It'll take time and experience before I can see clearly how well I'm doing in these first weeks of parenthood. Before my memory of these days fades, I want to at least dump everything out on the table so I can sort through it later. (And if we ever have another child, I'll be happy I wrote down my bag of tricks somewhere.)
Books & General Concepts
You have everything you need. Now, fight!
Plenty of people told me that I would be utterly powerless in the face of the overwhelming forces my wife and I have summoned into our life. Maybe it was true for them. It hasn't been true for me.
I've been using everything I know to manage over the last few weeks. This means spreadsheets, power tools, meditation, camping skills, memory tricks, people skills, navigation, etc. The result is that I feel I can mindfully adapt to and shape the situation, rather than simply try to survive.
Prioritize and execute.
Not intended as a book on parenthood, but the principles are universal. Over and over again, in the wee hours of the morning, I'd find myself thinking, prioritize and execute, or disengage.
Keep your situation situated.
-The Other Woman (sort of)
The actual line from the movie is, I think, "Yeah, my situation's pretty situated." I've modified it for my own self-motivational purposes. This means that at any given moment, my own shit is 100% handled. I am clean-shaven & showered, I am wearing clean clothes, and the house is generally tidy. In the broader sense, it means that nothing is stacking up: dishes are not accumulating, laundry is done (washed, folded, stowed), there is a ready supply of clean baby bottles, etc.
Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads was recommended by a coworker, and has been really helpful. The most frustrating moment with a newborn is when you've tried everything you know how to try, and it's not working. This book gives you more things to try.
My wife and I have found it immensely helpful to have a log of when our daughter has eaten and needed diaper changes. Baby Tracker has been a great for that.
My Mountain Hardware sleeping bag was absolutely invaluable during our stay in the hospital. Each night I slept in my bag, warm and comfortable despite being stretched out on a glorified cot. No clue what I'd have done without it. (PRO TIP: have a pair of wolly socks to sleep in, and leave them in the bottom of your sleeping bag.)
In the week after returning home from the hospital, I lived in basically two sets of long underwear:
Unexpectedly, I found that having my Benchmade Griptilian folding knife handy was incredibly helpful. This knife has taken years of abuse and is still 100% solid. Can't recommend it highly enough.
And my to-do list manager, OmniFocus has been vital. I haven't used it much, since most of what I've been doing involves the same few things over and over. But that just means that when something outside that flow needs to get done, it's all the more important that it goes on my to-do list.
I'm also loving Spark as my iOS email app. After 4 solid days in the hospital focused on my wife and newborn child, Spark let me dig out of email hell in no time.
Prioritize and Execute
- care for the kid
- This is obvious. Do all the child care stuff. Feeding, diaper changes, play time. When the need arises, drop whatever else you're doing and do this.
- care for your wife
- Giving birth pretty much stands as my definition of "taking one for the team." Her job is to recover and (depending on lactation/latching/etc. issues) feed the baby. Your job is literally everything else.
- care for yourself
- Shower and shave every day. Take naps when you can. Eat right. (One of the best decisions I made was to avoid all sweets for the last couple of weeks. You simply can't eat garbage and keep up with the demands of the first weeks of parenthood.)
- care for the house
- Stay aggressively on top of dishes, laundry, cleaning bottles, making the bed in the guest room, etc. It all seems like it can wait, but it makes life much easier if you have clean towels, blankets, t-shirts, pajamas, readily to hand. Consider: the baby has just projectile vomited 3 oz. of milk into her onsie, her swaddling blankets, and (impossibly) her hat, as well as your t-shirt and pajamas. In that moment, you're going to be either really glad you have fresh clothes and blankets for the both of you, or you're going to have to get creative with what's in the linen closet. It's up to you which world you want to live in.
Kettlebells & General Fitness
I've been floored at how much stronger I feel doing everyday parental & household stuff because of my recent kettlebell training. Turkish get-ups in particular are gold.
In particular, I've depended on one-handed movements to get me through the day, and I've needed a posterior chain that can handle leaning/twisting/sitting strangely for hours each day.
And I've been smart enough not to try to work out or add any extra physical exertion to my days. The chiropractor that helped me sort out my shoulder/arm issues a couple years back made a really valid point: your body's recovery systems don't differentiate between life stress and workout stress. If one is already maxed out, adding the other is unwise.
I find my wife and I are getting enough sleep, but we're getting it in smaller chunks and at odd times. So I've been leveraging something I learned a few years ago on a trip to Germany: my stomach is in charge. Eating high-protein meals/snacks at the normal time of day (7AM, 11AM, 3PM, 6PM) seems to help my body stay anchored in a normal circadian cycle.