So, having a child changes your life, that’s a given. There’s plenty of lists out there with the same heartwarming messages and extreme focus on how your life will never be the same. My experience was great, parenting has been so much easier than expected and it’s come with some awesome perks that I don’t really see mentioned anywhere.
1. I can talk to girls now!
I’m a pretty awkward guy but the single best thing that’s happened to my social and professional life is having a son and the advantages are two-fold. On one hand, it’s a great ice-breaker. About half the people I deal with are female and previously, common-conversation points were hard to find. I’ve also met a lot of interesting people, usually because they’ve decided to engage with my son (or my son has decided to engage with them).
Secondly, I’m far less self conscious about giving off the wrong signals. I’m sure I’m not the only person who double and triple checks sentences in their head before saying anything. Having a girlfriend or wife negates some of that fear, but something about having a child and a family makes me a lot more confident when dealing with members of the opposite sex.
2. Best excuse ever!
I had a pretty quiet life before children but as I started working full-time, more and more social pressures began mounting due to things like disposable income, inner-city living and an office full of 20 -30 year olds. My wife falling pregnant became the best excuse ever to pack up and move into the suburbs, keep the cash in the wallet and try to take a break. Not many fathers or parents will equate children with a break, but in my world there’s different kinds of exhausting. From when my son was born, we had an instant ‘leave whenever’ card; Parties, family get-togethers and functions that could completely drain me suddenly become far more bearable.
Of course, being a father is exhausting, most parents can attest to that. Every night I do dishes, laundry, any extra work from the day and bathe, dress and get my son ready for bed; weekends are for catching up on anything leftover from the week. Just the fact I have this ‘get out of gaol’ free card at my disposal, gives me extraordinary courage to face any social situation (even if only for an hour or two).
3. It’s easy to forget
A lot of articles focus on those first few weeks. Bringing a baby home, the changes, the emotions and all the stress and sleep deprivation. I’m writing this with a two-year old at home and a pregnant wife, I’ll soon be reacquainted with a lot of those feelings, but when it comes to discussing that second child, or third or fourth, you basically feel like the Rambo of parenting; in control, weathered and uh, probably wearing a bandana. Nothing a newborn can do will equal what a toddler puts you through. The vomit gets chunkier, the injuries get more serious and tantrums can shake a house. That’s not to say a newborn baby doesn’t come with a unique set of challenges, but looking back now, it’s so easy to remember the good-times and forget those adjustment pains.
We’ve dealt with food intolerances so we know what to look out for, we’ve got systems in place for best sleeping practices and we’ve already cleared the hurdle of making love with a bassinet in the room. We’ve had plenty of trips to the emergency, doctor’s offices and various clinics. It’s so easy to forget all that after a year and say, “We should expand the family”. How do you think people handle second and third children? Of course, every experience will vary and some parents will need to endure different challenges, I’m just talking from my own experience which I can only assume is an average.
4. I can talk to kids now!
Okay, this one is a slight cop-out that ties in with the first point but previously, much like when I spoke with the other gender, I had some real fears regarding interacting with children. Yes, they made me a little nervous (will I make them cry, do or say the wrong thing?) but I suppose my biggest fear was what do other adults think about this grown man talking to children.
When I become a father, a lot of those thoughts about other adults judging me faded away and I think it’s really helped me open up and show a side of myself that wasn’t really there before. My fears may have been unfounded and it was simply a case of being overly self-conscious, but traditionally men don’t have the same interactions with children that women do. I still don’t consider myself a ‘child person’, I love spending one-on-one time with my own son but at least I don’t find myself quite so uneasy when a friends child asks to be picked up, or a nephew gets his hand stuck in a grate and I’m the closest adult.
So I’ve managed to waffle on about how being father makes me more socially confident while minimising my social commitments. As for my lifestyle, I’ve forgotten a lot of those negatives other lists highlight and my parting advice for any new fathers is, “It was so much easier than I ever expected”. I’ve only got my experiences so far to bank on so I’d really love to hear about the changes you faced as a parent, mother or father, big changes or small; We’ve all had extremely different experiences and I’d really love to hear some of your own experiences, do my points reflect your own? Let’s trade war stories.
Did you find parenting was easier or harder than you expected? What weren’t you expecting at all?
I’m Chris, a new dad with fire in my eyes and a floor covered in hard plastic toys and things with wheels. I run a small online baby store with my wife (oohseebee.com.au) and work full time creating content for a software company. Times have changed since I blew my first demons apart in DOOM as a kid, and as I raise my son in a world of political correctness, anti-violence and understanding, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the expectations in schools and society. Parenting is a team effort and even though there are many different types of teams, without my wife I couldn’t imagine fatherhood. Find all of Chris’ articles here.