Many new dads are blindsided by how many adjustments they are asked to make for their new role. Usually they have not grasped an important truth about fatherhood, and that’s understandable. After all, there are plenty of veteran dads who haven’t accepted it either. What is this simple but profound truth? It’s not about you.
When your first child arrives, you know your world is forever different, but it takes some time before you realize just how different it is. You probably had a taste of it when your wife was pregnant and you helped with some of her unique needs. But now your new little person needs almost constant attention and care. Your baby’s well-being is the top priority in your home. Your eating and sleeping schedule no longer matters—only hers does. As a father, you may as well get used to it because … it’s not about you.
Maybe, up until now, you have always been a kind and caring person—trying to think about others’ needs and devoting yourself to becoming a good husband and serving your wife. Still, you still knew that at the end of the day, you could do what you wanted.
Those days are gone now. Oh, you’ll still be able to steal a few moments here and there, but you have to be ready to give up what you’re doing at a moment’s notice. Remember, it’s not about you any more.
There will be times when this gets very frustrating. Even when you accept the fact that making sacrifices is part of fatherhood, giving up something you enjoy because duty calls is not fun. That goes for watching the big game on TV, freedom to run out to the store at any time, intimacy with your wife, even eating a meal undisturbed. And then, just when you think you’ve made all the adjustments you need to, you discover one more thing you enjoy that has to be put on the back burner because you’re a dad.
The secret for new dads—and all dads really—is to realize this now, while you’re making daily investments in your children. Start expecting interruptions, and be ready to put those other things on hold for a season. When feelings of frustration show up, figure out how to deal with them in a positive way. Look at the big picture. Find joy in the little moments. Imagine doing some of those favorite activities years from now with your son or daughter as a teen or as a young adult.
Good fathering means sacrificing some of your aspirations and pleasures for a while so you can invest more fully in your children. If you can grasp and even embrace this mindset as a young father, you’ll be ahead of the curve and before long you’ll adjust to your fathering role and move beyond that feeling of frustration. Your child will be established as a high priority and a source of joy in your life, and there will be less inner conflict and fewer second thoughts about what you’d rather be doing. You simply respond to your child’s needs, knowing that even changing a diaper or rocking your baby to sleep is a long-term investment and one of the most important things you’ll do today. Investing in the next generation is well worth the sacrifice.
It isn’t about you … it’s about your family. Things are different now, and that’s good. You’re an involved father and that’s a blessing all by itself. Bonding with your child in these early days of childhood will pay off for years to come.
- Post a note to yourself on your bathroom mirror, computer screen saver, or dashboard: “It’s not about you!”
- Be the one to jump up and help when your child has a need. Those are priceless opportunities! (And Mom could probably use a break.)
- Are you going through a rough time as a father? Maybe you can’t see your children as much as you’d like, or one of your kids is in some trouble. The “It’s not about me” attitude can help you focus on your children and keep you from getting discouraged.