If you’re disappointed about swapping footy games for Frozen re-runs, it doesn’t make you a bad dad. Here’s how to deal.
“I can’t wait to share a beer with him!”
That’s what one dad-to-be told me during the hospital antenatal classes I help run.
He and his partner didn’t know the sex yet. But in the privacy of our ‘dad’s only’ huddle, the excited first-timer revealed he was secretly hoping for a boy.
He’s not alone – a lot of us picture ourselves with a son. We imagine awesome bonding moments like watching the footy, fixing a car, or conquering the great outdoors.
We dream of sharing our great experiences of being a man and passing on what we know –of creating our own legacy. Some of us still feel the heavy burden of continuing the family name.
We mistakenly think this is the sort of stuff that will define us as dads.
So it’s natural that this dad found himself wanting – or even expecting – a boy.
It’s easier to imagine because we remember our own childhood experiences.
A real head screw-up
Some dads worry that they won’t know how to be a good dad to a girl, or how to relate to her.
Even the little things can seem more daunting – you’d be surprised at the number of expectant dads who dread dealing with nappy changes and a vagina!
The truth is, any squeamishness goes away pretty quickly once baby arrives.
Still, this kind of thinking can really mess you up and make you doubt yourself as a man, partner and father.
You feel guilty for being disappointed instead of just grateful for having a baby at all. You are too ashamed to reveal your true feelings, worried everyone will judge you and think you’re a selfish dick.
But sometimes, no matter how hard you will yourself to be happy, the sorrow won’t lift.
The good news is, you are not alone.
The pendulum swings both ways
Though few people talk about it, it’s quite common to secretly hope for one sex over the other.
Some dads imagine themselves with sons, others get hung up on having a daughter. And it’s not just dads. Mums can get their hearts set on a particular gender too.
Even if you escape these feelings with the first child, the pressure often kicks in on consecutive pregnancies – when many couples ache for ‘one of each’.
The important thing to get is that this doesn’t mean you won’t be an awesome parent, that you don’t love your kid or that you’re a terrible partner to create a family with.
You will get past this – likely sooner than you think.
But let’s talk about how you can deal with it right now. Because being in a good head space in the early days of your new bub’s life is important.
Getting through it
My first piece of advice – straight up – is to be honest with your partner. It’s tempting to avoid this kind of topic, fearful of upsetting her. The reality is she’ll see through your attempts at ‘new dad joy’ and worry about what’s really going on.
So get in early and resist the urge to hide out in your internal man cave.
If she’s pregnant and you’re feeling this way, find out the sex at the ultrasound. This will give you a few months to come to terms with it all and reduce negative emotions on what’s supposed to be an awesome day.
Lastly, give yourself a reality check. This is not the end of the world, it is the beginning of a new and exciting one. It’s inevitably going to take some adjustment: Some dads connect with their babies straight away. Others take a while to grow into the idea of being a dad to a girl, or a boy, or at all.
There’s no wrong or right way here. Just give it time.
And if like the guy at the beginning of my story you can’t imagine being a dad to a daughter. Get out of your own head and look around you.
Look at your mates with daughters who bang on about how incredible it is having a ‘daddy’s girl’.
Look at all the kids out there busting stereotypes about what’s ‘boy’s stuff’ and ‘girl’s stuff’.
And get ready to see things in a new light as you experience all this for yourself. What matters most now is that you’re a dad – or about to be. And that means you’ve got dad stuff to do.
Trust me, you are going to love it!