Sunday, September 18, 2011
5 Things They Don't Tell You About Fatherhood And 1 Thing They Do
So, I'm a father. My little girl is three months old and her and my wife are in Detroit for the weekend visiting family. (I had to stay home and work.) It's a fitting time, I think, to write a little about the things I didn't expect about becoming a father, because there are some things that they don't tell you. But they should, things like.
You will bond with your child at least twice, and the first time doesn't really count. When my daughter was born, I was in the room, I watched it happen. I, like most every other man who has ever experienced this event was immediately overcome with emotion. The problem with this, as many would tell you, is that you can't base a relationship on purely emotion. emotional highs (like the one I just described) wear away, they ebb and flow. We, as humans are selfish. It's one thing for me to decide to love my wife on a daily basis, but another to do the same to my daughter (at least it was at first). My wife can love me back, my week-old daughter, could not. This truth left me with a profound sense that my home had been invaded by a small person I had no feelings for. I hadn't really bonded yet. This left me with a deep, deep sense of guilt and shame because "fathers should love their daughters" I said to my wife. It took a little bit of time (a couple of weeks) but I did bond with my little girl and I do love her more than anyone on this planet, (except her mother) but those first weeks were hard.
"Get your sleep now! Haw haw haw" it's what everyone tells you when they find you you're going to have a baby. What they don't tell you is that if your wife is breastfeeding, you will sleep more or less like you always did. Odds are, at least for the first year or so, your wife will be at home on maternity leave, and if that is the case, odds are you are working and your wife, will let you sleep so that you can go to work. She however, will not sleep which leads to...
If you are sleeping, you will feel guilty about it. It doesn't matter what she says about this that it's ok, or that she understands, you will feel guilty that you are not suffering with her. also, she will be more tired than you regardless, you will feel guilty about that too.
It will be taken over by a tiny human who takes up 80% of the space, your wife gets 15%, the extra pillows preventing you from rolling onto and crushing the baby get 2% and you get 3%. Or at least, that's how it feels.
You will lie to your friends and family about how much you love being a new dad until you've actually bonded with your child. Because until then, you really are just confused, and filled with mixed emotions about the whole thing, but you can't say that to your mother, or mother in law for that matter, the best you can get away with is that you're feeling "challenged" when in fact, you may be miserable because this tiny human has invaded your life.
After all this, there is something that they do tell you about fatherhood that makes it all worth it. The first time you walk into a room, and your baby looks at you, recognizes you and smiles, THAT moment, covers up all the bad and makes every single thing worth it. All I need from my little girl for the rest of my life, is that smile when she sees me, because even though she can't say it now, or even know what it means, that smile says: "I love you dad."
And that means the world.