Expecting parents are constantly told about the struggles of parenthood; we all knew that sleep would be hard to come by. Sleep will be banished from your kingdom like an arrogant jester who called the queen “fat.” You’ll be doing laundry endlessly, like a skipping record. And, of course, songs from Disney movies will invade your inner ear canal and live rent-free inside your brain. Then there are some fatherhood struggles that aren’t discussed as frequently…
Let me start by qualifying the headline. I use the term “struggles” with a heavy dose of flippant air quotes because I realize there are parents out there with more significant problems than the ones I’m about to complain about. I feel for them. But, just for today we’re going to joke about insignificant problems. Okay, here we go!
THE OLYMPIC LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY INVOLVED WITH CLIPPING FINGERNAILS.
You have two choices. One: Wait till your baby is asleep, and then clip their nails with a miner’s headlamp and agonize over possibly waking them up. Two: Tackle them while they’re awake. Wrestle them into submission and try to convince them that, despite the metal tool in your hand, you mean them no harm.
It’s quite the Sophie’s choice.
At first you’ll be afraid to sever an entire finger. You will inevitably draw a drop of blood at some point. But rest assured, it’ll be fine and you’ll eventually be a master-level nail-clipper!
BED TIME IS A DIFFICULT PUZZLE.
Did I say puzzle? I meant to say it’s like being color blind and trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Children’s tastes change all the time, and it’s tough to find a trick or routine that works consistently. To make matters worse, the whole bed time routine makes me sleepy. 9 times out of 10, I fall asleep while reading books to my kids and they have to wake me up. Somehow, instead of getting sleepy, the kids get energized when the sun goes down, like a cruel parasitic energy exchange. Oh boy, it gets even more fun when they’re old enough to start talking and making up creative excuses for not going to sleep!
NO, WE CAN’T CONTINUE FUN ACTIVITIES FOR ETERNITY.
Sometimes kids need a distraction. A fresh start; like rebooting a computer. It feels good to initiate a successful distraction. “Hey, let’s play hide and seek!” Sweet, they’re distracted! Oh no, now I have to keep doing this… Nothing makes you feel like a worse human being than having to disappoint your child because they want to play with you for hours on end, but sometimes that’s not possible.
The same applies to physical activities. Fatigue is beyond a child’s comprehension. I’m sorry, Dad can’t throw you up the air 23 times or run around the neighborhood with you on my back. I wish I could, I really do. But, unfortunately Dad is getting old and falling apart. Still, I do my best to hang in there!
DON’T WEAR CLOTHES THAT YOU LIKE.
Those super cute outfits will be destroyed. Go ahead and accept it. No sense in spending tons of money on your kids’ clothes and no sense in getting upset when those clothes are inevitably ruined. Food stains here, lots of dirt there, and plenty of holes and rips.
The same rule applies to your own clothes! Spit up, food messes, poop, etc. As they get older, you might as well wear a sign that says “put your dirty hands on my new shorts.” At least once a week I’m getting dirty chasing balls under vehicles. It’s OK though. I only wear my favorite clothes when the Mrs. and I are child-free for an evening.
I THOUGHT ENTERING MY THIRTIES MEANT NOT SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR ANY MORE.
Wrong! Gone are the days of partying hard and crashing on the floor of my buddy’s apartment; but that doesn’t mean I’m done sleeping on the floor. One week my 5yo insists on sleeping in her tent (in her room) and I inevitably fall asleep reading her books (see the trend here?). The next week I’m laying on the floor holding my toddler’s hand through the slats of his crib. My back is sore (another trend!) but it is worth it.
TODDLERS ARE LIKE LARGE ADORABLE PARROTS.
Be careful what you say around them. Kids will repeat what you say like a courtroom stenographer. What’s worse is they are undeniably affected by your words. The hardest part is that you can’t fake it! You have to genuinely be a better person if you want it to rub off on your kids.
For example, my daughter wants to copy everything I do. I made margaritas one time for my wife; Later I caught her playing in her toy kitchen and salting the rims of her tea cups! Oops.
MOMMY / DADDY PREFERENCES CAN CHANGE DAY BY DAY.
Chuck your pride out the window. Your kid(s) will go through phases of preferring daddy or mommy, and it’s just part of the process. Sometimes there preferences will change day by day. Heck, even hour by hour. At this stage, I never know who my daughter is going to want to read her books at night. It’s (probably) nothing personal. Just roll with it. Maybe clean up the kitchen if your spouse is the one being preferred on a given night.
LIFE REVOLVES AROUND NAP TIME
Or, in the case of babies, feeding time. This struggle is real, and there’s always math involved! Let’s see, if nap is at 1pm, and we’re 15 minutes from home… Do I have time to take the kids to the park AND get groceries? Also, your friends will constantly invite you to do things that conflict with nap time. Or, their kids’ nap time will be slightly different than yours and getting the schedules to line up is like rocket science. Augh!!
R.I.P. TO YOUR YOUTUBE AND NETFLIX VIEWING HISTORY
You know those fancy algorithms that streaming service use to suggest new shows? Your kids will break those algorithms before you can say “binge watch.” Before you know it, cartoons, cheesy songs, and videos of soulless adults opening toy-filled “blind bags” will invade your queue. Netflix has sub-accounts which can help resist the plague of children’s shows. But, eventually they will creep into your suggestions. Resistance is futile.
A LIFE OF EXTREMES
Ultimately, your life will be more polarizing then it used to be. You will be happier than ever before and you’ll be more frustrated than ever before. You’ll be more fufilled and more exhuasted. One day you will want more kids, then you’ll wish you were single. You’ll want to freeze time during a precious moment, then you’ll want to leave your family and colonize the moon by yourself. At the end of the day, I can confidently say being a father is a net positive, but be prepared for a roller coaster ride! Of all the fatherhood struggles, this one requires the most significant mental paradigm shift.
OMG, SO MANY BIRTHDAY PARTIES
Get ready. The majority of your weekends will now be consumed with children’s birthday parties. Some of the parents will annoy you, the small talk will be painful, and 95% of the parties will have pizza. Though, I hear there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Some mythical concept called “drop-off parties.” It is foreign to me at the moment, but I can’t wait to someday bask in all its glory.
Also, hosting parties for your kids can get expensive, fast! Keep it simple. Pro tip: Don’t book a party at a place that requires you to buy their food. If you insist, go ahead and double the budget and lower your expectations. The last time we went that route, we spent $100 on terrible microwaved pizza.
Good luck with these fatherhood “struggles!” Comment below with your own amusing stories.