The responsibilities of fatherhood begin long before your baby is due. Being there for your partner, both physically and emotionally, suddenly takes on new meaning that goes much deeper than late-night food runs and bonus foot massages. The biggest task of all is actually comprehending all of the duties in front of you and developing some sort of a plan for how you’ll handle them.
That said, it’s impossible to fully comprehend how a child changes every aspect of your life. But the best way to at least attempt to prepare is to read books. A lot of them. And take notes on what you learn so that when your child arrives you’re not hung out to dry every time she needs something.
One quick note on this advice: You could read every single parenting book ever written and still not feel prepared for what’s to come. I’m one year into my parenting journey and my best advice to you is to read these books, jot down a plan for dividing responsibilities during pregnancy, labor, and beyond with your partner (in pencil or via a laptop with a working “delete” button). Then, remain malleable and alert. The most important thing you can do is learn to anticipate what your partner, your baby, and your household need in this new phase of life, and be assertive in getting it done. #dadlife is incredibly difficult, but the reward is that it’s also the best thing ever.
Fatherhood: A Comprehensive Guide to Birth, Budgeting, Finding Flow, and Becoming a Happy Parent
Even the best books for expecting dads tend to be super corny, full of cliché situations, and awash in bad jokes. Fatherhood: A Comprehensive Guide leads this list precisely because it is not that. Written and compiled by the editors at Fatherly, the book brings a refreshingly fact-based approach to dad advice. Anecdotes are backed up by scientific studies, and musings confirmed through interviews and research done by actual journalists, not supposed “parenting experts” or that weird dad down the street who self-published his own parenting trials.
You’ll collect ample advice on each step of the parent-to-be life, from pregnancy woes to preparing for labor and delivery to budgeting for fatherhood (because it turns out there’s a lot more to save for than college). Real-life stories from dozens of dads illuminate the guide, giving context and diversity to a topic that is, falsely but all too often, presented as a straightforward topic. Of all the self-help books I read while my wife was pregnant, this is the one I first passed on to a friend who was next up in the journey.
To Have and To Hold: Motherhood, Marriage, and the Modern Dilemma
By Molly Millwood
For me, the hardest part of being a new dad has been properly understanding, and then responding to, my wife’s new needs. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’m notoriously dense about certain things. Furthermore, pregnancy books for dads tend to be written, or at least directed by, dads. This is unfortunate because proper parenting is a partnership and you have to be able to comprehend what the other half of that partnership is dealing with. So read a book that was written for her. To Have and To Hold makes this list at the insistence of my wife, who passed it to me to read. It has completely reshaped how I approach activism in my marriage.
You likely know that you now need to do more around the house. I’ll let you in on a secret: You also need to stop and listen. Not only to your partner’s words, but also to their actions, emotions, and patterns. Then, you need to act on it to help them. By reading this book and interpreting it into your own place in your growing family, you can become a more utilitarian partner and parent, one that anticipates rather than reacts. I’m still working on it, but you – and your partner – will appreciate the head start.
The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads to Be
By Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash Rudick
The Expectant Father dives headfirst into not only how to prepare to become a dad, but also into how being a dad changes you inside and out. With so much attention (rightly) given to the mother’s health, this book is a refreshing focus on how to take care of yourself along the way. You’ll read how different dads approach everything from mental health to pregnancy sex to how to interpret what the midwife or nurse is telling your partner, alongside what doctors have to say about each topic.
What I liked most about this book is how the authors – one man and one woman – explain the history behind parenting advice and science, and elaborate on how it’s changed over time. It helped me understand many of the things my own parents told me when I was little. It also helped me to appreciate being a father in the current age as historically prejudiced gender roles have begun their long overdue decline.
The Baby Owner’s Manual
By Louis Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht
One pet peeve I developed while reading pregnancy books for dads was how so many of them cast the father as a hopeless schlub genetically incapable of doing anything other than mildly assist his partner during the most important journey of their lives. True, men can never fully repay our partners for enduring the pregnancy, labor, and motherhood, nor the emotional and physical toll that accompanies each. Still, it’s the duty of a good father to do everything he can to be an equal partner – and that’s where The Baby Owner’s Manual comes in. Through diagrams that are as easy to interpret as they are hilarious, the book breaks down what issues to expect during the first year of your child’s life, and how to handle them.
You’ll come away with actionable advice on parenting a newborn and infant and everything that surrounds it. A lot is going to evolve and change over the course of the baby’s first year, and having a blueprint to each level is immensely valuable.
From Dude to Dad: The Diaper Dude Guide To Pregnancy
By Chris Pegula
Before the birth, of course, there’s pregnancy. From Dude to Dad provides a basic overview of how to get through this phase and the beginning of the next one. It provides a good overview of how to interpret things that your partner says and does that might not make any sense to you. Pegula writes in a calming manner that understands the fragile emotional state you are likely in at the moment. This is refreshing, as nothing else in your life is going to be calm for the foreseeable future.
His book does a good job of breaking down the lifestyle change required of new fathers, something frequently overlooked in books that focus only on the road ahead. You’ll find comfort in the fact that not everything you enjoy has to end, and will come away with a road map for how to hit pause on the aspects of your life that you’ll inevitably need to shift focus from. Fortunately, happy hour doesn’t have to be one of them.