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Fathers Are Not Needed

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?

  • For me becoming a Dad was easy… just seemed to come naturally. I had children later in life than originally hoped, and that probably made a big difference in my maturity, what I was willing to give, and having the benefit of past life experiences. Although I do tell other men, especially the younger ones, that is totally changes your outlook and how you perceive most everything around you relative to your new role. My challenge came in becoming a divorced Dad and thinking little would change. I did not have the foresight to realize how everything would be different, the affect it would have on my girls, and how much I would have to step-up and do everything in my power to not only remain in their lives, but be an active influence and participant. No matter the divorce and post-divorce relationship with your partner, good or bad, everything changes dramatically for a Dad. I believe that dads should do whatever it takes to get full joint legal and custodial custody, even if equal splitting of time means not having a “primary” home. Many psychologists advise against this and recommend that the child should have a primary residence, but I disagree. Unfortunately if you do not get this role from the star, and i did not, you can easily be cut out and even if not you lose out on so much of the day-to-day living, learning and just being there. Don’t be left out of your kids’ lives. Step up and commit to being available for your children right from the beginning. Be a steady influence in their lives so that when they are teens, and they pull away for their own reasons, you remain a constant enduring presence.

    Thanks for this post Vince, and for bringing it to my attention. 

    • cutemonster

      Thank you for commenting Ted and shedding light on issues facing Divorced Dads.  You wrote “Step up and commit to to being available for your children right from the beginning.”  Couldn’t agree more. 🙂

    • Hi Ted,
      Great post.  You sound like a great dad.  As a divorced, and now re-married mom, I think that parenting changes for each parent after divorce.  I’m sure that it changes more for dads if they don’t make the effort you do to stay involved, but I do think that the post-divorce relationship between parents is the key.  My ex and I did not want our kids living between two worlds, and we agreed that I would have primary residence custody with shared parental rights.  We have worked together and supported each other with the kids, and we make it a point to spend holidays, significant events, etc. together as extended family whenever possible.  Without this focus on the big picture, and what’s really important – the kids, as well as our ability to move on in a healthy way – I think we could have easily slipped into the trap of using the kids as possessions.  I do think there’s a reason that so many counselors and psychologists recommend a primary residence.  And for the record, when my youngest turned 12 she wanted to try living with her dad…and I let her.  She’s still there – so I do have a little experience on both sides of the equation : )
      Enjoyed your post…it made me think : )

      • I get it Kendra but my very strong advice to Dads, since most divorcees do not work together as well as you and your ex and are not as committed to making it best for the children, is to make sure that they have full joint and equal legal and custodial rights, and then if they wish they can allow the children a primary home. That way their rights and those of the children are protected form the outset and if they find themselves being left out, or cut out, they do not have to go back and fight that almost impossible battle to get the time the children deserve. 

  • I wasn’t old by any stretch of the imagination when I first became a father (31) but I was ready to start a few years before that.

    The benefit to having waited a few years was that we ended up having a little bit more than we would have. My son benefited from my falling into a position in which my income tripled as well.

    But that didn’t prepare me for all of the family stuff that came with it and by family I mean inlaws, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc.

    On one side we had the only grandchild and on the other we had the only one on the west coast. What I found hard was coming home from work to discover that my inlaws, parents and miscellaneous people had decided to “drop by.”

    It was nice but there were more than a few moments where I wanted the chance for the three of us to be our own little unit.

    I also spent the first 7.5 years or so as the sole provider. I was happy to do it but there is a burden/responsibility there that can weigh upon you, no matter how successful you are.

    • cutemonster

      Thanks for dropping by Jack.   My family also had a steady stream of visitors for our first child which at times was overwhelming. Regarding your being the sole provider, I can imagine  the level of elevated stress.  The idea that you suddenly need your job more than it needs you must have been disconcerting. 

  • I was so eager and it happened so late for me – first son born 4 days after my 40th – that I can honestly say the transition was easy. Not the first 3 months of colic, however…changed my sleep habits forever!

    • cutemonster

      Thanks for sharing Bruce.  Everyone’s experience is unique.  

  • I am not sure what your definition of a musician is, but I love the song.

    • cutemonster

      Thank you. 🙂

  • You rock. I dig that song.

    • cutemonster

      Thank you sir.  

  • Great song…and I love hearing the perspective from a man’s point of view. So much we, women, take for granted. Especially from amazing dads. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

    • cutemonster

      Thank you for your kind words and perspective Carol. If more Moms and Dads would simply talk to each other about their internal struggles, maybe they could draw strength from one another.

  • David Ozab

    I’m a musician by training and recorded a lot before my daughter was born, including a lot of loop-based electronica in Garage Band. Since she was born, I haven’t had the time. Instead, I’ve been writing about being a Dad and about my daughter’s cleft and apraxia of speech. Something I never imagined before a became a parent, but parenting changes you in so many ways. Great tune. All the best!

    • cutemonster

      Thanks for stopping by David and thanks for listening to the song. Being a parent definitely changes us. I suspect your music production will continue again at some point only this time you’ll have more life experience in every note. Best of luck to you and your family.