Anxieties of a Father-to-be

I really don’t understand parents.

When I tell other people that have kids that we’re expecting our first kid any day now, the first thing they tell me how “great” it is. The second thing they tell me, with silly grins on their faces, is their horror stories about when their kid was born, getting no sleep and cleaning up all sorts of messes. Huh? Cleaning + stress + sleep deprivation != “great”.

So I have to assume that having a kid is great for other reasons, which people are generally very vague about. Is it that parents are delusional? Do kids activate some kind of mental disorder that makes being a slave to another human pleasurable? I hope so, because otherwise I’m going to be miserable.

We took something like 22 hours of parenting preparation classes. Most of those hours were about how to deal with horrible, or at least unpleasant things that can happen to your kid and you before and after birth. Again, this does not sound “great”.

I have to believe that there is some kind of switch that flips in our brains that convinces us that kids are worth the effort. After all, we’re animals. For our species to survive after millions of years, something has to be hardwired for this. It’s not a choice – you feel compelled to do it. If even half of parents decided that kids were just not worth the trouble and threw them away, we would not survive as a species.

So I worry that perhaps my switch will be broken and I’ll hate having a kid. On the other hand, I worry the opposite will happen. I don’t want to become totally absorbed in a kid and lose my passions for work, hobbies, and other people and parts of my life.

Can someone explain to me why I’m going to love having a kid despite a ll the screaming, feeding and cleaning up? Or will I convince myself that I love having a kid because I can’t admit to investing so much time in something that I didn’t love?

After 5 minutes of research, I found my answer. I was right. All parents are on drugs, and I say bring it on. I’ll take a double dose of Oxytocin, please.


  1. Well, you really don’t know what love is til you hold your own child and every time you see them, no matter how old they are, your heart skips a beat. You’ll see.

  2. This like a lot of parenting…no one can teach it to you or find a way for you to understand it until you’ve experienced it. Really- there is nothing better in the world than holding your baby and watching her sleep. It’s making me cry just thinking about it.

  3. The key is “Love”. You don’t know what real love is until you have a child. But no matter how much you hear about it, you won’t understand it until you experience it.

  4. Yup, add me to the “Just wait, you’ll see” group. It won’t necessarily happen the very moment of birth, so don’t worry if you’re still thinking “what’s the big deal?”

    But then it’ll hit you, maybe a couple days later, maybe weeks. It’s instantaneous, and it’s a different moment for everybody. The best way to describe it? The universe realigns itself. It really does. It has a new center, and you’re holding her in your arms. I’ve felt it happen to me 3 times, differently every time, and just as powerful each one. You know that scene in all those novels where everything in life is going along pretty normally until the hero comes along, and when he walks in the room everybody can tell that he’s different, he’s special, he’s going to change the world? People just want to be in his presence because of the aura he radiates? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself staring in awe at my son and thinking exactly those things.
    He’s one, and as far as I’m concerned he might be destined to be King Arthur.

    It did not, any of those times, make me a doting fool who wants to do nothing each day but rush home to make googoo noises over a crib. On the contrary, it made me personally realize that my children’s world, at least for a very long time, will be defined by what I make it, and it’s on me to make it the best I can for them. Sometimes that means making googoo noises over a crib, sure, but also means going to work and making a paycheck, too.

    Don’t worry. You’ll see.

  5. I remember sitting there at 3 am on the first night bouncing up and down on a big exercise ball holding my newly born child and thinking “What the hell have I let myself in for. This is like a sweet hell.” The first six months in particular can be hard work and anybody who says different is having you on. Apart from all the work, you have to get used to the reality that you are no longer the centre of the universe.

    But I heard someone once say, in response to parents who felt their children owed them things for all their devotion, that a child had repaid his mother and father for everything in something like 3/6/12 months or something. I definitely feel that now. Parenting is about giving but it is also about receiving a huge amount. You could sum it up by saying it is love but wrapped up in there are specific daily experiences of humour, delight, surprise, learning, vigour, exhilaration, etc. etc.. The thing that gobsmacked me most about children is how early they have a sense of humour and delight in the world. You start learning basic things about what humanity is and it enriches so many other relationships too. For instance, after becoming a Dad, I began to realise that in a funny sort of way my parents knew me better than I knew myself (they had watched me grow from nothing, whereas my first memories were so relatively late and sporadic) and that my birthday is not just my birthday, as I had always thought of it, but the anniversary of the day my mum did that awesome thing giving birth to me.

  6. Kids are a severe pain in the ass. I have nearly 3 of them, so I speak from some sort of position of relative authority. That being said, there are those moments when you realize just what an outstanding creation they are. One of those moments every once in a while really compensates for the rest of the dreary misery, pain, smell, sleep deprivation, and so forth.

  7. So yeah, everyone above is correct: you won’t know what it’s like until you’re holding your kid.

    As for having hobbies and other passions besides the kid: It’s all still possible. The downside is that your free time is no longer yours, it’ll be your kid’s. Extra-curricular activities require focus, commitment, and increased communication with your wife. I’ve had to whittle mine down a bit and that’s tough. It ain’t easy, but it’s all still doable (and worth it).

  8. oh come now, there are minor hassles, but you are a very lucky man about to have a very meaningful relationship with another human being that has epiphanies that can’t be quantified.

    i personally find that guys do not respond so well to small infants, that seems to be a female thing to melt at the sight of an infant. i enjoyed parenting much more when they could walk and talk and wrestle with me and ask for rides on my back and chase me on their trikes.

    you will see how fast time is really moving because one day they are tiny crying things, then they sit up, then stand, then walk, then etc etc…all in a very short period of time. i forgot how fast time was really passing by until kids.

    having kids will also get you out of the habit many of your single/childless peers have of staring in their own navels and engaging in other forms of narcissism. you will be giving all of your time to your family, they need it! that means leaving work when other people are doing things that might put them one ladder up further than you.

    its awesome. its a great thing. its really the coolest thing you can do in your life, to be a dad.

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