February will be my daughter’s 2nd birthday. It will mark 2 years of fatherhood under my belt. I’ve been continuously thinking about these last 2 years and how much this experience has shaped me. I’m happy to say that for the most part, fatherhood has given me opportunities to grow and learn more about myself and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of those opportunities.
Fatherhood has not been easy. There are a lot of books out there that help you consider general situations and provide advice about common circumstances you’ll encounter as a father. I’ve read some of those books to help me get prepared, however the experience of fatherhood bring on unique challenges for every man, that it makes it impossible to know what to do in every situation your confronted with. I wanted to write down some points I found were important for me in the last 2 years. If you’re going through fatherhood or are about to have a baby, hopefully these points will be helpful as you embark into being the father you want to be.
1. Be humble.
As a father, we can experience internal pressures and expectations to be “a good father”. This could lead us to overcompensate for what we don’t know by acting like we know what we are doing. It is okay to be confident enough to try new things as a father and figure out what works, but If you become pre-occupied with pretending like you know everything, it can lead you to not learn from your mistakes.
Being humble means knowing and accepting that you don’t know everything. It also means doing what you need to do to prepare yourself. Things like reading books, looking up online content, seeking guidance from fathers you look up to, or even receiving therapy to help you cope with the fears and insecurities you may be experiencing. Acknowledging that you don’t know something can be extremely powerful especially if you do it with your partner, as you are creating an opportunity for vulnerable and honest feelings to be shared with each other. This could lead to strengthening the bond with your significant other and thus feeling more supported in the emotional rollercoaster of being a new parent.
2. Be patient.
Most of your experience being a father will be about you messing things up and learning from those mistakes. This good news. The more you fail at being a father and learn from those failures, the better of a father you can become. You are not going to have all the answers, especially if you are new to this. Being patient requires you to take a curious approach to the new experiences you encounter in fatherhood. Learn to take a breath and take an extra look at the reactions you have towards your child and your partner. Keep a journal where you can write down feelings you are having and identify ways you want to respond differently if you are placed in a similar situation in the future.
Be patient with your partner and child as well. This can be difficult if you are experiencing doubts about your role as a father. These feelings are so vulnerable that it feels easier to not talk about them. However these experiences are probably as scary and new for you as they are for your partner. It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, each child that you bring into this world changes the dynamics of your family exponentially, which in turns requires change to happen with every person in the family. Your children and partner are going through these changes with you. Showing patience with their responses through this transition can help make the adjustment period much smoother.
3. Be Attentive.
Fatherhood has shown me how much I suck at giving my undivided attention to others. I’ve learned how important this is for the nurturing of my daughter and my relationship with my loved ones. Attention is a love language, and for our children it is the main way of knowing that they are loved. Challenge yourself to put your phone away, turn the TV off, and just be with your child. Taking some time to hold your baby, change your baby’s diaper, talk or sing to them is a great way of interacting with them. Initially it can feel like the baby does not care or even notice how much attention you give them. Believe me when I say, the first year of giving undivided attention can create a foundational connection for your relationship with your child later on in life.
What is self-care and why does it matter? Self-care are practices that you engage in which bring you joy and renew your energy. Everyone has different activities that engage them in different ways, so it is important to find those activities that have a positive effect on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Entering fatherhood can feel like you have no time, but this is when its most important to make time for yourself. Think of self-care as a way to re-fill energy so that you can pour your energy into your family. Not making time for self-care will have you feeling drained and can create feelings of resentment, guilt, burnout which will have an effect on you and your family.
Challenge yourself to talk to your partner about the challenges you face. Ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. Make time to talk about the changes that are happening in your relationship as you enter this new stage of life. These conversations can be difficult for many of us. It’s not easy to talk about the vulnerable emotions that changes can bring on. Learning to have these conversations will help you get better at managing and talking about feelings. For those of you that like challenges, think of this as a way of practicing emotional communication. You’ll need a lot of practice having these conversations when your child becomes more emotionally mature.
There are many more things about fatherhood that I’d like to address in future blog posts, however I’ll start here. I hope to update this list as my relationship with my daughter continues to grow. If you have specific questions or are interested in certain topics about fatherhood or the changes that occur in our lives during fatherhood, please leave a comment below or send it to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading!