I kinda fell into fatherhood. Everything was backwards- baby, house then marriage. Our first was a surprise. We weren’t even engaged at the time. When I found out I proposed but my future wife wisely punted- let’s just focus on one thing at a time. It was the right call. When we did get married a couple years later it was the right time. It was also great fun to have our daughter as a flower girl.
I know some people just click with parenthood right away. Birth is a transformative moment for them- everything is reset around the child. But that wasn’t my experience. I was more in shock and it took years to really embrace being a dad- which is much different than being a father. This wasn’t because I didn’t have a great role model growing up- my father was warm, loving, playful and very present- but I just wasn’t ready. Or something. I just didn't feel it.
To be honest, it wasn’t until we had all three of our girls did it start to really click for me. I began to truly fall in love in with each of them and appreciate their distinct personalities. I became fascinated by them. I became truly invested. I imagine the feelings I have for my girls now are much like some fathers have on day one. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen that way for me.
That’s why I’m writing this. I know I’m not alone. This topic is weirdly taboo, no-one says at a dinner party “ah man, my life sucks, I don’t know what I was thinking having a kid!" There is so much pressure to paint a picture of bliss to the outside world.
But the reality is that the first year of having a child is often really, really hard. And so can be the second or third as well. It can be truly disruptive and traumatizing. Heck, pregnancy alone can be rough on a relationship! Although I now see how much joy and fun those years had, I can’t lie and say I didn’t often feel a little trapped. My freedom replaced with dirty diapers.
Now I enjoy the parent role. I’ve discovered and embraced my nurturing side. All the stuff going on out there in the world without me doesn’t echo so loud anymore. I am well on the other side. But I remember how hard and long I struggled to really own being a dad. So if you are going through this I hope you don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t feel intense joy the first time you see your child, don’t worry, it’ll come in time if you put in the time.