The Bachelor’s Guide to a Best Bud Having a Baby
Congrats, you’re going to be an honorary uncle! But we’re not here to mince words. The dynamic between you and your future dad pal will change instantly. Just try to think of it as an exciting turn of events in the evolution of your friendship. I mean, come on, did you really want to spend the rest of your lives being weekend warriors roaming around beer festivals? (Actually… come to think of it, that does sound pretty awesome… Sorry!)
I’m relying on my dual perspective for this piece. First, as a clueless-about-kids bachelor a decade ago whose best bud starting having babies. And, now, as a father of two who finally understands what my best bud went through. What follows is advice I would have loved to read then. Because, sadly, even the tightest of friendships can fall by the wayside in the new-dad era.
Here’s how things usually play out
New Dad is overwhelmed with his altered reality and it’s hard to connect with him. Inevitably, he falls off the radar – he’s unresponsive, non-committal and passes on invitations. It’s hard not to take that personally. I know I did.
But please consider this: he’s going through one of the toughest, most gruelling, sleepless, stress-filled time of his life. He might even be suffering from new-dad depression or anxiety. He definitely misses his pals and his old life. And to make matters worse, all of these feelings are impacting his relationship with his lady. What you may not realize is that he needs his best buds now more than ever. “Well why didn’t he just say so?!” you say. Well, he’s a dude, and he likes to pretend he’s got everything under control. He also feels guilty for not being able to reach out and knows his pals probably aren’t pleased about it.
After a little time he starts to look at the bigger picture. He’s been struggling and his friends have seemingly tapped out. So it feels to him like they aren’t interested in him anymore now that he’s a dad. It’s hard not to take that personally. I know I did.
It’s like an episode of Three’s Company (or any classic sitcom, for that matter) in that it’s always chalked-up to being one big misunderstanding. New dads and their child-free friends don’t know how to relate to one another. New dads aren’t capable of keeping up with activities their friendships were based around. Their child-free friends haven’t the faintest clue about what becoming a dad actually does to one’s life. And, of course, both of them suck at communicating, so the friendship doesn’t transition smoothly into this new fatherhood era.
One of the goals of Paternity Fraternity is to try to flip the script on men’s views of incoming babies. A baby should actually strengthen the bond between brothers. Women get really excited and rally around their new mom friends. Why don’t we? Let’s celebrate it. Let’s support new dads and get more involved. Let’s swap the “Game Over!” new dad cliche with “Game On!”
So here’s a glimpse into this new-dad world and a game plan for being part of it.
First, let’s talk about you
“Me?!” you say. “This isn’t about me. I’m not the one who’s expecting!”
Yes, YOU. You may start thinking about the possibility of children in your own future. Should I be having kids? Should I be settling down? Have I missed the boat? Will I be left behind? Is my current partner mother material? Wait, what partner? I’m single! Similar to receiving a wedding announcement, it’s common for another couple’s pregnancy announcement to trigger big questions about your thoughts on relationships.
There can be an odd mix of emotions: on one hand you’re happy for your buddy; on the other hand, your complicated outlook on the idea of having kids may rear its head. If you’re single and he’s been your wingman, or the majority of your time spent together revolves around late nights, that dynamic is pretty much done. So you might feel a little sad and abandoned. Or maybe you always imagined your own fatherhood timing would sync up with your best bud and you’re not anywhere close to that stage. Maybe little humans kinda freak you out. If you’ve never had much interaction with babies or toddlers you might be a little apprehensive around them.
That’s all normal. I experienced all of the above when my best pal had a kid.
If you’re unsure about kids being part of your life, then participating and supporting your pal’s journey will be good for you. You can get a non-committal glimpse into the world of fatherhood to help decide if it’s for you. And if, or when, that day comes for you, then you’ll be a bit more prepared – all while keeping more connected to your bud.
If you’re really close pals, sometimes the birth announcement can catch you off-guard. Maybe you didn’t even know they were trying and now she’s already three months pregnant?! In North America couples tend not to announce until the baby passes the first trimester. The reason is that during the first three months, there’s a higher chance of miscarriage. Some couples don’t ever share that they are baby-making and some guys won’t divulge that info privately to their buds, either. Don’t take it personally. There could be a number of explanations:
- The pregnancy could have been a surprise to the couple, too.
- There may have been uncertainty on whether a pregnancy was even possible, so some couples choose to keep things hush-hush to avoid additional pressure from friends and family.
- Some people are just private and don’t like to broadcast how they’ve been bumping uglies for the purpose of procreation.
In this stage your buddy will have his plate filled with prenatal classes, doctor’s appointments, ultrasound appointments, home renovations, a desire to work/earn more money, deep soul-searching and tricky emotions. But he’ll inevitably play it all cool because that’s what guys do. Still, you’ll start noticing he’s drifting because his plate is so full. Don’t take it personally.
It’s a great time to organize a dadchelor party for your bud! (At a date that’s more convenient for him, of course.) Dadchelor parties – the expecting-dad version of baby showers – are slowly catching on, and they are a fantastic idea. Raise a little loot for him, use diapers as currency for poker bets, or any other number of dude-friendly games. Get your boys together and celebrate this huge milestone before the dad-to-be temporarily taps out to tackle the forthcoming insanity. The cool part: unlike baby showers, the guest of honor can indulge in a beer or two… and the guests won’t feel they have to tone it down either.
During the pregnancy he’ll likely be busy putting together the nursery and painting the baby’s room. He might love some company during this stage. Put on some painting clothes, bring over a six-pack and a pizza. Fire up some tunes and shoot the breeze while you put the final touches on his baby headquarters. His lady likely won’t be involved in an effort to avoid the paint fumes so it might be a good opp for you guys to chill and have a heart-to-heart. Ask him what’s on his mind. Chat with him about how he’s feeling. A guy may not admit it, but he might be scared to death. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that goes through our minds, ranging from money worries to analyzing our relationship with our own fathers. It’s also nice to talk about the thoughts you’ve had since his announcement.
Oh, and some guys may just want to complete the nursery all by themselves. Don’t take it personally. Try to find some other baby-related project where you can ride shotgun. “Nesting” is a stage when pregnant women feel the urge to organize their homes in preparation for the baby. Men do it too, but it manifests differently. Sometimes it’s in the form of home renovation projects. Cleaning out basements. Or even buying a bigger, safer vehicle. Other guys start investing in upgraded cable or streaming packages and bigger televisions because they know time spent at home will increase two-fold. There’s a variety of things you may be able to help with, all with a due date deadline – so your pal will likely be happy with you offering a helping hand or even helpful consumer advice.
Oh, and there may be some other details he’s not sharing with you. Don’t take it personally. The sex of the baby might be something the couple wants to keep private. And that can tie into withholding what they are naming the baby, too. But even if some couples reveal the gender, many expecting parents these days won’t share the name they’ve chosen (or potential names) to anyone. I thought this practice was a little odd before I had kids. But you’d be surprised at some of the lame/rude/uninvited responses you get when you reveal what name you’ve selected. If your friend does tell you the name in advance, always tell him it’s awesome (even if it’s “Alfalfa”) and only offer up suggestions if he asks.
Due dates are rarely accurate. Our first kid arrived two weeks late. The anticipation and stress accumulated because family and friends constantly asked for updates. This situation is a tricky one to deal with – friends and family are asking because they’re also excited for you. It’s ironic because what they fail to see is how their good intentions increase the anxiety for the parents-to-be.
Here’s what you don’t do: email, message or text. Be like your old-fashioned grandma: pick up the phone and call when they’re nearing the due date. Offer your best wishes on what’s to come. Tell him you know babies can be late/early, and you don’t want to add to their stress by checking in too often. Mention that you’ll wait to hear the news and ask him to keep you in the loop. But don’t take it personally if you learn from a third party because the day of the birth is a marathon and it’ll turn his brain to mush.
Depending on how close you are with the couple, they may be happy to have you visit at the hospital. Ask them if you can drop by to meet the new baby. If you can get a photo with the baby at the hospital, it’s a great memory. If you’re in a tight-knit group of friends, a great plan is to see if you can get all the boys together – even if you just meet the new dad outside the room for 15 minutes to celebrate. It’s also convenient and efficient for the new parents to have all the visiting done in one shot.
I still remember visiting the hospital when my best friend’s son was born (the kid is a pre-teen now). The baby was even born on my birthday – how cool is that?! I stopped by to meet the little guy and got an amazing photo (below.) It’s a great memory.
But hospital visits can also be tough to coordinate. Sometimes there are complications with mom or baby, sometimes they may just want privacy or only immediate family in attendance. Sometimes the timing just doesn’t work out – it’s not like babies are known to be punctual or time their arrival during regular business or hospital visiting hours. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to any of this experience, so roll with whatever is best for the new mom and dad.
The first six months
This era with a first child is pure insanity. In the first week or so, dad is tending to mom 24-7 as she’s advised to take it super easy – which is easier said than done when tending to a newborn. People kept telling us that those early days would zoom right by. But I remember it feeling like everything was in slow-motion. You’re sleep-deprived, worried, off your regular meal routine, keeping up with new baby appointments (and the potential for minor/major health scares) while trying to cope with a new insane schedule. Combine all that with trying to have friends and family over, or venturing into the outside world with baby the first few times, suffering through screaming car rides, waking up every couple of hours all night to help baby or mama… Let’s just say it didn’t feel like it was zooming by at all!
So let your pal know you’d love to come meet the baby and to keep you in the loop about that. And please only show up when it’s convenient for him and mom. The only prerequisite here is don’t go if you’re under the weather. Neither of the parents want a sick newborn on their hands. They’re already freaked out enough without needing to worry about their bundle catching your cold.
When you go meet the baby, offer to bring some take-out and you’ll earn major bonus points. Party-size pizzas are awesome as the new parents can never have enough quick and easy leftovers at this stage that can be eaten without plates, utensils or heating up. (Hey, their hands are already full, ok?!) If your visit happens in the morning, maybe bring over some coffees (ask if mom has switched to decaf) and breakfast to-go or pastries. Or grab a tray of frozen lasagna from the grocery store or something along those lines for them to prepare later. I can’t stress it enough: your new-parent pals can never have enough simple solutions for food at this point. If they miraculously already seem sorted for food, you might ask if there are any other supplies or items you can pick-up on the way over. Saving dad a trip to the store will also score you points.
Babies sleep a lot in the early goings, so don’t feel badly if the kid is napping and off-limits when you arrive. Some babies can be colicky and cry a lot, which means no one in the house has had any sleep. So if a fussy baby is sleeping, it’s a godsend that allows the couple to catch their breath and enjoy some silence. You don’t want to mess with that. Either way, the parents will feel pressured to wake the baby up. If the baby doesn’t happen to wake up during your visit, assure your friends it’s okay. Spend some time hanging out with the parents and say you’ll pop in another time. Another pro tip: it’s always nice to offer to help with something around the house. Maybe their dog needs a walk? Dirty dishes piling up? Your man will really appreciate it if you tackle one of his mounting chores. Might even be a good thought to ask the parents if they’d rather enjoy this quiet time alone – as they may silently be thinking, “Damn, we could also be napping while the baby sleeps!” Again, it’s all situational, so feel it out.
This newborn stage is prime time to revert back to modern tech. Find time to text your bud every so often and ask how the baby, mom and him are doing. This way, he can reply when he gets a breather. A few of my pals made a habit of checking in during the insanity and it was a really nice gesture and helped me feel connected to the outside world for a moment or two.
6 to 12 months and beyond
Mom and dad are starting to get the hang of things. Predictable schedules slowly start to appear. Baby starts to sleep better at night and wakes up less and less during the wee hours. A lot of the newborn anxiety your friend was feeling is starting to fade. Your pal will start coming out of his shell toward the tail-end of this period and may even make the odd social appearance. But right now he functions best during the day. I’m in this stage right now with my second-born and the thought of going out at night isn’t very appealing. A few beers, you ask? No thanks. I am terrified at the thought of having even the slightest hangover. Why? We’re still awoken in the middle of the night sometimes and up between 5 and 6 a.m. daily. And, unfortunately, kids don’t sleep in on weekends, either.
That means around 8 p.m. each night I hit a wall of exhaustion… hard. At those odd times when I venture into the outside world for an evening out, I feel so out of it that my conversation skills are near-zero and I don’t feel like I’m good company. It’s tough not to think about how I’d rather be in bed and I feel almost anxious about missing my coveted 10 p.m. bedtime. Maintaining a solid sleep schedule enables my sanity the following day.
By about the one-year mark, we hit a sweet-spot with our first. It felt like we’d found a decent foothold on our new lives as parents. But you’ll still find your friend to be less spontaneous and making plans are a chore – prepare for lots of delays and cancellations. This irregularity will be the case for a long time, so be patient. When you do find time to hang he’ll likely be super tired and may mostly talk about the baby. He’s suffering from severe FOMO (fear of missing out) on his previous life. Try to keep him in the loop on social events but don’t take it personally if he always seems to pass. I feel a lot of guilt about turning down the majority of invites from my buddies, but our family swears – and survives – by sticking to a schedule. A lot of my pals have been awesome and understanding. Now, instead of bars and beers, we meet up for breakfasts and brunches during the day when our minds are working better.
In this first year there will come a time when dad will venture out with his baby, sans mom. This is a freaky time – I’ll be the first to admit it. Especially if baby is still tied to mom at the boob. Sure, you may not have much to offer in terms of helping with the baby, but when dad knows he’s got you in his corner, it’s a nice thing. You can also accompany your pal to his daytime destinations – zoos, fairs, festivals and museums. I know it’s not how you imagined spending your weekend, but, trust me, he’d love to have you there. Ask him if he wants company. There’s also plenty of kid-friendly cafes these days so it’s worth finding a spot where his wee one can crawl around freely without bothering others – giving you more time to chat uninterrupted.
If your bud is a stay-at-home-dad, you’re going to want to ramp up your contact game. SAHDs have become more common in recent years but they’re still a minority. It will be difficult for him to connect to fellow dads in the same role and he may feel super isolated. The struggles are real, check out this SAHD post to get a better idea of what he’s going through. If you have a midweek day or afternoon off, consider visiting him and his wee one – it will brighten his week!
And yes, many dads end up posting a ton of photos of their children on social media. You might even think he’s gone overboard with it. Maybe he has! But here’s a post that might help put this in perspective.
Oh, and as a final heads-up: you might notice he’s spending more time with some new friends who are also fathers. Don’t take it personally. He hasn’t ditched you and the other guys are not your replacement. It’s just about finding other dudes who share the same stage of fatherhood and their schedules happen to sync. It’s a good thing because your pal can get some baby-related issues out of his system and then it won’t dominate your get-togethers. Don’t worry – at some point you’ll get back to the ridiculous conversations you once had. He misses that stuff too.
So there you have it. Some solid advice to help you stay connected with your buddy while he transitions into the wild realm of fatherhood.
And here’s some bonus advice from our brothers via Twitter.
We’d love to hear from both new dads and their pals on how you maintained your friendships through the madness of fatherhood.