How I Knew I Was Ready to Be a Dad
I get this question a lot. And the title is full of confidence... but the truth is... I don't think I was ready to be a dad. What I was ready for was a challenge, but even still I think I severely underestimated that challenge. It's so hard to explain. And I received a lot of advice from others about what the first few months of fatherhood would entail. Heck, I even took a Father's Class to prepare. While information is good, there is absolutely no substitute for on-the-job training.
There were many challenges that I faced over the first few months of being a father, and they all helped me grow and become a better person. Yet in the midst of the challenge it really seemed that there was no way out. Here's a look at a few of the challenges and what I learned along the way.
Challenge 1: Night One
On the first night in the hospital, we opted to send Rooney to the nursery to get some rest. We actually had a pretty smooth delivery, but it was an emotional day and we were zapped. We settled in and were sleeping instantly. And just as swiftly as the Sandman came, we were awoken by the nurse for the first night feeding. We had been sleeping for maybe two hours.
You hear about sleepless nights and night feedings, but until you experience interrupted sleep from someone who 100% depends on you to tend to their every need, you don't have a clue what it means to be a parent. And that was night one, with nurses keeping our daughter company between feedings.
I learned that night that I was going to have to learn how to function without a full night's rest.
Challenge 2: Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a real thing. My wife had it. And that's not a knock on her. She's a strong woman, but she couldn't control how her body's chemicals reacted to having a baby. It was rough for her; it was rough for me. The challenge of having a baby sounded like a fun adventure to have with my best friend. But in those first few weeks when my best friend wasn't herself, I didn't know what to do.
I felt alone, probably similar to what my wife was feeling. I didn't know how to take care of my baby and I didn't know how to take care of my wife. I felt useless. So, I did everything I could to keep myself busy: cleaned the house, washed the bottles, put up a storm door, bought some patio furniture, planned a big landscaping project, bought a minivan, and trained for and completed my first 20K. No joke. I did all of those things in the first few months of my baby's life. I ended up spending a lot of money and getting a lot of things crossed off my to-do list. I needed something to do while my baby and wife were resting. I'm not very good at resting.
I learned from those first few weeks that it's OK to sit around and not accomplish anything other than time spent with family. It's hard for men to do that, but hopefully next time (if there is one) I will be ready.
Challenge 3: Transitions
After the first three months, the hazyness of being a new parent started to lift. Not completely, but I could at least see my hand in front of my face. And just as soon as we started to hit a stride and develop a routine, it was time for a growth spurt, sickness or teething, which meant more night feedings, clueless new parent situations and uncertainty of what the new normal would look like.
Maybe I'm just a naive man who doesn't think about these types of things, but I appreciate routine in daily life, and there is a theme of parenting which directly contradicts routine. I think it's God's way of reminding us that we're not in control.
I've started to anticipate transitions and try to adapt quickly, but I'm not sure I'll ever completely get used to the constant change that comes with parenting.
Challenge 4: Decisions
Formula, diapers, baby food, table food, vaccinations, flu shot and the list goes on and on and on...
We find ourselves huddling up to call the next play multiple times a day. It's kind of exhausting. And with sites like Pinterest, and a wife with a board dedicated to our daughter's first birthday party, we spent countless hours deciding what cupcake liners we were going have at Rooney's party. This included no less than five trips to the local party stores and scanning dozens of sites.
In all seriousness, though, we try to weigh the options of the serious stuff heavily to make the most informed and best decision for our family. In doing so, we've also learned not to take ourselves too seriously. There are two sides to every decision and, in hindsight, we turned out OK, right?
Parenting is tough stuff. I don't anticipate it getting any easier anytime soon. If we ever add to our family, that will only create a new dynamic. As our children grow, new challenges will arise for sure. Heck, Rooney can't even talk back to me, yet...
What do you think it takes to be 'ready' to be a parent?
P.S. How Kelsey knew she was ready to be a mom.