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All the Life Changes You Experience as a First-Time Dad

As a young woman with plans to start a family myself, nothing scares me more than seeing women talk about losing their hair, teeth or all the other weird things that come with having a child. I know men are the “providers”, but I wonder how much kids affect the trajectory of their own lives. Speaking to Thomas*, a first-time dad, this was what he had to say. 

Source: UChicago Medicine

As Told to Memi

Helping my two older siblings deepened my existing love for kids. This is why, after I got married in 2020, it only took my wife and me six months before we started trying for a child. 

Because of the stories I’d heard of how children changed the relationship between couples, I decided to be very intentional. Before the baby came, I’d followed a lot of dad pages on Instagram and was consuming a lot of content about how to assist your partner, look out for postpartum depression and make sure they didn’t feel overwhelmed after the birth. 

The first two weeks after Nina* was born, my wife was too scared to hold her and I became responsible for bathing her. In the three months that followed, Nina would keep us up at night, crying. After a while, Julie*, my wife, stopped standing up to get her. I knew she was exhausted from caring for Nina during the day. I’d be the one to get up, feed and rock her to sleep. 

Having kids literally changes your life — my social life went from 100 to a quick zero. I barely went out, not even in detty December when I got free tickets to different 2021 concerts. I’d chosen to give away my tickets because my wife and I used to attend the shows together. So I knew it’d hurt her to see me partying while she was home watching our child. 

Since babies need 100% attention, you have to plan around them. So at the end of my wife’s three-month maternity leave, we had to figure out what to do with Nina. Even though we had a live-in nanny and help, my trust issues wouldn’t allow me to leave my baby alone with a stranger. My boss didn’t mind, so I started taking her and the nanny to work with me. It was only three times a week, and I had an office to myself. The first nanny said she didn’t feel comfortable with the arrangement and quit. In the process of finding a replacement, I had a terrible incident with Nina.

It was July 2021, and I was driving home from work with three months old Nina in the backseat when I spotted agberos with big sticks robbing people’s cars. Before they got to my car, I took out some cash from my wallet and hid both the wallet and my phone under the car seat. They got to my car and started banging manically on the windows threatening to hurt me if I didn’t cooperate. So I brought out the money I had kept aside and gave them. This happened in broad daylight — just some minutes past 5 p.m., and there was nobody to stop them. When you become a dad, providing security for your child becomes the number one priority. 

This is why a week after the incident, I started the process of getting a passport for Nina, while my wife and I renewed ours. Sure, I’d considered japa before, but I still would’ve stayed in Nigeria if not for the incident.

There’s no feeling like knowing you’re responsible for another life — it compels you to live more consciously. Before Nina, I would go 120-140 km/h while driving, but now, I stay within the speed limit because I can’t risk anything happening to me. I have to keep her safe, and I knew I’d have to leave Nigeria to do this. This is why we relocated to the UK in February 2021. 

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Here, we don’t have any external help because we’d have to pay per hour, and we can’t afford that. I also can’t take her to work with me anymore, so she spends most of her time with her mum, who works remotely. However, on the days my wife has to be physically present for her Master’s classes, we keep Nina with the childminders — that’s daycare here. She’s there two times a week, tops. 

In the ten months we’ve been here, my wife and I have gone on about five dates in total, and Nina was in attendance. Something that has helped both of us is creating a routine for Nina. From when she wakes up to when she eats, plays and sleeps. We know how long and what time each activity takes place. And that helps us plan our free time.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, children will take all your time, and they’ll threaten to run you crazy with their shouting and screaming. This is where tolerance and patience come in. It’s also essential to remember there’s no one-size-fits-all. You need to pay attention to the details of your own child. 

I believe parenting is more fun if it’s something you want. And since I always looked forward to starting my own family, I was excited about Nina and am equally excited about our new baby — my wife is pregnant. Our ideal family is us with two kids, so we’re trying to get all the childbearing out of the way and focus on growing together.

*All names have been changed to protect the subjects’ identity.

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