There are few changes in life that will rock your world as much as becoming a parent. And while some are excited beyond words at the prospect of having children, others are terrified. This can be especially true for men.
For some men the idea of becoming a father brings about fears similar to walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon without a net. Yes, parenting can be a scary idea for women too, but not always in quite the same ways. So why is it that having a child and starting a family can be so frightening for even the most fearless of men? Well, it turns out that there can be some very good reasons.
Why Parenting Can Scare Guys So Much
In addition to the massive responsibility of raising another human being, there are many foundational reasons that men worry about fatherhood.
• They didn’t have a good example. Many men will tell you that the relationship they had with their own fathers was less than ideal. They may have seen the mistakes their own father made and be worried they’re destined to do the same thing. Without a good role model and example of how to be a father the idea of becoming one can feel like being thrown into the ocean without a life jacket and told to swim to land when you don’t know how to swim. Fatherhood is daunting and full of questions that don’t have easy answers, and there is no instruction book. How to you teach them the right things? What if they don’t want to learn? How to you fairly discipline? What does showing love look like as a dad? These questions and many others can plague men, especially those who had a poor or no relationship with their own father.
• Time to grow up. Young men especially can see fatherhood as the end of the fun. Becoming a father means growing up, acting responsibly, and settling down. Some men won’t feel ready for that and will feel terrified at the idea.
• It’s a bit mysterious. Babies and children can seem very confusing for men, starting with the pregnancy and delivery. There’s very little they can do at those early stages and it can make a man feel helpless. Then, once the baby is born, caring for a newborn may be something they have no experience with. During these early stages the mother is generally the leader when it comes to handling a child and therefore creates an immediate bond. Many men can feel left out and at a loss for what to do.
• Your relationship will change. Most men are comfortable and excited about the way you make a baby. Having a baby, however, changes things. They’re scared your relationship will change, and not for the better. What if you aren’t interested in them anymore? Or don’t want to have sex? Or fall out of love? The truth is that your relationship will change, and each of you will change. The trick is changing together and in the right ways. It can be a tall order and there will be challenges, but it can be done and isn’t quite as hard as it seems.
• It’s expensive. There are many costs that come with having children. Budgets that are already tight will become tighter when you add a child to the mix. The prospect of how to afford to raise a child can weigh heavily on men, even if they’re not the only one in the relationship bearing the financial burden.
• It’s forever. You can quit a job, break-up with a girlfriend, or divorce a spouse (hopefully not) – but being a father is forever. There aren’t many things in life that are, without dispute, a forever commitment. The idea of anything that permanent can be overwhelming for anyone, but for men it can feel like all their life choices have been taken away.
What Happens If You Don’t Address These Fears
All of these fears are natural, so before you think that you or your partner are a mess, know that being nervous and scared about something this big is normal. But also know that the fears need to be addressed or they can cause problems later.
Some of the fears may resolve themselves without much help, but others can persist and grow. Without coming to terms with the things you’re worried about they can affect the relationship you as a father have with you child and with your partner. The saddest part about this is that much of it is preventable, it will suck the joy out what can be a very rewarding phase of life, and worst of all, have a lasting impact on your child. No wonder men are scared, right?
One of the best ways to alleviate these fears is to talk about them with your partner. Of course, admitting fear and vulnerability can be difficult for many men because it feels like weakness. Allow me to assure you, it’s not, especially in the matter of parenting. Finding support and addressing your own worries is crucial to being an effective and loving parent.
If the idea of becoming a father scares you, there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone. You’re a normal guy. Just don’t let the fears fester or overwhelm you. If talking to your partner isn’t working, try talking to a friend or counselor. But for the sake of your child and your own happiness, talk to someone.