So you’re going to be (or recently became) a new father! Congrats!
It’s a super exciting, life changing experience matched by none other. And as a new dad, you’re probably freaking out a little, right?
That’s okay. It’s totally normal. In fact, pretty much anything you could be feeling right now is normal for new dads.
Seriously, you’re about to be in charge of making another human great — of being in charge of not only keeping them alive, but teaching them how to be a decent part of society that will one day make an impact on the world.
But before you fill up your time worrying about all of the things, take a moment to see what real dads actually think about new dad life. It might help alleviate some of your concerns, or at least show that you aren’t alone.
Here's what new dads really think about dad life - real input from real dads on starting their fatherhood journey.
“The unconditional love developed subtly over time.”
Many expecting or new fathers feel like there’s supposed to be a thunderbolt moment when they first hold their child. And while sometimes there is, sometimes it’s just the first step of a long journey. What matters is that you accept that whatever you feel in those early moments is okay.
For me, one of the hardest parts was expectations about how I should feel. “Being a parent changes you,” everyone says. And that’s true but what I didn’t appreciate is that it can take time. The heavens didn’t open the first time I held my daughter; I mostly just felt overwhelmed by the whole experience. The unconditional love developed far more subtly over time and at first I worried that something was wrong with me. –Ian
“I just felt so useless.”
There’s no doubt that women take on an incredible burden when a new child is born. Not only do they have the labor of childbirth, they are also solely responsible for feeding the new child, a process that is difficult, emotional and stressful for many. It’s very common for a new father to feel helpless in those first few weeks.
I just felt useless for a while. With my wife breastfeeding, I felt like she took on so much of the burden. I wanted to do more to help but sometimes I simply couldn’t. –Mike
“I wanted to do at least 50% of the work, but I wasn’t successful.”
It’s hard to watch someone you love struggle. Creating and nurturing new life can take a tremendous toll on a woman, both physically and emotionally. Even with the best intentions of sharing the load, you may have to settle for just providing her with as much support as you can in your role as a new father.
Not knowing what to do that could be more helpful and watching my wife struggle with breastfeeding at the same time. I wanted to do at least 50% of the work but I wasn’t successful. I was able to feed our baby with pumped breast milk in a bottle to give my wife a break, which was probably the most useful thing I remember doing. –Eric
“For me the greatest challenge was getting over the fear of babies.”
Lots of people, especially men, reach parenthood without having a lot of time around other people’s babies. When you don’t have that experience, holding this tiny fragile life in your hands can be really intimidating at first as a new dad.
I have been a stay-at-home dad to my son since he was a baby so for me it isn’t feeling like I need to help more. For me the greatest challenge was getting over the fear of babies. When other people had babies I never liked holding them, fearing I would break it or something…does that sound idiotic? That fear went away quickly, to be replaced by pretty much the same struggles a lot of moms face (picky eating, ear infections, potty training, etc). –Nate
“I wish I could protect them from everything.”
When the papa bear instinct kicks in, it kicks in HARD. So much so that it can be incredibly painful to bear the knowledge that no matter what you do, you can’t shelter them from everything that could hurt them.
Wanting to protect the child from anything that would ever cause them discomfort, sadness or pain but knowing that you can’t. –Hunter
“It was hard balancing my partner’s needs against our extended family.”
New fathers are often thrust into the role of mediator when a baby arrives. Extended family on both sides may come in with their own needs and expectations at a time when you and your partner are barely holding it together.
Managing extended family [my parents, her parents, etc.] expectations, and how they intersect with (conflict or align) with the new mom’s needs and desires. You just cannot adequately plan for how the postpartum emotions are going to surface. –Anonymous
Definitely being sensitive to how we want to raise our children as a family amidst extended family’s views and opinions. There’s a lot of noise coming from all sides but there is only one team and that’s us. –Josh
“I had to accept that I would be less productive.”
There’s no way around it — babies and children take up a lot of your attention, energy and time. It can take some time to really accept and become comfortable with the fact that you’re going to get things done at a slower pace now.
Truthfully, the hardest thing over the last 2 and a half years is the difficulty to be productive. I love getting things done and working on projects. It’s so difficult to get things done many times because of the kids. That took me half a year or so to accept. I have given up doing a lot of things around the house and do others at a much slower pace. But like I told my wife, it’s hard to do, but in ten years I don’t want to say I don’t remember all the days when they were little. –Christian
“I miss my wife.”
While a new baby is a joyous event for a couple unlike any other, it can also take a serious toll on your relationship. Your partner may be focusing attention on the children that they used to focus on you, or they may simply be too exhausted to really connect at the end of the day. This is a normal feeling for any new dad.
I wasn’t expecting to miss our relationship before kids so much. My kids are five and two, and it’s only now that we’re starting to reconnect after years of most of our attention being focused on our children. –Anonymous