When you’re expecting, things change. They change hard.
There’s the obvious stuff. The stuff you can see. Like your partner’s belly. Maybe you’re developing some belly of your own. You might paint a room. You may consider a new car. A bigger place. That stuff is normal. That’s to be expected.
What I didn’t expect was the mental change. This new inner voice that’s appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
I reach for my phone. “Cole, I think you’re spending too much time online.”
I reach for another slice of pizza. “Cole, you should really consider eating more vegetables.”
A swear word slips out. “And you consider yourself a role model?”
Annoying, right? This little turd of a voice just showed up one day and hasn’t left. I’m starting to think it never will. And however irritating, maybe that’s a good thing.
Knowing a child’s life will totally and irreversibly become my responsibility is something I don’t think I’ve fully grasped. But already it’s pushed me to be better. A better human, a better husband, a better father. Because to me fatherhood begins the moment that positive pregnancy test is dropped in your lap. You can run from your job, from your relationship, or just about anything else. But once a father, always a father. Even if you run. You’re just an absent father. A shitty father.
“Cole, you really shouldn’t swear so much.”
I think pre-father fatherhood starts with preparation. Sure, assembling Ikea baby furniture is one way to prepare. But perhaps more importantly is preparation that comes from within. From self-analysis and refinement. From examining your life and asking, “Is this the best I can do?”
I’ve recently done a bit of this. The following is an admittedly incomplete list of things that could use tweaking in my own life.
Cutting out the Internet.
First, a few facts:
- The average person checks their phone 150 times a day
- The average US citizen spends 32 hours a month online
- 70% of children think their parents spend too much time on their electronic devices
For B and I, this will be the biggest, perhaps most difficult adjustment. No doubt we spend too much time on our devices, border-lining addiction. If B and I stand any chance at limiting our child’s screen time, we’ll need to set an example.
Various studies indicate early and/or excessive electronic usage leads to slower development both socially and cognitively in children. Even the biggest techies in the world, including Steve Jobs, set strict limitations on their children’s device usage (Jobs claimed his children never used an iPad). I’d be the first to point out technological fluency in today’s age is necessary and as essential as learning to write by hand. But everything in moderation, and it seems regulated usage is the way to go for both child and parent. The most difficult part might be controlling the latter.
Eating scheduled, homemade meals.
Not unrelated to internet usage and the modern age is the challenge of eating regular meals. Like those Normal Rockwell sit-down home-cooked kind of meals. With B working night shift, it makes the task even harder. But with some effort, it’s definitely possible. And if any extra motivation is needed, we can look to the studies. Eating together regularly leads to better eating habits, less chance of obesity and substance abuse, and provides an environment where kids can learn to conduct conversations, express how they’re feeling, reflect on their day, observe good manners, serve others, listen, solve conflicts and compromise. How much more motivation do we need?
Should I buy a gun?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Seriously? If I’m being truthful, yes, it was a thought I had. This is that new voice I was telling you about. I’d never considered anything like this before. I doubt if I’ll ever own one, but that whole male protector instinct ain’t a joke. And I hear it only comes on stronger once the baby is born. Security is subjective and it’s a fully-leaded, hot-button type of topic I tend to avoid in public conversation. But let’s just say it’s a something I’ve started to think seriously about.
Between work and household duties, my time already seems so limited. I can only imagine what happens when the child is born. The word on the street is your life is irreversibly changed. So it would seem if you stand any chance at sanity, prioritizing and time management is crucial. I’m not sure how this will play out until our child is born, but it’s part of my battle plan and I’ve already made efforts to maximize my time. Surely cutting out some of that zombie-like internet usage will help with this.
Change is unavoidable during pregnancy. Obviously, women carry the biggest load in this regard (pun intended). Perhaps this overshadows some of the changes occurring in men. Or maybe we don’t talk about them enough. Or maybe we need to acknowledge them more, if only to ourselves. Because you can run from that new little voice in your head pushing you to be a better prepared father and role model. But taking the opportunity to examine and improve your life seems like the more responsible approach. The approach that will give you a fighting chance at being the father you always imagined yourself to be. The approach that just might shut that new, nagging inner voice up, at least for a little while.
“Hey, now. Watch it.”