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What I wish I'd known before becoming a dad

Wish you had a dad handbook? PJ Douglas at Dadnatal has the answers

Author PJ Douglas
Categories   Wellbeing

The Edit

When I met up with one of my long term friends just before my son was born, I enquired over tacos and beer if he was feeling the urge to become a dad, he was in his 30’s, financially stable, happy relationship but his response of “No” was followed up by an odd phrase at the time that makes so much sense now… “I’m just not ready to stop being selfish!”

Now my friend is not selfish in a cruel sense (in fact if I remember the chicken macha tacos and Mexican beer were paid for by him) but he meant he wasn’t ready to give up the freedom of impromptu gigs, late nights, spontaneous dates or driving hours to see friends on a whim as well as all the other stuff you sacrifice when you have a child.

Of course to replace all of those things you are given a tiny version of yourself that will make you laugh uncontrollably and feel love like you’ve never felt before so I’m not being all doom and gloom here, but I think to start this article on what I wish I had known before becoming a dad, that is the key thing… You’ll never be able to be ‘selfish’ again.

The other main things I wish I knew I’ve divided up into five areas:



I have always been a relatively laid-back person, convinced most problems will sort themselves out, my only main area that caused me concern is mess.

Enter my son.

Mess is one of those things you cannot help but learn to embrace when you become a parent and along with loud toys, tantrums, not listening and ruining your lie ins they will test your patience. One of the best bits of advice I picked up from other Dads on our app DadAF was that when you feel stressed just remove yourself from the ‘theatre of conflict’ and take a second to breathe and calm down (not unlike what you may find yourself telling your child to do!). So often we think that by getting angry or frustrated we are bad parents, not at all! It is what you choose to do with that anger and frustration that defines what sort of parent you are.


Learn. Routines. Early! This was especially good for us with bedtime – dinner, play, bath, pyjamas, bed. Every single night around the same time. We are all creatures of habit, and this is no less true for the little ones! By setting up routines around possible trouble areas like waking up, going to bed and dinner you are helping make life easier for everyone involved.


You learn very quickly when you become a dad how much you’ll swap the word “No” for “Maybe”. I’m not a fan of crushing my son’s hopes so fully at every opportunity and while some things are out of the realm of possibility… “We can go to Disneyland tomorrow?” other things can be done just not right away “We can go to the park?” (Said at 7pm!). It’s also both adorable and embarrassing how much of my son’s vocabulary has worked its way into my everyday speech… A favourite of his “LastMore” a combination of “Last time” and “One more” had a client in work in stitches when I accidentally used it to describe the last time we would need to take payment for a booking!


Having a child makes a dent in that new videogame console / jet ski / Lego budget, there is no nice way around it! But I wish I had known how easy it was to grab stuff second hand on Facebook or eBay, how you can get good food cheaper at some supermarkets than others, how children don’t care if the park or beach is expensive and far away or just around the corner… It’s spending time with you that they’re enjoying. (You will have to buy an ice lolly if they see one though, sorry!)

Own Speed.

Lastly, I have always been very lucky that my son is a kind and polite little chap, but many dads I’ve spoken to fret that their children aren’t doing this or that by a set age. We live in a world where we all want to champion our great moments on social media, and so we should, that’s one of the best things about it… But an extra few months doesn’t mean you are failing as a parent or your child is falling behind others.

When I compared notes on all the stuff we wished we knew before we had our little ones with the other dads on the app, we realised that not only were we all lost at one point but also there is a gap in the market for this! So, we created – the first pre-birth guide to parenthood made by dads, for dads. If you’re worried, why not head over and see what you think, you can even use the code PJ10 for £10 off to get you started, either for yourself or as a gift for a dad you know.

Author PJ Douglas

PJ Douglas is the head of content at Dadnatal – online platforms providing support, advice and help for dads and expectant dads. Having travelled and lived across the world himself, PJ considers becoming a dad his biggest adventure yet!

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