What the first year back to work is like, according to dads

Though there is much literature about the hormonal and emotional changes a woman experiences after giving birth that is warranted and needed — it isn’t just females who change when they become a parent. While men are off the hook for carrying and creating a child for nine months, giving birth and breastfeeding, many males struggle to shift to their new role as a ‘father.’ Not only do they feel immense pressure to provide, but they also must accept their transformation in identity, routine and heart.

The first year, while an exciting one, is also ripe with many stressors, arguments with their partner, and the least amount of sleep they’ve ever survived on (yep, even during college!) Men typically tend to be less likely to discuss their struggles or difficulties, since they feel pressured to remain strong and supportive, even when they’re filled with worry or anxiety.

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But these male executives and entrepreneurs want to break that stereotype by encouraging their counterparts to speak up, ask for help when they need it and understand that while things can’t be how they used to be, they can — and will — be better. In honor of Father’s Day, allow these leaders to make you feel more at ease if you’re a new dad — or help you prepare if you’re about to be one.

“It will change many aspects of how you work and perform.”

Co-founder and managing director of Living DNA, David Nicholson is the proud papa to Clare, a 3-year-old and Orion, a 10-month old. When he returned to work after his first child was born, he appreciated how his life had changed. And no, not just that he was a dad. Or that he was running on very few Zzzs. But rather, how everything was quite suddenly different. “This now means the time I work, how I work, the things I did in my ‘free’ time, are no longer just about me and my partner,” he continued.

What does he mean? His priorities and his choices were altered to put his growing family at the front-and-center, always. “There is an impact on work, such as taking a later meeting, picking up that call after dinner or staying up late no longer fit.”

“Let go of control — and have patience.”

Especially if you consider yourself ambitious, open to risk and excited by outcomes — having a child will shake up your comfort zone in a way you never imagined possible. Luke Peters, the CEO of New Air, and dad to four kiddos, ranging from 2-years to 20-years old, it’s important to understand that not everything is in your control. “That new beautiful baby will have unpredictable needs that will require you to have patience,” he continues. “You will have to give up some things to prioritize your time with your new child. Taking on too much will lead to less sleep and that in turn can snowball into other issues you will want to avoid within your family, career and overall life.”

“Set boundaries.”

Matt Orlove, the CEO and founder of Orlove Entertainment started his company right after his first child, Kennedy was born 4 years ago. He couldn’t afford to take any time away from work — and was back in the office the very next day. Even so, he’s made a conscious effort to set as many boundaries as he can, ensuring he’s there for his now family of five. “Over the past four years, I have worked very hard to make sure all of my free time is spent with the family, making a strong effort to be home every day at 630pm to be with them for bedtime and on weekends, when I am not at events,” he shares.

“Love your children — but don’t forget your partner.”

If you’re in a relationship when you decide to have children, the meaning of ‘love’ dramatically shifts. Date nights become less frequent — as does sex — and your discussions and arguments will take a new form. It is a taxing time for any twosome, no matter how solid you are together. But the CEO and founder of Clearwater and father of four girls, Andy Latimer reminds new dads, you should love your kids unconditionally — but also remember your wife just had a baby and has a crazy new emotional connection. “Don’t think that she doesn’t love you any more or isn’t connected to you anymore because she’s paying attention to the baby. Don’t get jealous. All that attention that she was giving to you she’s now giving to the baby,” he shares.

“You will become more efficient.”

Ever have one of those days where you had one-too-many brews last night so you didn’t sleep well, and now you’re sitting at your desk, wondering how you’re going to last eight hours? Now, think about doing that every single day… for well, years. Nicholson said for his last three laps around the sun, he can count on one hand the number of times he’s slept for more than three hours in a row on one hand. Though it is definitely a learning curve to adjust to, becoming a father has helped him maximize productivity. “I had no option but to simplify work and in that become super efficient. After all, if you have a baby that sleeps for from 8 pm for only a few hours, then that is precious sleep time for me to ensure I am on form the next day,” he shares.

“You must prepare for a new rhythm — before your child is born.”

Before your baby arrives, Nicholson challenges fathers-to-be to be critical of their work and life schedule and determine what is important — and what needs to change. When you execute on this process before your child is born, you will start the transition earlier and adjust at least a bit more easily. “Perhaps that means looking at which meetings you attend and their purpose. How much of your day is focused on quality and how much gossip and random chit-chat goes on that isn’t purposeful?” he continues. “It could be making sure you start with a 10 min walk at some point in the day to keep your body doing something for you. After all, as dads, we like to be providers, and we must learn to care for ourselves even more deeply in order to be able to cherish and care for our children.”

“You’ll never be prepared for how much love you feel. And that’s okay.”

If there is one aspect of parenthood that all mothers and fathers can agreement on, it boils down to one four-letter word: Love. Perhaps Latimer says it best when he explains you don’t realize you could ever love anything as much until you hold your child in your arms. “The moment you look in that baby’s eyes and they’re breathing and connecting with you; you realize what true love really is. Unconditional, undying love. I felt that the moment I held my first daughter Madi and I will never forget that feeling, I’ve felt that with every one of my children.”

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