Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of what you can expect:
1. Pressure. Congratulations! You just took on another role in life. I bet that makes you so excited! ‘The Universe believes I can do more and be more! Whoo hoo!!’
2. Conflict with your kids, your partner and even with your own parents (who may want to question your parenting style). Put more than one person in a situation and conflict has to happen. It’s like a law of nature. How you handle it and use it is your choice.
3. Anxiety. This may or may not be the traditional up-all-night-worrying-about-where-your-daughter-is. It may just be wondering how to be great at your job AND great at your parenting role. Or trying to wear too many hats at once. Or worrying that your partner will never again have energy left at the end of a day for you!
4. Serendipity. This means accidentally discovering something wonderful. Expect the unexpected … in a very positive way. Your child will surprise you with their insight, their giftedness, their sense of humour, their perspective, their personality. You will also discover things about yourself and your partner that you’d never have discovered without kids. This is part of the pay-off. When you have one of these moments, savour it!
5. Mess: Dad, get used to it. If you are anally retentive, fussy, house-proud, or a perfectionist, then you’re in for a challenge. No matter how wonderful your communication skills, teaching style or behaviour management techniques – KIDS MAKE MESS. They break things, stain things, rip things, colour things in – sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally. It is par for this course.
6. Learning Curve. If you thought life was interesting up until now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
7. Exhaustion. You’re about to get tired. Real tired. Plan to recharge your batteries as much as you can and don’t overextend yourself when you can’t.
8. Mentoring Moments. I ask Dads to be ready to respond warmly to requests like this:
“Dad, can you help me with …?”
“Dad, can you fix my …?”
“Dad, what do I do here?”
And be ready to say things like “Son, do you want to come with me while I …?”
They need you and need to be with you.9. The Apprentice eventually becoming the Master. I don’t have to always be right. Who helps me navigate a computer game now? My eleven year-old son. Who keeps me in touch with what’s new in music, cool-speak and fashion? My kids. Who will probably help me solve a lot of problems in the future? My kids.
And that’s as it should be.
10. Powerlessness. At times, no matter how much effort you exert, no matter how clever you are, you are not going to be able to change something.
11. Influence. Sounds like I’ve just contradicted myself, huh? But the truth is that by your daily behaviour (‘modeling’) and through spending quality and quantity time with them, you will surely and steadily influence your child’s outlook and habits (as Maxwell Smart would say, either for niceness or for rottenness). Your influence is largely born of your own consistency, character and care for them.
12. Responsibility. A word that two of my buddies (still single in their 30s) call the R Word. Maybe that’s why they’re not married.
Manhood’s not measured by how much pubic hair you have or how hard you can hit a ball with a stick. It’s measured by the level of responsibility you are prepared to take – for yourself and for others’ wellbeing. You brought this child into the world and even as they increasingly take steps to take responsibility for themselves, the buck will ultimately stop with you for quite some time.
13. Fun. It is if you let it be. Where else in your life do you get to play with toys, play ball, crack stupid jokes … and be commended for it?!
So, new Dad, strap yourself in for the rollercoaster. It may well be both the scariest and the most exhilarating ride of your life!
Peter Aldin is founder of Great Circle Coaching & Development and a licensed facilitator of the Pitstop parenting program for men. For over a decade, he has provided consulting and training that assists people to sharpen their personal and professional re