The First Six Months of Fatherhood
Transitions are painful.
A man is in trouble on Twitter for expressing something most fathers feel. “Did I just ruin my life?” The responses to this ordinary emotion are revealing.
The dads dunking on this hardest are using Justin as a scapegoat. Rather than recognize he’s expressing a shared experience, they want to run away from their own feelings. Easier to hate someone than sit with your own feels.
As for me, I love being a dad. That’s not for internet clout. I could chase more clout pandering to people politically.
I also won’t pretend that the first time I held my daughter some magic fairy dust got sprinkled into my heart.
There’s a reality check that hits you.
There’s a transition you have to make….
Being a man is amazing, male privilege is so real.
I’ve been all over the world. A friend asked me to go to the jungle to do ayahuasca a decade ago. Sure, why not? Get on a plane and go.
If you’re a physically fit, competent man, you don’t have too much fear. Maybe we should fear more and take fewer risks. (Discussion for another day.)
You can load up a bag. Forget something? Then be uncomfortable. Who cares. Buy it when you land.
If you’re single and go all in a business that goes bankrupt, you have a great story. You’re not going to starve. You can take unlimited risk. You can live on almost nothing as a man, at least if you’re willing to live in other parts of the world (which are better than most of the U.S., anyway).
You really do have life on easy street unless you’re a total wimp who needs his mommy to bring him milk and cookies every night.
That stage of life is over once children are involved. Assuming you’re not a dead beat dad, you have a monthly nut (so gross but that’s what it’s called to have fixed expenses). In addition you have the uncertainty of health problems for the kid. Worry worry worry.
You’ve loaded the pack up.
There’s no more slacking off.
It is of course natural and logical to ask yourself…
DID I JUST RUIN MY LIFE?
My wife and I spoke openly about this narrative that every dad holds his kid and sees his life purpose revealed. We often wonder if people are lying or rewriting history. (Memories get overwritten as new information and experiences come in. Most of your memories are false outright or misleading as they put you into the center of the action as a virtuous hero.)
For me, with my first daughter, it took about 6-9 months for my heart to really open up to the situation, and to feel the full blessings of fatherhood.
Since then I’ve been totally hooked and want more kids. We had our third and are already talking a fourth.
But I won’t even begin to lie and say I didn’t have this conversation with myself:
You’re 39, physically fit, semi-retired. You could do anything you want with your life. Was this a mistake?
The “Oh Shit” picture.
We have what’s called the “oh shit” picture taken the day after we brought our first daughter home. There’s a look in my eye suggesting that maybe this wasn’t my brightest idea.
She didn’t make a big deal out of that response - and found it more amusing than anything.
What can a dad do in the first six months, anyway?
There’s not a lot the dad can do initially. Babies often look strange, like little aliens. You’re afraid of holding them as they are tiny and delicate.
Really the best move if to help your spouse out as much as possible. The workload is mostly on her, that’s the biological reality as the baby bonds strongest with the mouther and also breast feeds.
You do what you can, and eventually the baby starts to look fully human.
Every day after that gets better.
Negative people love to say, “Wait until _____,” as if catastrophe awaits. No way. It’s incredible.
Wait until the baby is six to nine months, and then every day gets more interesting.
In the meantime, new dads, it’s totally OK and normal to think through what’s going on.
You’re not a “bad dad” or “piece of shit” if you didn’t have some magic switch flip on.
You are in a transition, and a painful one, of leaving adolescent irresponsibility.
That’s where you find the joy.
You can still have male friendships, and should. here’s how….
In the West, men are told to get married. Even before marriage, girlfriends (toxic femininity) often cut men off from their male support group. Men, this has to be a deal breaker for you FYI. (That’s another article I’ll write soon.)
Tell your friends to come over.
You’re the one with kids.
Swap out the marijuana for a nice cigar.
Justin shares mutuals with us.
He can ask them what we did when we had kids.
We tell people, you come over here, we are the ones with children.
You can still hang out, and you find more ways to fold your kids into your life.
For example on a typical Saturday, I take my oldest to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (10 a.m.). The younger daughter might come with us.
Drop them off at home with mom.
If it’s time for baby’s nap, I push him in a stroller for some zone 1-2 cardio. I talk to the little guy, explain where we are going, and he’s gone for a nap.
Come home, maybe take the older girls to the park.
This weekend we had friends over on Friday and I did my semi-regular cigar night last night.
Yes you’re going to carry around some residual fatigue at times.
Go to bed earlier.
You can fit all of this in and more.
Don’t be bummed out, new dads, if it takes a while to figure this out.
Oh and surprise! Once you figure out one stage of parenting, and solve all of the challenges, new ones arise.
Incredibly fun and beats becoming some oddball single man who eventually sits around waiting to die alone.