Five things you didn’t know about being a father in the modern world.
Four years. That’s how long I’ve been a dad.
Some days are awesome, some are, um, not so awesome — but I still believe it’s the best and most important job a man will have in his lifetime. As I sit here now, I know that things could’ve been a lot smoother if somebody passed along a memo to me before I became a dad outlining what modern fathers deal with.
But that ship has said, so hopefully I can use my limited experience to help other men who are about to become card-carrying members of the prestigious fatherhood club.
1. Society Has A Lot Of Evolving Left To Do
I remember when I was at the mall by myself with my infant daughter and she had a blowout diaper. No need to go into graphic detail, but it’s the kind of thing you only see in your darkest nightmares. I needed to find a place to change her, stat.
I found an unnamed establishment and I expected to see a changing table in the men’s restroom. Nope. Nothing.
I went next door to another business and searched the men’s restroom there. Nada.
Finally, I took my completely melted down baby to the back of my SUV and changed her there. While all of this was happening, I thought to myself, “What’s going on here? We have cars that can park themselves, but dads don’t have safe places to change our kids? It’s a joke.”
The solution to this is simple. We need to pass legislation that states a changing table must exist in a men’s restroom if one currently exists in a women’s restroom. If there’s a family restroom, that works too.
A bill was extremely close to being passed in California in 2014 that would put changing tables in men’s restrooms if one existed in an adjacent women’s restroom. Unfortunately, California’s governor vetoed the bill, believing that this should be a private sector issue. That’s complete nonsense.
For the individuals who believe this is a private sector issue instead of a legislative one, think of it this way: As recently as the late 1990s, people were allowed to smoke on commercial flights. That sounds pretty dumb in today’s climate, right? Well, if we left it up to the private sector to handle the smoking issue, I’d bet that people would still be able to light up on flights today.
The private sector is not going to handle this issue. Dads have been around longer than cigarettes and nothing has changed. And honestly, sometimes you have to legislate common sense in order to make lasting progress.
2. The Bar To Be A Good Dad Is So Low That You Can Trip Over It
I’ll never forget when my oldest daughter was about two months old and I took her on a walk to a nearby Starbucks so I could enjoy a much-needed caffeinated beverage. As I pushed her in the stroller, men and women both stopped to say how cute my daughter was, but their additional comments really told the story:
Random lady: “You are such an amazing dad.”
Random man: “You’re doing the fatherhood thing right, my man. Keep it up!”
These people didn’t even know me. What did I do that day that qualified as “amazing” or “earth-shattering”? Did I cure cancer? Did I save an elderly lady from a burning apartment building? Feeling as uncomfortable as a man could possibly feel, all I could offer was a sheepish, “Thanks.”
Walking to the park, styling hair, strapping babies to our chests, having our daughters paint our toenails, and other duties as assigned might be cute or adorable to witness when a man does them. But let’s slow our roll a bit when it comes to the “amazing” stuff. Nothing extraordinary is going on here. What if we saw a mom complete the aforementioned tasks? Would we swoon about how awesome she is?
3. Dads Will Be Micromanaged
I have a riddle for you: what’s the only profession on the planet where everyone acts like experts, but have absolutely no clue what they’re doing? You guessed it — parenting. It didn’t matter if I was at the supermarket, playground, shopping mall, or in the comfort of my own home — I couldn’t escape from the sheer volume of unsolicited advice from self-proclaimed child-rearing experts. To be clear, these people all have good intentions, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying to deal with.
Yes, I’m completely aware that moms deal with this as well, but it’s a different ballgame for dads. Although I loved my daughter to infinity and back even before she was born, I didn’t come equipped with maternal instincts.
Quite frankly, I was an insecure wreck when it came to harnessing my daddy skills during my first few weeks on the job. But as loved ones and strangers kept telling me that I should “do it this way,” or “stop doing it that way,” I wondered if I was cut out to be a dad in any way. Fatherhood became less about enjoying precious moments, and more about second-guessing every action involving my daughter.
Moms, dads, people who haven’t raised babies in over 40 years, and (my personal favorite) people without kids will always have something to say about how we’re doing the job. My advice to new dads is to say three simple words: I got this. You know why? Because you do.
4. Your Group Of Friends Will Change
I think every man had “that friend” who was a blast to hang out with during the single days because he liked to party and spend all of his free time at the bar. But once a man gets married, settles down, and becomes a dad — his mind wanders and he asks, “Do I want this guy around my children?”
It doesn’t mean that guy is an awful person, but it’s not about us anymore,it’s about the kids. Do we want that dude to be an influence on our children? Only you can answer that.
Conversely, the dad who likes to play board games with his son every night will probably be the kind of guy we end up gravitating towards. He knows what we’re going through and being “the old guy at the night club” is completely off of his radar screen. In other words, male bonding becomes more about Chutes and Ladders with the kids and less about shooting whiskey. Honestly, isn’t that the way it should be?
5. You Thought You Knew What Love Was — You Didn’t
I can’t picture a time in my life when I felt a rush of emotions quite like when I held my two daughters for the first time. I laughed, I cried, I screamed, and I acted like a complete lunatic in the delivery room. My wife didn’t mind because she knows I’m an emotional guy, but the love I felt for those two tiny humans absolutely overwhelmed me.
It was such a strange feeling. It was an “I’d kill or be killed to protect you” kind of love. It was an “I can watch you sleep for an hour and not get bored” kind of love. It was an “I know I have your excrement all over my hands, but I’m OK with it” kind of love. There simply isn’t anything like it and the men who take fatherhood seriously know exactly what I’m talking about.
From my vantage point, promoting involved fatherhood is one of the most important initiatives to support. It will lead to happier families, smarter kids, less crime, better overall health, and a more productive society. Who can’t get behind that?
Let’s keep moving the conversation forward so the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms, receiving extraordinary praise for ordinary parenting tasks, and other demoralizing aspects of fatherhood are a thing of the past.
Oh, and about the neighbors who keep questioning the food choices for your kids? Just drop off your children at their house at dinnertime without uttering a word. That will do the trick.