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How to be a good dad

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Becoming a parent for the first time can be a shock to the system no matter how prepared you think you are. Dad-of-two Mike Burgess shares his survival tips.

Roll up your sleeves

"I was there at the conception and the birth, decorated the nursery and fitted the car seat. I kind of thought I'd done my bit. Boy, was I in for a surprise - from night one, drenched with baby wee and confronted with tar-like poo. But the truth is you need to get stuck in - this isn't a spectator sport."

Spend time with your baby

"If, like me, your week is already filled to the brim with work and weekends with Football Focus, something's gotta give. I've become extraordinarily familiar with the park. I'm expertly acquainted with the relative merits of various nappy brands and could hold court over the wonders of buggy design. Being baby-obsessed may not get me invited to many parties, but I'm pretty sure it makes me a better dad."

Spend time with your partner

"In the early days, all we seemed to talk about was our baby. If we weren't feeding him, we were talking about feeding him. If we weren't changing his nappy, we were arguing about whose turn it was. My wife was too exhausted to make food for herself, and touchingly grateful even for my Ready Steady Cook-style evening meal. It was hardly formal wear and candlelight (think more along the lines of a dressing gown and the gentle glow of a baby monitor), but it was about as romantic a night as we got together for a few weeks."

Make an effort to go out

"Once you've survived the first three months, it's time to get a babysitter and go out - just the two of you. And try to hold a conversation that doesn't revolve around the baby (bet you can't!)."

Have fun

"Many dads will tell you about the sleepless nights and the pressures of fatherhood. But they rarely tell you how much of a laugh being a dad is. I love it. I'll never forget my sons' first smiles, first giggles, their death-defying leaps off beds and sofas. Kids are hilarious, and more fun with each passing day. Sure, the pay's lousy, but being a dad can be the most rewarding job in the world."

"My wife was touchingly grateful even for my Ready Steady Cook-style evening meal"

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