If there’s one thing you’re never truly prepared for, it would undoubtedly be the arrival of your first child. No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how well your wife plans everything out (be honest, as the father, you didn’t plan a thing did you!), no matter how much stuff you have ready and no matter how many nappies you have, you’ll never be truly prepared.
From the moment we either plan to have a child or the moment we find out one is on its way (I’m not here to judge your life choices), we swiftly get into the logistics and infrastructure required. Now, as a man, your involvement will be limited at this point, its best you just get over that fact and become the steady voice of reason in a room full of emotionally charged discussion.
But, as much as everything is planned, nothing is predictable. Down to the date and time your wife will go into labour and how many idiots are on the road as you’re trying to get your now screaming wife to the hospital, all the way to how many times a small human can puck and crap within one day. Until you’ve experienced the fatigue driven trauma of an infant child, you really know nothing.
When our first child came along, I was young and mostly arrogant. Obviously, how hard can it be, right? Very is the answer and its doesn’t matter how many baby classes you take; you never get the whole picture. I suspect its to teach you a lesson, those midwives and mid-husbands (yes that’s a thing) are a rare breed.
Raising children is a series of wins and losses, nothing stays in a constant state, nor should it really as our kids should be constantly growing and developing their own identity, so for this to happen things must change. One day you’re the favourite and then your dropped quicker than a poor performing professional athlete. One day everyone is following your lead and the next day you’re the pack horse hoping they don’t leave you behind at a moment’s notice.
One thing I struggled with a lot was trying to be a strong male role model while not becoming my father. For the longest time I struggled with this, it caused me to over analyse my actions and started a destructive loop of assessing myself against my predecessors. I’m not going to lie; this took some time to get past. My major hurdle was my own ego, I was so consumed about proving myself to others that I forget about the most important people in this relationship, my children.
To top all that off, I’d slowly but surely became unhealthy, unfit, unappealing…. Un everything really. It can be very easy to neglect yourself as a father and its no different for mothers, we all give so much that we forget about ourselves. Generally, it takes a reality check to bring us back into line and force us to act. For me it was no different, I had my reality check.
But, here’s the thing, we don’t really pay attention to gradual changes, we live so much in the moment that anything outside of that is blocked out. In most cases this is not intentional and is something that we only become aware of post tense.
You can never undervalue putting time aside to work on yourself, be it your fitness, your mental state or handling your business. You’ll need every tool at your disposal when raising children.
If done properly, fatherhood can be one of the most rewarding things you can ever do. But to do that, you need to do the work. Your work doesn’t end once the deed is done, that’s the easy part. The hard work comes from being a guide and a mentor. It comes from having to make the hard calls and be the villain from time to time. It comes from sleepless nights, long days and discomfort. Fatherhood isn’t about you, it’s about someone else. Their success is dependant, albeit not exclusively, on how they are raised.
You need to be present, resilient and strong. A father absent in any of these areas is doing himself and others a disservice, pure and simple.
Because of all these things I’ve talked about, I’m led to the obvious question: “why did I want to become a father?”
The answer is simple and complex at the same time and for many other fathers their reasons vary. For me, I felt it was time to start building my legacy and to take the step from being a man to becoming a father. There is a profound difference between the two and something that needs to be experienced to be understood. Fatherhood challenges your beliefs and view of the world, it challenges how you communicate, and it challenges your negotiating skills, not to mention testing your patience and resolve.
Equally there are many upsides to raising children, if done right. Seeing you kids grow into young adults and observing them making key, yet simple, life choices is a vastly rewarding experience. Kids have a way of making us proud in the strangest ways. Be it picking up our sense of humour, emulating our personality traits or simply working hard on something and getting the rewards of their efforts, it all counts.
Fatherhood is an experience like no other and there’s only one way to learn its valuable lessons. It’s something that I would never want to take back and is one of several wise choices I’ve made in my life so far. While there is still a long way to go, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
For those new to fatherhood, I say welcome and enjoy the rollercoaster ride, don’t forget to smile for the photo! For the established fathers here, I tip my hat, keep fighting the good fight.
‘til next time….. Cheers!