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17th of August 2018


Fatherhood is Full of Surprises - The Good Men Project

—Dear Mr. Dad: I just found out that my girlfriend is pregnant. I have no idea what to expect. Can you give me a few hints?

A: Congratulations—you’re in for a long, wild ride! Becoming a dad involves new responsibilities, new pressures, and new expectations to live up to. For some of us, this little jolt of reality comes early, before we leave the hospital. But for others, it may not kick in for a few days. Sooner or later, though, you’re going to realize that your life has changed forever. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes not so subtle. But they’re almost always surprising. Here’s what you’re likely to encounter:

• Confusion. In the early days, you’ll experience a variety of confusing and often conflicting emotions. On the one hand, there’s the virility, power, and pride at having created a new life. On the other, the feelings of helplessness when you can’t satisfy (or sometimes even understand) your baby’s needs.

• A new way of loving. There’s no comparing the all-consuming love you’ll have for your child with the love you have for any other human. Maurice Sendak captured the feeling perfectly in a scene from Where the Wild Things Are, where the monsters plead with Max not to leave them: “Please don’t go,” they say. “We’ll eat you up we love you so.”

• New ways of being loved. As you slowly master your baby’s cues and meet his needs, your baby will learn to love you—and to express that love in the most amazing ways. And the first time that your baby coos as you or hugs you or falls asleep on your chest while absentmindedly stroking your shoulder, you’ll discover the true meaning of life.

• Depression. Even though most people think that postpartum blues are a mom thing, plenty of guys get depressed after their babies are born. There’s the grind at work, plus the bills, the exhaustion, the extra laundry, and the lack of sex. That’s enough to depress anyone.

• Fear. The first few months of fatherhood are littered with fears: that you won’t be able to live up to your fatherhood expectations; that you won’t be able to provide for or keep your child and family from harm, that you don’t know what to do with your child, that you’ll be too much–or not enough–like your own father, that you’ve made a horrible mistake. These fears and many others are completely normal. Some will go away as your skills increase, others will go away with time.

• Changing relationship with your partner. Right now, you and your girlfriend spend a lot of time together, nurturing each other and making your relationship stronger. But once your baby shows up, he or she will become the focus of everything you do. Starting tonight, carve out some time—even if it’s only a few minutes a day—to spend talking about something other than the baby.

• Your baby has opinions, and you’ll take them seriously. For the first few months, your baby probably won’t give you much feedback about how you’re doing as a father: no smiles, no laughing. In fact, just about all he’ll do is cry. It’s very easy to take your baby’s lack of enthusiasm as some kind of referendum on your worth as a dad. Don’t. If you back off, your baby will too.

• Conversations you never thought you’d have. If someone would have told you a year ago that you’d be willingly participating in long discussions with your friends about projectile vomit, leaky breasts, episiotomies, and the color and consistency of the contents of a diaper, you’d have laughed yourself silly. But you going to do it. Worse still, you’re going to love it.

Previously published on Mr. Dad


Photo: Unsplash



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