Dad Car (Bryan Ferguson):
If you’re an off-at-work dad, chances are your wife’s car is the family ride. Getting a second car seat base is a not a small cost and it’s fraught with labor. You will be transferring the kid(s) seat between cars for no other reason than wanting to drive a different vehicle. It’s not productive, not practical nor efficient. You need a dad car. Something affordable that doesn’t destroy your family’s budget and something that’s fun and comfortable for you to drive. Sh*t, I mean you’re traveling to and from a place where you disappear from your family for 9 hours a day, on average. Some of you drive 30+ miles each way! Get something fun! I got out of a Mini Clubman and into a used 2008 BMW E92 335i Coupe. It’s powerful, it’s awesome. I love the fact that it’s 2-doors with the cool robotic seat belt arm, the semi-automatic transmission with paddle shifters is great for RPM control when you want to have some fun with the realistically-rated 350 horses. It makes your drive home comfortable and enjoyable so you can jump right into playtime or dinner before the little one goes to bed.
Something Frivolous (Huck Starnes):
Soon the budget will get bloated with “Baby stuff” like ridiculously expensive strollers, diapers and all kinds of things you never even heard of before, so you and your partner should do yourselves a favor and each buy something frivolous. I bought myself a pair of prescription Oakley sunglasses (my first prescription sunglasses) and they are amazing, they make my life so much better (and safer) and I feel pretty cool in them while covered with random puke stains on my shirt. Plus, at this point I would have a hard time justifying the expense with all the other things we are spending money on…unless I take my own advise and do the same before the 2nd kid? Daddy needs a Bell & Ross watch!
Her Drink of Choice (Remy Stevensen):
If you and your significant other drink, you should have her favorite drink hidden away for a special day after the baby comes. I made the mistake of misunderstanding my wife’s hint that she finally wanted to drink, and ended up getting Pabst Blue Ribbon instead of something she wanted. I had gotten so used to drinking alone (yeah I am one of those dads) that I was completely oblivious. So, save yourself the possible foot-in-mouth moment and come out looking like a great guy.
“On Demand” Entertainment (Nicholaus Noles):
Babies, especially young babies, can be unpredictable. Day and night don’t mean much when you sleep for 14 hours a day, so if you don’t want to go crazy, make sure that you have plenty of on demand entertainment available. I am proud and embarrassed to say that I watched every episode of Bones, Leverage, Damages, and several other television shows that I’d missed during an early stage in my son’s life when he would only sleep if he was pressed up against my body (and not my wife’s body) in an Ergo or Moby Wrap (that’s right – I’m a dad who wraps!), and even then he would only sleep for 45 minutes at a time. Even if your situation is not this bad, your child is going to make it impossible for you to watch television, listen to music, or surf the web like a normal human being for the next two months to two years. When you do manage to find time for entertainment, you need the option to start or stop what you’re doing at a moment’s notice. Books, handheld video games, streaming television (Hulu, NetFlix, Amazon Instant Video), DVR recordings, and albums are all great choices, but if you’re going to go with physical media, make sure that you stock up BEFORE your baby comes along because you never know when a rocking marathon is going to jump off in your living room.
A Gym Membership (Justin Aion):
It may seem crazy, as though you will have no time to go to the gym after your kids arrive, and you won’t. But make time. If you get into the habit of going before the kid shows up, you’ll be a better position to keep those habits. You and your spouse can find an hour or so a day to get this stuff done. It provides you with a health boost, yes, but that’s not the issue. The benefit of a gym membership falls into two categories, post-kids: 1) You need to get away from the house sometimes and your spouse will be more likely to let you go to the gym, than to a buddies house to play cards. It will take less time and there are health benefits. 2) Stress management. If you are feeling like you might explode from diapers and crying children, rather than screaming at the kids, go to the gym and blow off the steam by punching a punching bag, or a bench-presser.
Adult Music that Your Kid Can Rock Out To (Tom Burns):
I personally had a big problem with this one after my child was born. I spent a ton of time building her a collection of really great kids’ music – classic Sesame Street records, out-of-print Muppet albums, collections of old-school folk songs, Raffi, playground songs, etc. I wanted to her to have the best of classic childhood melodies at her fingertips. And she did and she loved those albums. She loved them A LOT. She loved them SO much that we hardly ever listened to ANYTHING else. And there came a point, despite my deep and abiding love for Jim Henson, where I found myself thinking, “If I have to listen to one more song sung by a #$%@ing puppet…” It wasn’t a good situation. I hadn’t made myself comfortable listening to MY music – the music I loved and respected – around my daughter. So I had to make myself comfortable with telling her, “No, we’re not going to listen to the Curious George soundtrack now. We’re going to listen to Daddy’s music.” And, while that might sound simple, I will qualify that decision by noting that, if you’re going to teach your kid to love grown-up music, it’s your responsibility as a parent to make sure that the music is appropriate for your kid. You have to put some thought into it. You need to make sure that you have the radio-edit versions of all your favorite albums. (Something I discovered after my 3-year-old informed her preschool teacher that, “this sh*t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.”) You need to think about noise levels. Your kid’s ears might be too sensitive for your favorite death metal at the moment. You need to think about lyrics. My daughter, who adored David Bowie thanks to the movie Labyrinth, got very, very upset while listening to “Space Oddity.” (“What happened to Major Tom, Daddy?”) Most of all, you’ve got to think about and curate a selection of music that you enjoy, that you find significant, that means something to you, and then decide when is the appropriate time to share it with your kid. And then you get in the car, crank it up, and go rock out with your little backseat roadie.
Piece of Mind Items
Life Insurance (Justin Westbrook):
Yes, we are not going to create a list of awesome stuff that you should buy, just so we can encourage consumerist tendencies in our readership. Of course not! We’re also going to encourage you to give money to the many millionaires who run the American insurance industry! But seriously, once you have kids and a family, it is probably time to start planning about their future in the event of your inevitable demise. Here’s the upshot to considering buying a life insurance policy now: you’re probably still young, healthy, and a good candidate for a good rate on life insurance. Folks who try to get policies later on in life (read: after their first double heart-bypass), are going to pay much higher rates on insurance. Look into it, and at least get educated, even if you’re not buying today.
A Will / Updated Will (Huck Starnes):
Heaven forbid that anything should happen you my wife and I, but just in case we want to make sure that our kids end up in a positive living situation, are cared for and educated in a way we hoped to provide and that our families don’t spend time/energy/money arguing over who will be our kid’s legal guardians. Not only is this a weird subject to think about, but I’m not sure I’ve done many things harder in me life than telling my Mother that she is too old and unprepared (physically and financially) to take possession and financial responsibility for the grand kid(s) that she would kill for. It was a tough day, but better to do it now rather than leave it to chance down the road.
A Vacation (Huck Starnes):
Once that kid arrives you are not going to have much time for yourself, not to mention all the extra work that your baby momma will be doing, and trying to relax in more than a block of time measured in minutes is pretty much an impossibility in the first year. So, before she gets to that “really uncomfortable in her skin” stage take a trip, just the two of you, and relax. If it’s driving a few hours just to be someplace different for the weekend, a cruise or week in Paris, it doesn’t matter. Just get away and leave all your electronics behind so you can enjoy each other, hold hands and eat some nice food before returning the the reality of things like episiotomy care options and believing that a diaper genie will contain the horrible smells that come out of your child.
An Agreed-Upon TV Policy for Your Child (Tom Burns):
Just because you and your significant other have decided to have a child together that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re exactly on the same page about every tiny little piece of parenting minutiae. And, if possible, it’s better to have those conversations sooner than later. One issue I suggest talking about as soon as possible is how you and your partner feel about your child watching TV. From my experience, EVERYONE has a different opinion on this. Some parents leave the television on constantly – it just becomes part of the white noise of their home. Others will only let their kids watch sports or (oddly enough) the news. Some parents refuse to let their kids watch ANY TV, but for how long? The first year of their life? The first two years? Three years? Forever? Some parents love those Baby Einstein “brain developing” videos and others think they’re a load of crap. Some parents allow 30 minutes a day, others allow 3 hours a day. It’s a good idea to have a long, detailed discussion with your partner about where they stand on the TV issue and then come up with an agreed upon policy, which you then WRITE DOWN. That way, it seems more official, there’s no cause for confusion, and when your kid asks you why they don’t get to watch as much TV as their friends, you can point to the document and say, “It’s our house rule. Sorry.”
Thanks to Zach, Bryan, Justin W., Justin A., Tom, Nick, Remy and Huck for contributing to this Advisory Panel!
What are your pre-baby dad-essentials? Are there any other items dads should have at the ready when the baby arrives? Tell us in the comments!