Don’t run. Don’t run from this. I know, you had these grand plans. Fatherhood doesn’t mean those plans have to be scrapped. Modified, perhaps. Delayed, most likely. But scrapped? No.
Impending fatherhood can do some crazy things to you. A part of you might want to tuck tail and run. We are selfish beings after all. In the moment, it is all too easy to see the coming changes as the way you are going to lose your freedoms.
I won’t lie. Some freedoms disappear. Some just temporarily. Some other freedoms for a little while longer. But as you wade deeper and deeper into fatherhood, those freedoms will come back. Normal will be erased, redefined, and can slowly return to something resembling a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
But first there will be dirty diapers, lots of them. Also, there won’t be sleep, at least not restful sleep. Your life will be interrupted by a baby and within that interruption, there are hundreds more interruptions, coming at the worst moments after just two hours of sleep, or at 4 am, or in the middle of a book, or in the middle of a job when you are facing a deadline. And your checking account will take a hit. Even if you get a ton of gifts at multiple baby showers, you will think there is a leak in your bank. And in the toughest moments, you might mourn the old you. Where did that carefree you go? You thought you had to be responsible before? Huh, you will say out loud, I wish I could talk to that old me and let him know how easy he has got it.
You could just remain that person. After all, many people shirk the mantle of fatherhood. I don’t recommend it though. I have only been a father for 20 months, but just in case you decide to take even just the first 20 months off, here is some of what you will miss.
Your daughter’s first smile. Her very first laugh. Her. First. Laugh. Isn’t that amazing?
You won’t get to teach her one of her first words. You won’t get to cheer her on as she makes her very first army crawl across the living room.
You won’t get to pick clothes out for her. You won’t get to dress her in a new outfit for the very first time.
You won’t get to look at her in awe and start to see her become something that resembles a little of you and a little of the woman you loved long before your daughter was even in your imagination.
You won’t get to hear her say dada for the first time. You won’t get to hear her say your actual name for the first time, like I did today.
You won’t be able to scoop her off the ground after her first fall. You won’t get to have a hug from her. Those hugs, well, there is nothing like them.
The firsts don’t end at 20 months. They keep on going and going and going. Never in my life have I heard someone speak highly of a father who skipped out on those firsts. Can you even be a father if you skip this? Maybe. Eventually. But that road back is going to be a lot more challenging than just sticking this out.
If you could talk to your future self, say twenty years down the road, regardless of that person’s decision, I am confident he would say the same thing. You should be a father and a husband first. You will find out that all the other titles, adventures, and stories out there, although great they can be, will fade away once you embrace the most important role you will ever have. Father.