Becoming a father for the first time involves a lot of amazing lifestyle changes and also a lot of foreign challenges. New fathers will receive a whirlwind of advice and it can be difficult to sift through it all. As I’m preparing to have my third child, I thought I’d reflect back on a few things that seem great in theory but in reality have no place in fatherhood. The sooner you can accept these facts, the better off you’ll be!
Fatherhood Is Not Masculine
That might seem sensationalist, but I mean that fatherhood is not masculine in the traditional sense. Masculinity sometimes evokes an image of huge biceps, feats of brute strength, or a dominant attitude of “laying down the law.” But, becoming a father can redefine your concept of being “manly.” Restraint and control is the true display of strength for a father. Restraint is something I haven’t mastered and am constantly working towards. In my experience, attempting to establish dominance always backfires and undermines my parenting goals.
Fatherhood Is Not Prideful
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” -Billy Graham
Fatherhood Is Not A Puppet Show
This is a weird paradox and a particularly challenging part of being a father. On one hand, we (fathers) will inevitably influence our children’s development – for better or worse; there is no avoiding our impact. In fact, running away from that influence will just do more harm. But, on the other hand, as much as we’d like our children to be malleable lumps of clay, our children cannot be molded to our liking. They’re not puppets that we can control through sheer will. They have unique and unavoidable personalities and tendencies that we have to consider – even embrace. I’m just beginning my own fatherhood journey, but I know at times it will be challenging to let my kids flourish in a way that might not suit my preferences.
Fatherhood Is Not A Puzzle To Figure Out
Oh, if only children were a puzzle to be figured out! Most likely, you won’t be able to “solve” your kids. And, even if you find various techniques or strategies that are effective with them, those strategies are almost certainly going to stop working at some point. You think you’ve got some things figured out? Surprise! Not anymore. Fatherhood is ever-changing. This aspect of fatherhood is tough for me because I love finding solutions. But, now I have to stay on my toes. All. The. Time. There is no room to rest on your laurels as a father.
Fatherhood Is Not Quantifiable
Don’t try to think about fatherhood in terms of numbers – dollars, hours, wrinkles, lost hairs; It will just give you a headache. But, not only a headache; Thinking about all things quantifiable might actually make you a worse and less-patient father. Yes, kids are extremely expensive and they’ll rob you of your sleep and maybe your hair. No, they probably won’t appreciate everything you do. And yet, here we are, not wanting to trade them for anything in the whole world. I wish I had more money and sleep, but I wouldn’t rather have those things. Let’s try not to think about what could be. Fatherhood defies quantitative measures. Just bask in it and try not to be too analytical.
Fatherhood Is Not Isolated
“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating… Too often fathers neglect it because they get caught up in making a living and they forget to make a life.” -John Wooden
Second, you might think fatherhood will forever separate you from friends and fun times. The first year is intense, but that feeling won’t last long. The identity you might have lost in the eyes of your single friends, will soon be offset by your new identity as a hero to your children. Take that role seriously, but also enjoy it. Furthermore, it’s important that fathers are not isolated from each other. We need the support of other fathers. I’m not saying you should only hang out with other fathers, but it’s critical to our mental health that we openly and genuinely discuss fatherhood beyond surface-level cliche’s, anecdotes and sarcasm.
Fatherhood Is Not Relaxing
“There should be a children’s song, ‘If you’re happy and you know it, keep it to yourself and let your dad sleep.'” -Jim Gaffigan
Thanks for reading! Comment below with other things you’ve observed about fatherhood or things that aren’t exactly what you expected.