The Dad is the unsung hero of parenting, and it’s easy to see why. They don’t grow babies inside of them for 40 weeks. They don’t breastfeed or have the same degree of parental instinct as mothers do. In many parenting situations I’ve seen, the role of the Dad is ambiguous. Secondary to the mother. Perhaps a pale shadow of motherhood, expected to do her same function, but perhaps with a slightly masculine twist to it.
Our memories are shorter now than they’ve ever been (thanks, technology!) — there’s a lot about my Dad I remember from my later years, but much of my childhood is a blur. And in a family with both parents working to make ends meet, what I do remember is lots of time in my Grandma’s basement, watching TV or horsing around with my brother until my parents come home to resume the parental segment of their lives, tired or not.
I have a wealth of social cues on what it means to be a Dad — so then, why do I feel woefully unqualified to carry it out?
Because there’s no manual. Because there’s very little out there that fathers can point to as a guide to how other fathers have stepped up to a role that society trains us so well to avoid. Because fatherhood isn’t as sexy as cars, exciting as sports or as tantalizing as a delicious plate of food. Fatherhood makes us worry — it makes us uncomfortable and fills us with fear.
“I’m not ready to be a Dad.”
Every father-to-be has, at some point, had this thought. Some men act on that fear and offer to pay for abortions or simply just get up and leave. Some prove the statement as entirely true and continue acting out well into fatherhood, showing that they never really cared about anyone but themselves.
But then you have the rest. The Dads who stay and raise their young and do a good job of it. The ones you hear about in wedding speeches and see on Full House and The Cosby Show. We all think that we can’t be that good a father — so am I ready?
There’s a secret to parenting. Something that no one bothers to tell you that in its own twisted way, might help put your mind at ease if you knew it, and it’s this:
No one has a clue what they’re doing when it comes to raising kids. Read all the books you want, listen to the advice from any of the super-nannies — there’re some things which are just good, common sense, but for the most part, we’re all individuals dealing with individual kids and trying to do the best we can with what skills we have.
But we don’t have to do it alone.
The Road to Fatherhood
It was a few months ago when Sarah stopped me from my tinkering on the computer long enough to tell me that we were expecting. When she told me, I think she expected more of a reaction. Jumping for joy, freaking out in a mad panic, dropping a plate — something! But oddly enough, she told me and all of a sudden I was simply at peace.
Some of my fellow BiSC-uits once told me that while a woman becomes a mother when she gets pregnant, a man doesn’t truly feel like a father until he holds his child for the first time — and I get that. I can’t fully understand what Sarah’s going through, and I simply do whatever she tells me to do to help make her life easier. In my life, not all that much has changed, but for the first time in a very long time, I was a man with a plan. A goal. A deadline. I needed to get as much done as possible before the baby became “real”!
And when you have as many ideas as I do rattling around in my head, that’s not exactly a simple feat.
So what now — do I give it all up and fade into obscurity, never to be heard from again? Is that what it means to be a father?
Everyone says that after having a child, you have no time for anything. You can give them all your love, money and experience, but your life is no longer yours. Kids demand all of your time. All of your energy. Forget who you were, because a parent is everything that you’ll become.
But if you give your dreams up, what lesson are you teaching to your kids when they have to make the hard choices in their lives?
I’m not naïve enough to think that my life will be anywhere the same when I enter fatherhood. Parenting is no joke — what little time you may have had left to yourself after renouncing your bachelorhood and entering a relationship gets divvied up even more with someone completely relying on you for their survival!
In my life, all the pieces are starting to come together. I started really getting into social media a few years ago, and since then I’ve built a community of friends and peers who really get what I’m trying to do. I’ve built an audience actually willing to read what I write on my blog and have been fortunate enough to be included in events and situations tat I never could’ve imagined. I’ve started building something that could potentially be amazing — but sometimes life has other plans for us.
I’m Not Dead, I’m Just a Dad.
In another six months there’ll be another addition to our home. Life will be a huge shift for me! It’ll mean less events for a while. It’ll mean a tighter budget. It’ll mean less coffee dates and more living vicariously through my friends. Going out for drinks with the boys will become reading books and cleaning up toys — stay up ’til all hours of the night blogging will become diaper changes and formula feeding. I’ll have to find those odd moments of repose to gather my thoughts and write something meaningful, but no one ever said that blogging was easy. Becoming a father just forces me to look at it a little differently.
Much like raising a kid, with my blog, I’m in it for the long haul. There’s nothing in life gained overnight that was truly worth it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took 25 years and many failed experiments to produce the iPod, a device that would change the consumer electronics game forever. Or, to make these analogies even more relevant, Seth Godin — blogger extraordinaire — just wrote his 5000th blog post. Posting daily, that puts his first post in September 1999 — 14 years ago!
So am I ready to become a father? No. No one’s ever truly ready. You learn a lot as you go and you grow into it, much like any new experience in life. Am I ready to love this kid? Of course — I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure this kid is amazing and that they always know it! I’ll give them everything I can to help them be who they need to be, and make the necessary sacrifices to make it happen. But does it mean that I’ll no longer be Casey Palmer? That I’ll give up everything that makes me who I am?
You don’t give up your friendships when you start dating someone new. You don’t give up your identity when you become a parent.
Readers, blog, and my unborn child — let’s all grow together.
HYFR and YOLO,