Hello and welcome to a strange new world. You have traveled far through the desert, only to be met time and again by one empty oasis after another. You are lost and alone, wandering, wondering if someone, anyone, knows how you feel. And just when you think you can't go on, and no one could possibly understand your struggle, a hand reaches out to you, lifts you to your feet, and carries you to the promised land. He feeds you knowledge, shelters you from the self-righteous (and the ridiculous), and provides you with the tools you need to survive in this brave new world. You are a stranger in a strange land, but you are not alone. Let him be your guide. Follow closely as you travel together on this adventure of a lifetime. For now, you are a foreigner to "Fatherhood" but soon YOU will be the master of this realm.

"No Man is Expendable!"

This is Fodder 4 Fathers...

Who Loves You Baby?: The Importance of "Free" Babysitting

When you decide to have a child for the first time, there are many factors to consider. For most, these considerations are usually the monetary, time and emotional investments a couple should weigh before endeavoring to conceive their first born. But there is one thing couples often overlook, and its something that can make the experience of having a child significantly less stressful: it's the number of available babysitters- preferably the ones who work for "free."

I'm talking about a network of friends and family that you can count on either to help you out in a pinch, or give you that all important night off to breathe and refocus. I'm talking Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, Zaidy and Bubbie, Abba and Ema (of a former generation), and a collection of Aunts and Uncles, both real or in name only.

These are your saviors; your serenity; the unsung heroes that selflessly say: "Take the night off. I've got this." These are the family members that really care, for both you and your child, and would do anything they can to lend a hand. Need a night off to reconnect with your spouse?: Call Grandma. Need a few hours to go to the doctor?: Call "Auntie" Michelle. Sure, she's got a newborn of her own, but she's got you covered. Need an afternoon to regain your sanity?: Call "Uncle Jordy"- sure, he may use your child to pick up chicks at the mall, but who cares. The point is, it really does take a village to raise a child, and you need as much support as you can get.

And it doesn't have to be blood relatives you rely on. Friends, good friends, the extended "family" you choose (and aren't just stuck with) make some of the best babysitters around- people you're not afraid to call to get you out of a jam. Maybe it's that couple you have to call when your wife cuts her finger and needs to go to emergency; the couple that rushes over to stay with the baby all night? Maybe it's the next door neighbour that watches the baby for a few hours on Sunday so you can paint your front hallway? Maybe it's your child's God Parents, those special people who you have entrusted to care for your kid in the event of your untimely demise, that just show up, take your kid out for ice cream, and tell you to relax. It's people like these, great friends, that make potentially disastrous situations, simple, salvageable and surmountable.

So here's to the finest people I know, the collection of family and friends that you owe more favors than you can recall, but will most likely never call on you to collect. Those people that invite you over to dinner, feed you, and take your kid off you hands. You make parenting plausible in a world that is often unpredictable and constantly under pressure. Thank-you.

And for those of you without a spectacular support system- well, let's hope you saved up for a really good nanny... You're gonna need it.

To friends and family- when we (new parents) need you the most, you're always there.

(Send this to a friend or family member who has had your back so many times you don't have the words to express your gratitude).

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