1. There will be times when you’re sure you are a horrible parent and, secretly, wonder why you ever had kids in the first place. This is normal. Forgive yourself these occasional moments of self-doubt and, from time to time, let yourself mourn your life pre-parenthood. Every parent has a moment where the secretly wonder if they've made a terrible mistake. You haven't, but it's fine for the thought to cross your mind.
2. Travel with your children when they are very young. Most people are intimidated by the idea of boarding a plane with an infant but this is, in fact, the best time to hit the road. At three months old, a bottle or boob is all that's required to keep them entertained. They have few needs and fewer opinions so there's no difference (for them) between Cozumel and Cleveland. Your days as a carefree nomad are on the verge of extinction - you might as well go get a tan while you still can.
3. Buy a rechargeable, cordless hand vacuum. Much of your time will be spent getting things off the floor. At first it will be all manner of bodily fluid but, soon enough, you're going to be dealing with everything from Cheerios to banana slices. Later the list will grow to include things like glitter, dirt, forgotten bacon, and pretty much anything that can be shredded by small hands. If you don't want to drag out the clunky upright four times a day and you don't want to feel like you're walking barefoot through a Moroccan swap meet then the hand-vac is your new best friend.
4. It's perfectly acceptable to make an entire dinner in the microwave. Period.
5. In every parent-child relationship someone has to be the grown up. Try to make sure that someone is you. One of the most heart-breaking sights is that of a parent and their young child in a shouting match trying to see who can out tantrum the other. Children are an endless source of joy, but only when they're not being an endless source of frustration. Breathe deeply and never let yourself escalate to the level of irrational fury that your little one occasionally reaches. A two-year-old has the right to act like a child, you do not.
6. Take everyone who volunteers to babysit up on the offer. Repeatedly. There's a weird lag time between when a child is ready to be left with someone (which is pretty much once they can bottle feed or go four hours between nursing) and when the parents are ready to leave them (which is often much later). Fatigue and frustration are cumulative and you need a break long before you realize you need one. Your wife may (or may not) protest, but do your best to talk her into letting you take her out on a brief date. Everything looks more manageable and more joyful after a good meal and a glass of wine.
7. Resist the urge to shower your newborn with some parenting magazines list of "the best baby products of 20-whatever." Just about everything can and should be bought second-hand. The desire to dress your kid in the latest Ed Hardy onezie is not only obscenely vain it's totally dated (seriously, Ed Hardy? Why not a diaper with JUICY splashed on the butt). Not only are hand-me-down baby things easier on the wallet and the environment, there's a lot less agonizing when you find yourself on the fourth outfit of a craptastic kind of day. (which, trust me, you will)
8. Make time for the other relationships in your life. Not only is it important for your child to know there's more to the world than you catering to their every need, you're teaching them a very important lesson about what it means to have a full, loving life. Seeing you in the role of good friend or devoted spouse is a way for your kids to learn what it means to actually be a good friend or devoted spouse. This also means that my kids understand that the lady at the head of the dinner table isn't just their Mom, she's also a best friend and wife. That distinction, as subtle as it may be, widens how they see and appreciate her and (with luck) others.
9. There's no such thing as using too many wipes (you have my permission to tell your wife she's wrong, I'll wait here.) There's no prize for using every last corner of a towelette and it's shockingly difficult to get the smell of baby crap off your hands. At three cents per sheet, everybody's hygiene and gag reflex are well served by the generous and preemptive use of wipes.
10. You're not the 'backup parent', you're a father - a full, equal partner in turning a small, fragile, sack of fluid and bones into a loving, decent, healthy citizen of the Universe. Never let the fact that other people aren't sure what to do with a man between conception and little league fool you into thinking that you're anything less than critical to every step of the process. Be informed, aggressively involved and as in love as you're capable of letting yourself be.
JD Roberto is the co-host of The Better Show, a nationally syndicated morning talk show bringing lifestyle and culture news to 70 million American homes, five days a week. Find out where to watch at www.better.tv. JD has been a contributing writer to the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Parents Magazine, TheBump.com and The Imperfect Parent website. His travel writing has been featured on the award-winning World Hum.