Becoming a dad is easy. Unless it’s not, then the whole thing is just hard. But most of the time, becoming a dad is easy… and fun. BEING a dad, on the other hand, is hard.

Being at my wife’s side through her pregnancy was easy. I would rub her feet and listen to her complain about all the things that she had to go through in order to grow this tiny human inside her body. I had the privilege of sitting there, listening, without having to suffer through the swollen feet, the aching back, and the recurring heartburn.

Part of me still wishes I could go through it, just to feel what it’s like; part of me knows that I’m lucky to be the dad. A fact my wife has reminded me of exactly 2,847,854,394 so far. Mind you, this is through the course of three pregnancies and an unfathomable amount of time spent awake at night nursing the wee ones. (I’m there for moral support and diaper changes, but she lets me sleep as much as she can because I work outside the home.)

Once the little one finally arrives, the real test begins. Except there weren’t really any study materials and certainly no owner’s manual. No, this is a trial by fire, make that a trial by fire and poop. While it’s not fool-proof, and every dad is different, here are my four tips for how to be a dad.

Be There

Be there for your baby, and be there for your wife. A lot of men struggle when it comes to babies. We feel inadequate and have a sense that our partners are somehow better equipped to provide for our baby’s needs. In a sense, this is true. Men haven’t developed that ability to breastfeed yet. There are many things men can do however.

Men can change diapers. We can learn ways to soothe our babies. Most importantly, we can give Mommy a break- help with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  Even if you don’t do any of those things as well as your wife does, she’ll be grateful that you’re putting in the effort. If you’re worried about your sex life waning after bringing home baby (and it will), there is little else that helps to reignite that spark more than a woman seeing her man care for her and your child.

Go Easy on Yourself

There isn’t a man alive who has it all figured out when it comes to babies. Not. One.

It’s okay to make mistakes, and you will. Most of the time these mistakes can simply be chalked up to lessons learned. I learned the hard to put a clean diaper and wipe under the soiled one and being ready to shield yourself and your furniture from what may come spewing forth from your little angel at any moment.

It’s life, and life is messy. Embrace the moment and the mess; worry about cleaning up later. There will always be time to clean up later. Trust me- the cleaning never ends.

Find Support

Know that you’re not alone. Find a community with other dads. Plan to get together on occasion to trade war stories and commiserate. I realize this is more difficult with a newborn, but it’s likely that there are other dads in your community. Moms are really good at finding each other and supporting one another. It’s time that we dads learn from them and do the same.

You can also find support through local organizations or even with other family members. Know that being a dad is hard and that it’s okay to seek guidance and support from others.

For those that can’t or won’t go out, there are also great resources online. There are quite a few dad blogs out there that offer advice and comic relief. Just google ‘dad blog’ or click here.

Soak Up Every Moment

Being a dad is great. It’s the greatest adventure I’ve ever been on. However, it’s just one component of who I am. I have a job, bills, a wife, friends, this blog… all of which occupy time and space between my ears. Sometimes I let these other things get in the way of spending time with my kids.

It’s at these exact moments that I hope I remember that I’m not going to be the father of three little girls forever. They are going to get older. I am going to get older. Our relationship will change and evolve over time.

There will be a last time that I pick up my oldest. There will be a last story that I read. There will be a last kiss that I give because of an owie. It breaks my heart to think that I won’t even know it at the time either. I’ll be wandering around one day, and it’ll suddenly hit me. That’s why I try to make the most of each moment I have with them.

There are times when I’m tired, when I’m stressed out, when I want to spend time on other things, when my little ones seem to be doing everything they can to get on my nerves. Then I pause. Take a breath. And remember that, for better or worse, none of this is going to last forever.

And I soak it up.