Being a dad is more than just providing the genetics to create a baby. There is more involved than just giving cards on birthdays and posing for pictures with a smile on your face. Some might even argue (and we talk about it more below) that there’s a huge difference between being a father, and being a dad.
What does it mean to become a dad? You’ve had a baby, but now what? You might need a new car? Time to invest in some babyproofing items and learn how to change a diaper?
Yeah, those things are important. But that’s not everything. You're now a parent. Someone who has the potential to influence and shape another human being for the rest of their life. Not to put a ton of pressure on you or anything, but it's a pretty important job!
Here’s what we think it means to become a dad. What would you add to the list?
7 You're Now on a Team
Having a child with someone immediately connects you to that person for the rest of your life – like it or not. Whether or not you are in a relationship does not matter, you and this person created a new life together – a new person who will grow up and continue on the cycle (if he or she has kids). Even if you decided to give the baby up for adoption, you’re connected.
A baby comes with a lot of responsibilities. Diaper changes, feedings (if mom is breastfeeding, she still might choose to have a break once in a while and pump for you to feed baby), late-night baby meltdowns that seem to happen for no apparent reason, teething, tantrums, potty training, you name it. The list goes on and on and … you get it.
You have to think of parenting as a partnership. As much as mom may wind up handling a lot of the child responsibilities, especially if she stays home, one person should not be responsible for all aspects of all tasks required to keep a kid healthy, clean, fed and happy. This can also be said for you, dad. If you're home all day, you shouldn’t be expected to handle everything for your child 24/7, either.
Working together to raise a family creates harmony for your children and your marriage
The other side of being on a team like this is that you always have someone else you can rely on to help get you through the stressful times.
- Baby is sick with a fever of 104? You have someone who can help keep you calm.
- Diaper blow-out in the middle of the grocery store? One of you finishes getting the food, the other handles the poop-splosion.
- Dealing with a three-year-old who throws a tantrum every 20 minutes? You have someone to trade-off handling those meltdowns.
- Wild baby who thinks the middle of the night is party time? You can take turns partying with baby and going to bed.
That’s the great thing about having a partner when you have a baby. You have a teammate. Someone you can commiserate with through the rough times, but also smile at and laugh with through all of the good times.
6 There’s a Difference Between “Father” and “Dad”
All of us have a father.
Biologically speaking, it is a given that the man who provides the sperm to conceive a baby is the father. For some, those fathers go on in life to never truly know their children for any particular reason, whether it is because of a sperm donation or a one-night stand, or even choosing not to stay involved in their child’s life.
There are men out there who have never had a child of their own, again, biologically speaking, but they serve as “dad” to a child, or children. They are present for all of the important things in the child’s life, even though they may not be related through blood.
There are children out there who never knew the man who is their biological father, but know another man in their life to be their dad. This person could be an adoptive dad who married the child’s mother, a grandfather who has been fulfilling the duties of a dad, or even a family friend who can be a positive male figure in a child’s life.
A dad has an active and important role in the life of his children
You see, sometimes, it does not matter who was involved in actually conceiving the baby. While that person is certainly important to the process, what really matters is who has been there through the child’s life to love, support, comfort and play. A dad:
- Makes airplane noises to get his baby to eat pureed green beans
- Doesn’t mind a little spit-up on his shirt
- Will adjust his schedule to make it to daycare pick-up
- Teaches his child how to ride a bike
- Cheers on his kid from the sidelines
- Wipes away tears caused by a broken heart
So when your baby is born, consider these things. Remember that you’re not only now a father, but you have started the journey of becoming a dad. It seems that this journey doesn’t end; there are lessons to be learned through time. Consider the type of relationship you have with your dad, if you have a dad in your life. How do you want to be like him? What would you change?
5 You're Not a Babysitter
Momma might need to head out for the evening for an event, or maybe she just wants to go get her nails done alone. We don’t know if you are aware of this, but when she is out, she will probably be asked, “who’s watching the baby?!” in an almost accusatory, concerned tone by some sort of an elder.
When she replies, “oh, they’re home with daddy!” or something similar to that, the aforementioned elder will reply with something else along the lines of, “aww, daddy is babysitting.”
We don’t quite understand why daddy being home with the kids means he is a babysitter, but mom being home with the kids is exactly that – mom is home with the kids. What is the difference? You are both parents. You both help to raise your children. You both put in your fair share of time spent with the kids. It’s kind of an old fashioned mindset, no? Isn’t a babysitter someone who gets paid for watching your kids?
Why is it that when mom is home with the kids, she isn’t babysitting?
Some dads might actually take offense to this way of thinking, and we don’t blame them. We also know that moms get a little fired up when they hear it, too. A babysitter and a parent are two completely different things. Merriam-Webster defines a babysitter as someone who “cares for a child while the parents are away.”
- Being a dad is a full-time job, even if he already has a full-time job outside of the house, just like mom can.
- Dads are not typically paid for staying home with the kids (not paid in cash, at least – wink wink, nudge nudge).
On the other side of it, we know that some moms might feel like they are leaving the kids with a babysitter when they stay home with dad, if it isn’t something that happens that often. Mom might need to prep bottles before she leaves, write out detailed notes about how to handle dinner, baths and bedtime. If this is the case, maybe that means it is time to do a better job of dividing and conquering on a regular basis.
Mom might need to delegate more, but dad might also need to volunteer himself up to handle more things, too.
4 You Set an Example
You know those videos that your friend shared that have gone viral of the little kid yelling out some sort of an obscenity in the right context? We know, it’s kind of hysterical to hear a bad word shouted by a squeaky voice, but how would you feel if it were your kid? Sure, it might be cute at first, but as soon as you laugh at it, it becomes something your child will probably continue to do.
Well, let’s just say that little guy or gal didn’t just come up with that saying on his or her own. Not to point a finger or anything, but the kid probably learned it from mom and or dad.
Children are like sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear, even while they are babies. In moments when you least expect your sweet child to be paying attention to what you are saying, they’ll ask you, “what’s a shit head?” after you just muttered that the driver who cut you off, is actually the one you are referring to.
Your mini-me is watching our every move and learning how to navigate life through your actions
Behavior, unless a result of a condition diagnosed by a doctor, is typically learned. If you use a lot of, well, colorful language around your child, you can expect to begin hearing him or her using it, too, and probably sooner than you think. The same thing goes for the way your child handles situations. If you are the type to quickly spout off at someone who may have upset you, you can’t be surprised when your child does the same to you.
The way you act around your child is setting an important example for him or her as they grow up. We will give you credit and assume you know common manners, but here are some specific examples of places to start:
- Say “thank you” to people who deserved to be thanked – even your kid!
- Hold the door for the people behind you.
- Share with your child.
- Try to limit your use of the “bad words” for times when little one isn’t around.
- Apologize to your child when you know you are wrong.
- Don’t follow “do as I say, not as I do” if you “do” what your child should not be doing.
3 Little Things Will Excite You
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is quite a remarkable experience, if you allow it to be. Everything is new to them, and as they age and mature, they being to notice things that you probably see as second nature. You’ve become used to the small things in life, and maybe take them for granted now.
One day, your little one might point to a leaf that has changed color for autumn, excited by its vibrant new look. “Pretty!” he or she might exclaim. And you take a minute to really look at it, realizing that yes, it is pretty.
Or imagine the first time you take your baby to the beach, and he or she gets to feel sand on his or her toes for the first time and listen to the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. Do you remember the first time you experienced these things? It’s thrilling for them, and seeing them experience new things in life will be just as thrilling for you.
You'll be so proud of your children when you watch them grow up and delight in their triumphs
With parenting, you will also find there are little things that happen with your child that excite you, too. Things that, pre-parenthood, you never suspected would cause such a reaction.
- You’ll never appreciate a burp or a fart until you’ve been up for hours with a gassy baby. You might even applaud.
- The first time your little one does – well – anything will be cause for photo opportunities and spamming your friends’ news feeds.
- One day, you’ll be served some sort of imaginary meal. And you will probably gobble it up. Guess what? It will be delicious.
- If you lose the favorite pacifier, then learn your local baby store has a sale on them, you will probably go crazy buying a full supply of them to avoid this from happening in the future.
- The last time you have to buy diapers will be bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, though, come on.
You might surprise yourself one day, as you celebrate all of these seemingly small moments. As time goes on, though, you might realize that those smaller moments turn out to be some of the best memories you have.
2 Playtime is Allowed
Remember when you started to feel “too cool” to participate in something that was meant for “little kids”? Maybe you hit a point where a certain show was just too young for you, the kids on your street stopped playing hide & seek, or maybe you gave up coloring once you hit junior high. Let’s be honest here. You are never too old to do any of those things.
You were feeling like you should act a specific way or someone else made fun of you for something – so you gave it up.
And then you went through your teenage years trying to be cool, and maybe entered college and reverted a bit since everyone was just trying to have fun. But the truly exciting times begin when you have a baby.
Don't forget the fun, your kids want to play with you too
After you get past sleepless nights (or you are still enduring them – more power to you), diaper blowouts and bottles, you enter toddlerhood. While there are many things about the toddler years that can easily give this period in time a bad rap, we think the best part is that you start to play again. And it just continues to get better as the kid gets older.
- Finally, you can pretend you are putting out fires again!
- Don’t worry about those monsters, your super blaster will make them go away!
- Coloring in the lines? Psh, who does that?
- Sitting down for an afternoon tea? Be sure to invite Mr. Snuggles and Fuzzy McFuzzkins (or whatever the crazy names your child has come up with).
We’ve gone over how parenting can be hard and exhausting, making you feel like you barely have enough energy to lift a finger. We know there are many sob stories to be told as a result of someone melting down at the most inappropriate and inconvenient time. What makes it all better are those times when you just get to relax, hang out and play.
Play with your kids. Often. Try not to micromanage them in the process. Let them lead the game, and you will be amazed at what their imaginations can come up with at such a small age.
1 You’re Now Someone’s #Fan
Did you play a sport? Maybe some tee-ball as a kid, hockey, or pee-wee soccer (aka Magnet Ball)? Perhaps you tried martial arts and donned a gi that didn’t stay white past your first lesson. Or, you played an instrument because you dreamed of being a rock star.
Did you continue on with those sports or activities? Maybe you stopped after a few months, or played up until you graduated high school. Maybe, you still play them as an adult (if so, way to go!).
While you may have many memories of learning new things while making new friends and having fun, you might also hold a special spot in your mind for those who were there to support you through it all, like Dad, Mom, Granny, or Aunt Sue. Those were the people who you knew would always come to cheer on the sidelines, give a standing ovation, or even just pat you on the back and tell you that you will do better next time.
It's important for your children to feel like you're proud of them
Eventually, as life goes on, the tables turn and you become the adult bringing your child to his or first practice, class or session. Those first days turn into weekly routines of balancing work, dinner, homework, bedtime, laundry, dishes, etc. It can almost become a chore for you to make sure you are managing everything properly.
When this time comes, and life gets monotonous, remember those people who made you feel important, and the impact that had on your confidence as a child.
You, along with mom and whoever else, are now your child’s #1 fan.
- You’re the person who can ease a nervous tummy with a smile and thumbs up.
- You’re the one he or she will look to after they make their first goal.
- You’re the one who will be searched for within the audience from backstage before a dance recital.
- You’re the one who will carry him or her off the field when they get injured.
It is exciting to envision life with kids, imagining what kind of activities they will be involved in. While you fantasize about those moments, remember how important you are to your child. And that you’re helping to form memories that will last your child’s lifetime.