“I Want to Know About Fatherhood”

A few years back, we received an e-mail from a man who isn’t a father and doesn’t want children, but his wife does. Here’s what he wrote:

I want to know more about fatherhood. Most of what I read says that I’ll learn to love poopy diapers, sleepless nights, constant demands, and relentless legal and financial responsibilities. What can I expect? Please tell me more.

All you dads reading this are surely smiling, maybe shaking your heads. But for this guy and anyone else out there who may be curious about fatherhood, here are a few thoughts.

Being a dad is one of the most thrilling adventures in life.

You might expect to read that from a fathering organization. But we’re among the first to admit that it’s true: children are an intrusion. They are rarely convenient. They don’t just change your life; they totally transform it. They give you a new perspective on everything.

And if poopy diapers and sleepless nights are big concerns, just wait. Because pretty soon you’ll be trying to find a babysitter you can trust. Then comes potty training, nighttime fears, late-night trips to the ER, carpools, meshing schedules, learning challenges, monitoring apps and games and screen time, sports teams, “interesting” friends, teacher conferences, sleepovers, bad grades, discipline complications, sex talks, sibling fights, curfews, learning to drive, boyfriends, paying for school and sports and clubs and trips and cars and phones and food and insurance and college and weddings … and many, many more challenges.

Part of being an adult in this life is figuring out what’s most important and what things are worth our investments of time, energy and resources. Some people are making decisions based primarily on how it will affect them. What will they have to give up if this or that situation changes? If they have kids, what opportunities will they be forced to put on hold or miss out on completely? As fathers, we can do all this because …

It’s not about us.

This basic attitude is crucial for dads, and we can save ourselves a lot of frustration if we come to grips with it as early as possible in the fatherhood journey. We stop thinking about what’s in it for us and focus instead on how we can love and serve and help our kids become all they can be.

Even if we have lived our lives trying to look out for other people, and even if we have been good husbands, we knew that at the end of the day we could do what we want. That should change when we become dads.

We can still steal a few moments for ourselves here and there, but we have to be ready to give up things at a moment’s notice. That goes for watching the big game, running out to the store at any time, eating a meal undisturbed, and on and on. And then, just when we think we’ve made all the adjustments we need to, there’s one more simple pleasure that has to be put on the back burner because we’re committed dads and it’s not about us anymore.

Is fatherhood worth it?

Despite all the hassle and sacrifices, any dad will tell you that he can’t imagine not having each of his children around. They will bring so many good things to your life—like:

  • The wonder of pregnancy and watching a child grow inside his mom as you prepare for fatherhood.
  • The overwhelming feeling of holding your child for the first time.
  • The glow of the night light as you watch your baby sleep in the crib.
  • The sweetness of a child’s kiss.
  • The soft nights of rocking a four-year-old to sleep after reading stories.
  • Watching your child’s glee as he swings in the park or slides down the slide.
  • The amazed gaze of a five-year-old at a Christmas tree.
  • The pride you feel when your child excels in school.
  • Seeing your child succeed in a game or other pursuit that she loves.
  • Talking about life and listening to them talk about their dreams.
  • The pride (and fear) of sending a child out to drive alone for the first time.
  • The offbeat humor of adolescents.
  • The tug on your heart when your 17-year-old daughter comes down the stairs to go to prom, looking so beautiful and grown up.
  • The pride (and fear) of dropping a child off at college.
  • The text that says, “I got the job!”
  • A wedding day when you take those fateful steps down the aisle with the young lady you raised.
  • Grandkids!
  • Supporting them as parents themselves.

Is it worth it? We believe it is, undeniably and in deeply satisfying, often miraculous ways.

Add to our list! What fatherhood moments have been most rewarding for you as a dad? Share your ideas and experiences at our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • Did you want kids when you became a dad? What was your life like back then?
  • What were the biggest or most difficult life adjustments you had to make when the first child arrived? What are some more recent adjustments you have made?
  • Be honest. Are you living mostly for yourself, or are you investing more in your family and others around you?
  • Talk with another dad about the biggest challenges you face in fathering. Then make sure to mention at least something rewarding and satisfying.
  • Tell each of your kids about a time when he/she made you glad to be a dad.

Want to know more about your own fathering habits? Check out our free online Profile and Master Class, which will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and form a positive action plan. Get started here.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.