Becoming a parent can be an overwhelming experience filled with a range of emotions swinging wildly from sheer joy to deep depression. Fatherhood, in particular, often arrives unexpectedly even to those who have planned for it with their significant other. You may be asking “why the traumatic reaction to a predetermined choice?” I’d respond with the question “how can one prepare for an experience so uniquely personal in nature?”
The boy grows up struggling to find his place in the world, defining himself, fighting battles both external and internal until he reaches manhood. Then his world is shaken to the core as he discovers the life he thought he knew looks vastly different. He has a responsibility that asks him to be more than the man he sees before him. To be something other, someone who can look beyond the surface and sacrifice until the point of collapse from trying. It’s a tall order for any man. To redefine himself so completely in ways he’ll never fully understand except by living it each passing day. To become not just a father, but a Dad.
I’ll guess it’s no surprise that men age more rapidly under the weight of stress and anxiety caused by impending fatherhood. Unlike new moms who may be diagnosed with postpartum depression, new fathers are not traditionally scrutinized in the same way. We are told to “man up.” We are told to accept this new phase in our lives rather than cower from it because to do any less would be a sign of weakness. And so men seek out ways to cope. That may translate into burying ourselves deep in work, or more time at the gym, or even falling prey to vices that falsely promise a means to ease the pain. Having a social network of Dads offers the best defense against the latter. Unfortunately not all new fathers have access to this invaluable resource.
My own personal struggle was not without its share of bumps along the way. Being someone who thrives on the arts as a means of expression, I found myself channeling my anxiety into music. I’m not a musician yet I have an ear for music and can play a little guitar. Coupled with an intuitive music creation application like Garageband, I was off and running (listen to the mp3 below). I also found writing to be extremely useful. Rather than bottling up my thoughts I could unleash them in written form with all their intended fury.
What’s your story? How did you handle being a new father as well as the transition to becoming a Dad?