Society needs to work on its fatherhood pitch. Currently, the approach is to blast baby-shy guys with a double-barreled shot of uplift. Movies like Knocked Up show reluctant dudes being overcome with emotion upon seeing their child for the first time, articles promise every baby smile will fill you with a love purer than anything you've felt before, and well-meaning dads wax poetic about how passing on their genes has indescribably changed their lives.
It can all be a bit much for guys like me who are more, uh ... frugal with their feelings. But don't worry, my first child was born last year, and I can assure you that there are plenty of dumb, unsentimental, frankly kinda selfish reasons for taking the procreation plunge. Like ...
Becoming a father is a big responsibility. You need to make sure your kid doesn't, y'know, die, and support your partner, but on the flip side, you can basically tell everybody outside your cozy new family unit to take a flying leap. "Want to attend my boring thing?" "Hmmm, I'd love to, but baby." "Can you work late?" "Sorry, no. Baby." "Can you help me move?" "Haha ... oh, seriously? No, baby."
Soon, most reasonable people won't even bother asking for stuff, because they know what the answer will be. You won't even feel bad for flaking out. All those little nuggets of guilt you used to haul around in a sack on your back go straight out the ol' window. Sorry, but there's a tiny person who can't control their limbs yet depending on me. I'll consider feeling bad about brushing you off once they hit preschool.
Unconditional love is great and all, but an underrated aspect of the dad thing is that your baby will also unconditionally think you're rad. If you're on the nerdier side, this can be kind of mind-blowing. There's now a person who literally thinks you're the coolest human being on the planet. Well, you might be second to mom, but does she have your peekaboo skills? Or know all the words and dance moves to Shake Your Rattle (your baby-friendly Shake Your Booty parody that your baby doesn't know would be considered shameful by adult society)? I think not.
Trust me, shambling into the nursery in your shittiest old shirt after pulling a late-nighter and having the baby react like the Rock just parachuted into the room is a special kind of ego boost. This, by the way, is also why all new dads immediately gain 20 pounds. "Maybe I shouldn't have eaten that fifth slice of pizza, but hey, the baby still approves of everything I do, so ... maybe a sixth?"
I realize this won't last. As soon as the kid is old enough to actually understand my jokes, I'm doomed, but until that time, I am one self-satisfied fatso.
Men get a lot of breaks. There's no debating this. The most difficult thing I faced when my son was being born was not knowing which side of the hospital bed to sit on. I had to move, like, three or four times. It was slightly awkward hell! That said, dudedom isn't without a few token downsides -- like, for instance, everybody you run into assuming you're an asshole.
If you're a guy, other people (women and men both) are a little less likely to approach you or respond to a greeting or a request for help. I'm not sure that I've ever had a strange guy approach me in public and not thought, "Jesus, what does this dipshit want?" It's just a baseline cultural assumption, because there is an unspoken level of danger there -- as a guy, you are an asshole until you prove otherwise. It's not entirely unjustified, but it can wear on you at you at times.
Ah, but everything changes when you have your kid with you. Strap on that baby carrier or get behind the stroller, and you're shielded. This adorable child you selflessly helped bring into this world is willing to vouch for you! And really, who's going to doubt their endorsement? Suddenly, service and retail staff are friendlier, people on the street want to talk to you, and those in-laws who have been side-eyeing you for the past decade finally start to defrost. It's wild, man. Of course, the baby shielding won't help if you act like an asshole, so don't squander it.
#Adulting, amirite? We've all felt that existential 20-something angst and wondered when we'll finally feel comfortable in our increasingly saggy grownup bodies. Is adulthood an illusion? Did our parents ever know what the hell they were doing? Is life really just high school until the day you die?
Well, yes and no. Most of the time they were still winging it, but they had the adult self-assurance to blunder ahead without constantly second-guessing themselves. Having you and your siblings was their adult switch.
The sooner you have kids, the sooner you get to flip said switch. It's why your grandpa immigrated to the U.S., started his own business, and built his own house by the time he was 25, and at that point, most of us have only accumulated a pretty nice Xbox GamerScore. The impostor syndrome finally fades, you gain the confidence to take on all sorts of new challenges, and NCIS reruns are suddenly a lot more entertaining.
Don't worry, though, you don't have to be an adult all the time. One of the joys of being a new parent is dragging all your old toys, books, and video games out of your mom's basement for another generation of fun. Yeah, at first your baby's ability to interact with things is limited to "bang it on the table and/or jam it in their mouth," but you can help broaden their horizons by showing them how the toys work. For hours on end. "Also, better play through all those old NES and Sega Genesis games again to make sure they're still appropriate for kids. It's the responsible thing to do."
Oh, and have you been to a toy store recently? The stuff they're making for kids now beats the shit out of the junk we used to play with. Educational stuff that's actually fun, remote-control craziness of all kinds, Nerf guns and Super Soakers that look like something out of Doom. Hopefully, my kid doesn't end up wanting to be a doctor, because I'm pretty sure I'm going to spend his college fund at the Lego Store. Sorry kiddo, I love you too much for you not to have the 6,000-piece Hogwarts Castle set.
Making friends beyond about your mid-20s is tough. High school and high school+ (aka college) is behind you, and who has the energy for social activities and hobbies that aren't watching Netflix? You could try to make friends through work, but come on, that's just depressing. Having kids is pretty much your last chance to meet new people until you shuffle off to the retirement home.
Prenatal classes, Baby Rhyme Time, new dad meetup groups -- there's a whole array of baby-related activities going on all the time, and the folks who attend them are all desperate to talk to somebody who can relate to their crazy-ass new parent ordeals. Bond over exciting tales of teething, bonked heads, and baby barf! And hey, it's not like raising kids ever really gets less insane, so the opportunity exists to make some real long-term connections.
Now, to be clear, babies aren't easy. They're stressful, exhausting, and I swear that sometimes they intentionally worry you just for laughs. Adorable evil baby laughs. Don't go getting your rut on just because a half-cocked comedy article told you kids are good. That said, if you've ever talked yourself out of the notion because you're "too selfish," I'm here to tell you not to sweat it. When you've got your kid in your arms, you can both be at the center of the world.
There's a difference between being a dad and being a *good* dad, so it's still probably a good idea to pick up a copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting. Plenty of dad advice in there too.
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