Recently — like a trimester ago — my wife and I discovered that she’s pregnant.
(I know people say “we’re pregnant,” but hey — credit where credit’s due.)
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of the initial surprise, happiness, terror, happiness again, sleepiness, happiness a third time, and happy-terror.
It’s a lot to take in, and my wife and I have been enjoying it. We’re fortunate in that we have an incredible support network of friends and family.
We’ve also interacted with coworkers and a lot of people who we’ve never seen before.
We’ve met new people, called up old friends, and done everything in between.
In that time, this is what I’ve learned.
#1. Everything Is about the Kid (and That’s Good)
Before learning about our impending spawn, the biggest life change I’ve ever experienced was going from caring about myself to caring about my wife.
Then, the biggest change was caring for someone who I haven’t met yet (and won’t until December).
The strangest part about it all was how quickly it happened. When I learned that my wife was pregnant, it felt like someone flipped a switch in my head.
All of the stresses of life evaporated. There were no more bad days. Everything just seemed brighter.
I was also terrified. I have no idea what I’m doing in about 95% of life, despite the fact that I went to college.
Or maybe because I went to college. Who knows?
But it’s not a terror that kept me from being hopeful or optimistic about the future.
It did make me start thinking about how much money to put away in the event our upcoming child decided to go to college.
Still, all I knew (and still know) for certain is that I was going to do everything I could to make the child’s life awesome.
And about a month after I was riding high on this idea, I ran into the first irritating part of learning you’re going to be a dad.
#2. Everyone Thinks You’re a Babysitter-in-Waiting
Let’s get something straight — dads are parents.
They’re not babysitters. They’re not bystanders. They’re not observers.
If you happen to be a guy who thinks that having a kid means that your counterpart does all the work while you get “nights out” every week and you high-five your kids on the weekend, you’re an idiot.
Granted, I’m new to this. My opinions on fatherhood are going to be naive because I’m not an actual dad yet — I’m just anticipating what life will be like after my son is born.
That’s not possible to anticipate because I’ve never experienced it before.
But this is why, to me, dads are parents — not babysitters.
Fatherhood means taking part in a life that you care so much about, you’re willing to pause or halt your own aspirations.
It means realizing that your future is going to be busy and crowded, so you enjoy the quiet while you can and anticipate the chaos to the best of your ability.
It means not spending money on one or two things you want every week so you know you’ll be able to pay delivery bills.
Most importantly, it means being present.
History is riddled with examples of what happens when a father or father-like figure isn’t in the picture for a child.
Sure, there’s no guaranteed formula for raising a kid to be successful. Some ambitious individuals may even grow to incredible heights of success without fatherly guidance.
But why wouldn’t you want to be with your child? Whether they’re biologically related to you or you adopt, you’re pledging a life in service of another, even when you have to be a disciplinarian.
You have to be protective enough to keep someone safe. You have to let go enough to let someone make their own mistakes.
You have to be supportive enough to help someone stand on their own feet. You have to withdraw enough for them to learn how to take care of themselves.
Fatherhood — and parenthood in general — is a balance of actions and intentions, any of which could make a lifelong impact on a child.
So the next time you hear someone say the phrase “daddy bootcamp” or “daddy daycare,” picture them running a 100 yard dash in a 90 yard gym and have yourself a smile.
You’ve earned it.
#3. Everyone’s Legitimately Happy for You
While the snark and surprisingly-negative jokes about parenthood only increase over time, it surprised me how happy everyone was for my wife and I when we broke the news.
Family, friends, coworkers, strangers — the relationship didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was unanimously stoked that there was a baby on the way and half of its DNA came from me.
It’s an incredible feeling, and it’s one that I sadly think many people don’t get to experience for any number of reasons.
But when someone is happy for you, it does more than fill that tank of self-satisfaction that’s in all of our brains.
It genuinely restored my faith in humanity every time it happened. We can all be so different, but here, among total strangers, we can come together and be happy about something.
I feel like there’s a crazy-high risk of that happiness evaporating the minute anyone starts talking about how to raise the impending baby, but that’s why the conversation is general.
There’s a new person coming into the world.
You’d be crazy not to be excited.
#4. Everyone Gradually Starts Calling You “Dad”
I noticed a lot of people starting to jokingly call me “dad” after my wife and I broke the news.
Needless to say, it’s weird.
I still don’t see myself as a dad — though I’ve had a dad bod since my mid-20s — but that’s what’s happening.
I feel like I should have impressive facial hair and strong opinions about scotch, but I really don’t.
I also don’t have a corncob pipe, I’m bad at changing tires, and I was once confused on my birthday for being less than half the age I was at the time.
(24 was weird.)
So hearing “dad” just feels… wrong in some way.
Naturally, I can’t pinpoint why. The title is technically true for me, or at least it will be in December.
But maybe it’s something that comes in time.
Or maybe I’ll be confused for a 16-year-old in 2021.
#5. Everything Continues Getting Better
I think this discovery is more a symptom of my age than anything else.
Since my wife and I discovered the avocado-sized person that hangs out with her 24/7 via an intense physical connection, life has continued getting better.
Even on bad days, she and I always have the ability to come home and smile about what’s coming.
We have a nursery to create. We have cribs to buy. We have liquor cabinets to lock.
But somehow, all this work just seems fun. It’s something that she and I get to do as a family, even before our family is here.
So as a Millennial, it’s true that the housing market is unstable, every government conspiracy about eavesdropping has come true, Facebook listens to you through your phone to deliver ads to your face, Russia looms on the horizon of global politics like the bloodthirsty bear that it is, nuclear disarmament has suddenly become blase for world powers, the planet is in the midst of a runaway greenhouse effect that threatens the very fundamentals of water-dependent lifeforms, Twitter exists, the generations above us continually blame Millennials for everything from war to the temperature of their coffee, universities run like businesses instead of institutions of higher education, we’re the first generation to be worse off than our parents since the 1700s, and the American political system is rigged to an extreme.
But hey — I’m having a son.
Everything else can wait.