On Fatherhood

I’ve been planning to write this text for so long. I really want it to be perfect, which probably reflects my attitude towards parenting. Maybe this is due to my own personal history or to my paradigmatic ideas about life or perhaps something else. It doesn’t matter, the feeling is the same: I was born to do this, I was born to be a father.

Alas, the perfect writing opportunity and the ideal text will never come, and I’ll never mangle all the ideas I have in any coherent form. In a sense, this is an excellent metaphor for the last year: trying to cope with everything in a sane daily life within the insanity of being a first-time parent. So, I decided to forget about copy and structure: I’ll dump everything as it comes along.

The always upbeat soundtrack of your life.

In the first few months, it’s like there’s an upbeat soundtrack constantly playing every day all days. Like in a montage from a comedy movie. Everything is… happiness. This was particularly true in the first month. Primarily until the first significant problem with my son (7 days in the hospital). You know that feeling that everything is as it should be? “_Everything in its right place_”. You wake up with a gigantic smile on your face, even after sleeping only a few hours. You see everyone under a new light, you face every challenge with renewed energy… it’s awesome. I admit it. This “upbeat” haze is wearing off now. But it’s still there when I’m careful enough to look for it, ready to put a smile on my face.

Fatherhood vs Motherhood

We took some preparing courses in the months before our due date. It’s great to know beforehand what’s about to come, especially what can happen in the delivery room. As always, my _plan ahead_ and _be prepared_ motto to come to mind. It was in these short courses (practical with exercises, theoretical, with nurses, with psychologists…) and in the actual birth date that I gain a whole new level of respect for my wife. And for all women in general. Giving birth to a human being is incredible. The months have gone by, but I’m still amazed at how wonderful we are and how incredible it is to carry a child and bringing him/her to this world. It is stunning. And women play the key role in everything.

No matter how hard men try, women will always have a more significant responsibility. And this responsibility results in a dreadful load of challenges. The only thing men can do is, literally, to try and make the mums-to-be as comfortable as possible. During pregnancy and especially during labour. And it’s not that men aren’t capable of taking care of newborns by themselves, it’s just the simple fact that women are designed that way. They will suffer more and, consequently, have to endure much more than men (and don’t get me started on returning to their jobs or finding new ones…). Whether we’re talking about all those hours in labour or the actual housework when at home, women have to deal with more significant challenges. And they have my utmost respect.

Do it. No, seriously, do it!

Don’t think someday you’ll be more prepared, that you cannot financially cope with a child, that the timing is not right because of some family restriction, that you still have plenty stuff to experience by yourself… Once you hold your newborn child in your arms, I’m pretty sure you will rise to the challenges ahead and wonder why you haven’t done it sooner.

Of course, there are difficult times ahead. Raising a child in this day and age is not trivial. A newborn’s financial weight is enormous. There are lots of initial expenses, from the baby’s room to the trolley. Then there are the fixed expenses: daycare, diapers, paediatrician appointments, etc.

And at last all the variable costs… that cute outfit, a toy for when he’s 3 months, another toy for when’s 6 months, more toys when he’s 9 months… It’s a neverending nightmare of expenses. Yet, and I must reinforce this, it is totally worth it. You may fall asleep thinking about how you’ll manage to pay everything this month, but when you wake up and see the most innocent and real smile one your baby’s face when he sees you… it all goes away…

Then there are all the logistics changes. I didn’t imagine I had to pack so much stuff just for a weekend away. Nor did I ever thought that I would be late for almost everything for the past 6 months: there’s always another diaper change or something we forgot. And in spite of being just a small baby, there’s so much stuff to take care of. We can’t only wake up, eat breakfast and leave to work. There are days where we go home almost 2 hours after waking up. Fortunately, we’re now, finally, finding our own pace.

And at last, the daily life changes. In our particular case, the grandparents are far away. I think there are some situations where it would be so much easier if they were right around the corner. Having to cook dinner after a tiring day at work. Being in meetings outside the daily work hours. Going out for drinks or dinner with friends. Going for a run or to the gym. These (small) events, meaningless before having our son, now need careful planning.

It is worth it!

Despite having almost 9 months to prepare myself for the incoming changes, I couldn’t foresee how much things would really change in a single day. Or better, in a matter of moments, from getting to the hospital to holding your newborn in your arms. The world changes in an instant. And trust me, it is beautiful.

Pedro Lopes
Aveiro, Portugal