I often get asked "How can someone know that they are ready to become a dad?". (Seriously, I was asked this just the other day on national TV)
The short answer is that you can't know that you are ready. You just have to have faith that when the time comes, you will be.
The longer answer is actually a question: Are you ready for the how your world and you as a person will fundamentally change when you become a dad?
That got me thinking about how I have changed since becoming a dad, and if other dads have had similar experiences. So I asked some dad friends of mine what their answers are, and here's what they said:
The first way I changed as a dad was to take the focus off my own needs and focusing it on what my son needed and also what Laura needed as this new mom at the time. The overwhelming need to serve them and provide for them was like some weird primal instinct that kicked in!
Having grown up seeing myself as a dad one day, I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Also fatherhood grows on me. I (dad in a “husband/wife” relationship) had little to do early on except love and support my partner, but then as the boys get older, I have needed to get stuck in with parenting. If I had to find one thing that I think has changed me, it is the awareness of how short a time we have with them as they go through the early phases of life. Time goes so fast and I know that it will be a few short years before they are in their late teens and making plans to leave home.
As a journalist, my approach to news changed. I would look at news items through different eyes, especially when it involved children. I became conscious of how children were being portrayed in the mainstream media and the need to protect their rights. I would ask myself: what if it is my child being reported on.
At its most superficial level, becoming a Dad has changed my TV viewing habits. I can’t do gritty crime series such as Criminal Minds or Broadchurch anymore, which my wife and I used to binge-watch throughout all three of her pregnancies. The victims in these shows are always young women, and I can’t handle the wrenching, knuckle-chewing empathy of a parent losing a child. But this reflects a much more profound change in viewing habits. It is no longer "Craig Bishop happening rather glamorously to The World", but rather "The World happening to three beautiful, innocent souls", with Craig Bishop being at best an ephemeral field guide, and at worst a fading sepia photograph.
Yeah, I know some insightful dads!
I think the biggest change for me is reflected in all four answers above: my perspectives became wider. I think that's because everything we do and think suddenly has a broader effect on the world - we know how crucial our role is to help this little ones become functioning and well-developed people, who may go on to raise their own children.
It's heady stuff, and can make you feel dizzy if you think about it for too long.
For me, all the other changes grow out of that idea. It means we have less time to do the things that made us interesting to everyone but our kids, or that we are unable to persue careers that aren't family-friendly, or that our social lives takes a knock, or that we can't be the jetsetters we dreamed of. Like Craig said, it can even mean not being able to watch the intense shows you used to watch because you can't help but image it's your children in those terrible situations.
What I found interesting about all the answers I received was that none of them mentioned the word sacrifice, which something I expected to hear from a bunch of dads. No one was complaining, or wishing for the good old pre-child days. These are answers from men who are happy about these changes - because the changes were part and parcel with the most wonderful of gifts: