Being a father is a wonderful thing. Its special. You get to watch little beings grow from small to big all while they soak up everything that is you. For instance, if you loved certain cartoons, such as the classic The Land Before Time, chances are… they will love it too. And then ask you to watch it when you just want alone time but they say it so cutely you cave in. Then you can only find #14 in the series on Netflix which is your first time seeing it too because you’re old now. Anyway, in summary, being a father is a smashing good time. But you can be kept from enjoying it.
I want to raise awareness to the fact that having kids and becoming a dad changes things which most people already know. What isn’t well known is what the hell are those changes everyone is talking about?!
Change 1: Your relationship with your beloved changes
You can be dad of the year but your relationship will still change with your wife. There’s less time for each other which equals more time to drift away. That’s hard. You love that person but so often is the case that there is some dreary distance simmering in between. I’m not saying anything like its hopeless but be aware. Assess! If there are problems after kids don’t take the mindset that they will go away on their own. It will be harder to reconnect when that itsy teeny baby becomes the mighty window smashing destroyer that is a toddler and is more independent.
Change 2: Your friendships go through a transition
Friends are cool. You need them. Don’t ever think you don’t. However, many dads feel lonely after becoming one. Friends without kids are still fun but they’re going to have so much more energy than you are. Plus they have more time. Not fair but it is. There’s a lot of joy to be had with the kiddos you are raising.
Friends are important. Work on maintaining a balance between those outside of the family and your family. Friendships can drift away. If they’re important to you and THEY SUPPORT YOUR NEW LIFESTYLE (ahem, very important) have open conversations with the wife and older kids that you need some time away but that you are also planning to do something with the family the next day or the next week. Also, get out there and meet some dads, okay? They know things that you don’t and they are often in the same lonely drifting boat.
Change 3: Daddy Brain
Think about this from a science fiction perspective. Did you see The Matrix? Did Neo start out as The One? No, he did not. He was a clueless drone. Its hard to know these things. I often explain to dads that their mind and personality are going through an evolution. And oh my gosh are their growing pains with this!!! First, have faith in yourself that you will make it through. Second, watch yourself. Big transitions are worth it but we don’t all end up okay through them. If you are not okay. Be responsible! Talk to somebody. Yes, men do talk. I am living proof of that.
Daddy brain is great. You will learn to effectively play video games while your newborn sleeps on you in a baby carrier. You will say yes to pets you don’t want to have and be okay with it. Your temper will lower given time (which you’ll have to work at) after daddy brain sets in and tells you that a 5 year old cannot multitask. And daddy brain will reason that once something enters your child’s mind, the important thing they were doing (like getting dressed because you have to go work)… leaves their brain. I’m frustrated just thinking about it. I’m probably tired. Go figure. Your mind goes through rapid changes when you become a dad. Embrace them and assess!
Important Caveat: Postpartum Depression
1 in 10 men will meet criteria for postpartum depression (Flyer from Postpartum Support Minnesota). That’s a lot! So many go without ever being diagnosed. Mental illness is not a weakness and there is treatment. Please watch for it in your spouse and watch for it in yourself. Reach out if you feel strange months into being a dad. I’ll tell you what! Call me, during business hours please, to consult. Let me be a resource to you. www.marriagegeek.com/ryan
There are more changes than this but these are the ones you should start reflecting on. Fatherhood is great and enjoyable. If something feels wrong do the manly thing and talk.