Saturday, January 11, 2014

The early answer to "Do you feel like a dad?"

Now that we have the baby some people have asked me if I feel like a father. I tend to respond that I've not been through this before so I'm not sure how it's supposed to feel. Being that it was only a few weeks ago I was still an expectant father, it's still pretty early in the life-long role of being a father; the full extent of how my life will change hasn't really kicked in yet. I mean, look at what I'm doing right this second: ruminating on a topic of my own choosing. That's the same thing I've done for years. Sure, the topic is driven by the circumstances of having a child, but I'm not approaching it from a completely different mindset than the way I approached topics over the years. In short, I don't feel utterly transformed.

Frankly, if I did I'd suspect it was more an affectation than a genuine metamorphosis; it would be convincing myself something was more than it was (at this point) because of a perception of what people expect.

Don't get me wrong: I already love my new son very much, and he's an amazing, precious gift. Still, at this stage of his development he's this little person who can't yet even smile to indicate happiness. He is absolutely adorable, of course (and only slightly less so when he's crying), but his personality is still undeveloped, and as such I don't feel like I'm to the point of having the full dad experience. I can change his diapers or swaddle him (thanks to blankets with Velcro) or try to sooth him by rocking him in my arms, and there are moments where we connect, but at other times in his eyes I get the impression I'm the one without breasts.

That's not a complaint or lamentation; it's merely what I perceive his cognitive abilities to be. He hasn't even been out of the womb for a month; there's only so much anyone could be expected to grasp when a little over 10 months ago he was microscopic. Not that the novelty of his newness has worn off, and not that it isn't wonderful, but the larger aspects of what I'd think "being a dad" entail (providing, protecting, guiding, disciplining, entertaining, etc.) don't yet really come into play. (Yes, I help put a roof over his head, but it's not like he needs much at this point; all his food comes out of mommy not out of what I can buy at the store.)

Now that I've returned to work (my wife having her mom staying with us to offer some assistance) it's pretty much as it was before the baby came. I do make a specific effort to leave the office as soon as I can to get home as early as possible (excited to get home to see the family) rather than sticking around to finish up a task, but that's perhaps partially because we're not under the pressure to try to get projects wrapped up before the year-end (so I don't have the same looming deadlines I did in December). From the point where I leave in the morning until I return in the evening things at work (and with my commute) are pretty much as they were back before I was a dad. I still like all the same TV shows and music, etc., I did before. My house isn't overwhelmed by toys. Sure, there's some being awoken in the night, and there's wiping poo from my son's bottom, and that sort of thing, but that seem more performing necessary tasks than molding a person.

I don't know if I'm supposed to be doing more at this phase or if until he develops more being a dad simply is attending to soothing and diaper-changing and trying to buy mommy a few minutes before she has to feed him—but if so, none of that is anything my wife or my mother-in-law or pretty much any competent individual couldn't do.

So, yes, I am a dad, but whether I'm in a position yet to really feel like it… I don't know.

Maybe that's what feeling like a dad of a newborn is.


I think the real challenge here is not so much whether I'm involved with my son's young life (I am) but me not really having a specific idea what "feeling like a dad" would be specifically to be able to say how much what I'm experiencing fits with that.

Apparently in the lead-up to being a father I was supposed to be ruminating on what that was supposed to feel like. No one mentioned that.


  1. Congrats on the new addition to the family.

    As for feeling like a dad, wait until this question arises:

    "Dad, can I borrow the car?"

    1. Thanks, Ray. Luckily we won't be facing that query for a while.


So, what do you think?