How does life really change when you become a parent? An Aussie dad remembers what he thought would happen versus what the reality is like.
“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
There are a lot of clichés when it comes to parenthood, but looking back on the days where I wasn’t responsible for helping keep a young human alive, this is a quote that hits home like no other.
I’d had small glimpses into the bizarre, daunting world of parenting from friends and family but in all honesty, I had no idea what to expect once I stepped over that void.
Mostly, the advice I heard about fatherhood were spot on. Things like “it’s the hardest, but best thing you’ve ever done,” and “you never know what true love feels like until you have a child.”
These tips were great, but what I actually took from these tips sometimes proved way off the mark.
Thinking back on it, I’ve collected a few of those mistaken assumptions I made.
These are my biggest pre-fatherhood misconceptions, versus the reality now that I’m a dad.
Misconception 1: My social life will be over
Like a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, my life mostly revolved around social activities.
Where and when am I meeting my mates for a beer this weekend? Which café should my wife and I choose for that lazy weekend breakfast? What movies are on?
Sporting events, music gigs, dinner parties, weekends away … that was what life’s all about, right?
Well back then it was, and I worried that once I had a child to look after, it would all disappear and leave a gaping hole in my life.
But guess what? Your social life doesn’t end with parenthood – it just changes.
For me, the social activities I used to partake in are still part of my life, but they just happen less regularly and require a great deal of logistical planning. Because they happen so infrequently, I value them more than ever.
Parenthood also brings with it a new range of social activities that centre around your new arrival.
Of course, play dates, kids’ sport and toddlers’ birthday parties sound as appealing as a bout of gastro for non-parents, but such is your love for your child, you absolutely cherish and revel in them.
It’s all about your kids, not you, and you’ll be fine with that.
Misconception 2: I don’t ‘get’ kids
Pre-fatherhood, I was awfully awkward and uncomfortable around babies and kids, even with my own nieces and nephews.
I imagined this element of my personality would never change even if I became a dad.
But everything changes when it’s your own child you’re interacting with!
From the very first moment my son arrived on this planet, all I wanted to do was to be around him, love and support him and watch him grow.
Side note: despite being two-and-a-half years into this parenting thing, I’m still generally uncomfortable around other children, although I’m slowly getting better.
Misconception 3: I’m not ready to be a father
You can do some things to better prepare yourself for this crazy life-changing experience – I’ve written about them for DAD previously – but there’s not really ever a perfect time to become a dad.
The challenges are immediate and sometimes feel overwhelming, but you just adapt and find the best path for yourself, your partner and your new family member.
It’s amazing how quickly your ‘dad hat’ feels comfortable on your head.
Misconception 4: It’ll be all hard work with no real reward
There’s no sugar coating this – the work is hard – and unrelenting and exhausting and … the list goes on.
You’ll have days or even weeks on end without much sleep and sicknesses will run through your family quicker than Shane Warne cleaned up the tail back in his heyday.
But the rewards dwarf the difficulties.
The rewards are everywhere, multiple times a day. The developmental milestones, the lightning bolts of love that run up your spine when your child wraps their arms around you for a hug and the joy of sharing a new experience or helping them master a task.
I also can’t believe how often my son makes me genuinely laugh!
In fact, there’s so much more laughter in my life now than before he came along (and more tears of course … but the positives make everything worthwhile).
Misconception 5: It’ll be too gross!
It seems a lifetime ago when I used to be grossed out about poos and wees and vomit and snot.
The grossness hits you between the eyes and ears (and between your fingers) as soon as your baby’s first poo – a black, sticky, horrendous smelling thing called meconium – arrives soon after birth.
These days, it’s all just another bodily function that needs to be cleaned up.
It soon becomes what my wife and I call ‘the new normal’ – the incredible love for your child overcomes all the squeamish feelings and you just have to get on with the job.
Plus, when you think about it, wiping your own bum is hardly glamorous, is it?
Misconception 6: My relationship with my partner will be ruined
Much like your social life, the relationship you have with your partner won’t be ruined, it just changes.
Sometimes the change is dramatic, but in many cases it’s for the better. It will be tested, and stretched, but it can also end up even stronger as you team up to battle this crazy life called parenthood.