerate the many reasons why the most useful thing you can do to prepare and be a good dad is to be in shape.
1. YOU WILL NOT GET A LOT OF SLEEP. To join the Navy SEALs, you have to go through something called BUD/S, which is essentially a bootcamp for all the sailors who want to become badass warriors. One of the most harrowing and weaning aspects of BUD/S (and mind you, it’s got something like a 70% attrition rate) is something called Hell Week, where for one full week you get about 5 hours of sleep and the instructors work you until you puke up last month’s lunch. I think the first month of being a dad is harder. OK, granted I’m not a Nave SEAL, but at least you know Hell Week is, you know, a week. With a new baby, it’s non-stop and unending. You don’t know when it will get better and even if it does, they will graduate from newborn to infant to toddler and have demands and needs that’s always evolving. If you’re lucky they’ll sleep all night until 5am and wake you at the butt crack of dawn. That’s sleep all night for them – great for them, but sorry Dad, you still had a full day of work and an evening of household stuff or work you took home or a honey-do list or something else, so good luck going to bed early to capitalize on your luck. If you’re not lucky, then you may have a colicky baby and he or she will be crying more than sleeping and you will not be sleeping at all. So yes, in order to weather all of this, you should be in shape.
2. YOU WILL EAT WHATEVER YOU CAN WHENEVER YOU CAN. This gets better actually after you go back to work. But for the first few weeks, unless you’re blessed with help from grandma or can afford a live-in nanny, you and your wife will eat whatever you can whenever you can. You will at many times, like my wife and I did, debate on what you want to do more when you actually get a half hour to yourselves – sleep or eat. So if that’s the case, then you want to start off being in shape because it’s going to be a while before you can get back on your South Beach diet.
3. PLAYING WITH BABIES AND KIDS TAKES A LOT OF ENERGY. I’m going to embed a video of me playing with my boy. He’s adorable, and I love seeing him go all crazy having fun.
But man, I couldn’t sustain that pace for very long. Now granted, my child is a boy so maybe they play differently from a girl, but I don’t think so. Ask any veteran parent, whether it be of a boy or girl, and they’ll tell you that playing with your child is going to take a lot out of you physically, and wait until they can crawl and *walk*. I don’t know biologically what it is, but babies sprint don’t seem to have a slow setting. They are either sleeping, or they’re on turbo. Now the kicker is that one of the best things for a developing child is playing, especially playing with the parent. Which means that given the above conditions I’ve already described (lack of sleep, lack of good diet) you gotta be in shape so that you can provide you child the best interaction he or she can benefit from.
4. BECAUSE IF YOU’VE NOT IN SHAPE, YOU CAN ACTUALLY GET HURT. Parenting is a full contact sport. You can tweak your back putting your kid down in the crib, or picking him up from the floor. Your child may squirm like bucking bronco and just holding him to protect his head and neck may screw up your shoulder and wrist. Carrying the little tyke around in one of those baby carriers can wrench your back or make you sore like you got beat up by a gorilla. These analogies are not literary exercises – they describe what happened to me this month. The only antidote is to be in shape, to be strong in body and mind so that can continue to do these things that your baby needs from you and not be torn to pieces.
So fellas, get in shape. Obviously there’s the health and long life and all that good stuff associated with being in shape, but that’s not my point. Those reasons would be true for anyone, anytime. No, what I’m saying here are actual practical reasons directly related to being a Dad.
In a future post I’ll write about some actual exercises that I think could be helpful – ones that I am doing at home that doesn’t require special equipment, and can even be done with the baby, sort of a play activity for the kid while working you out.