Me vs "That Dad"

October 19, 2010 in Fatherhood Insights  

Me vs "That Dad"

I never thought I would hate weekends. I never thought I would like being at work more than being at home and I certainly thought I would love my family a lot more than I did.

That’s the brutal truth of how I felt as a new father. When Jenn was prego, I was told I would just have this innate abundance of love for my brand new kid and even more so because they were twins. Boy and girl, how perfect. But when it happened, I realized I was a monster. I felt like a monster because I wasn’t “that dad.” You know what I mean, “that dad.”

“That dad” loves the term co-parenting and says things like “we’re pregnant!” all chipper and glowy.

This Wasn’t The Plan

Before the kids, before the girlfriend, my whole plan was to be Cool Uncle Jeremy. “My Uncle lives on the West Coast and has a loft apartment downtown… and he hangs out with bands! Like, the music guys!!” That’s what I aspired to be; that’s how I wanted my niece and nephew to refer to me. Instead, I became the guy in LA in a garage band who got his girlfriend pregnant, with twins (that’s 2 babies, not 1, twice more than 1), and was having a seriously hard time trying to be “that dad.”

I Didn’t Know What To Think

When the twins came I was supposed to feel this soul-opening love, but I didn’t know what to think. They didn’t symbolize gushy, emotional love; they symbolized sleep deprivation and hard work and exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. They required so much. I felt mostly dread when I thought of them.

I know, what an asshole, right?

On Anchors & Independence

Pre-children, I was one of the most unanchored folks you’d ever meet: changing directions, cities, friend-sets, and all at the drop of a hat. But kids are like these massive anchors. They require you to think and act longterm because all of a sudden you can’t just move on… there’s real skin and bones and hearts in the game now. This realization brought on a great deal of both fear and hope.

More than anything though kids require you to give yourself up, not all of you but a lot of you. And that hurt, like, a lot at first. These kids were killing what George Costanza calls, “Independent Jeremy:” that part of me that was free, easy, unanchored, and all about me.

Over time, as independent Jeremy died more and more, a new Jeremy took over. A Jeremy that, honestly, I like much better than the previous Jeremy.

I realize now that my male postpartum depression was actually this: I was mourning for my old freedoms, for Independent Jeremy, for who I used to be. But what I see so clearly now, is that Independent Jeremy actually sucked at life. He hurt people and was selfish and immature and juvenile.

What I See Now

I see now that I actually needed kids and a family for my journey in life, to get into a better me. I am the happiest and most mentally stable I have ever been. I’m completely comfortable with who I am in life as well as where I am. Having kids taught me the high value of giving to others, something I rarely did before.

Nowadays, I travel for work, from one side of the country to the other, and when I’m gone I miss my family so much – that love is natural, sincere, vital to me. In fact, I enjoy being a dad so much we had another kid last year, on purpose! Just one this time, much easier but, I was much much more prepared.

I’m still not “that dad,” but we’ve found an awesome balance at home: the kids get a dad who’s there, engaged, loving… and I still get to meet friends for drinks, go to shows and do things that enrich me.

These kids and I are having a great time. Now I get what those guys were talking about before, about that gushy kind of love, that abundance. It just took me a little bit to get there. I highly recommend it.

BY JEREMY PAIR

Please Comment & Add Your Voice!

Courtney October 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

Awesome post.

I can totally relate to dreading going home to the kids and the guilt that goes with it. I’d be surprised to find out if most Dads have their souls “opened” naturally. Having kids is more like having your soul opened with a pry bar and a blowtorch. Of course you love them, but figuring out just what that means as your old life dies away can be a rough process.

Personally, “that Dad” who never admitted to any of this stuff at the beginning of his kids lives, is suspect. Equally suspect is the poor sucker who didn’t allow the process to take over and become the better man who doesn’t suck at life.

So here’s to not sucking at life.

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Chase October 19, 2010 at 8:54 am

Yea, big time. Great post, Jeremy… I really appreciate your candor.

For me it was tough to admit to myself – or even realize – that I’m not naturally cut out for this shit… well, maybe I am, but it wasn’t coming naturally to me. And that can be a significant snag inside a dad… maybe it has something to do with our workaholic fathers…

Great insight… thanks for digging through this Jeremy!

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Chasen October 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

Great post Jeremy. Chase and I have talked about similar feelings and the realization that comes once, as Courtney puts it “your soul opened with a pry bar and a blowtorch.” What an honest post and a great encouragement to anyone who is mourning their past life. Here’s to not sucking at life.

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Metroknow October 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for your honesty – it’s a subject that not a lot of Dads like to bring up, much less admit, but I think is probably pretty universal. I went through the same, though in my case I know it helped that I had kids later (in my 30’s) so my rebel life and immortality credibility was already shot :).

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Portland Dad October 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I liked this post for it’s honesty. I feel pretty dorky as a dad because I wanted this gig and took to it right away. Sometimes I feel douchy writing about how much I love being a stay at home dad and getting to do what I love and it comes across as “better then”. I know most dads resonate with this post than do with the “moment she was born I knew I would…blah….blah…..blah” crap. Great post and thanks for your honesty.

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Adam B October 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Having children certainly changes your perspective on yourself and what you do. It does cause you to question who you are and what values you believe in and espouse. Took me a while to sort that out. Right now I’m focusing on instilling in my young daughters positive values and beliefs.

I have also found the balance between fostering my children’s interests and those of my own (writing and music). And at times you have to know WHEN to sacrifice your own interests for the sake of your family. You’ll be a better man for it.

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TheDaddyYoDude October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Jeremy – I admire you for your openness and your honesty. I applaud you for being open with how you felt, even if it is not what most people would think of hearing. But your post speaks truth, it speaks personal truth. And I think it speaks a voice that many dads are afraid to speak.

I too was full of a lot of uncertainties, and I still am, I think it’s part of being a dad. And I didn’t think I was cut out for it either. Now, there is a balance, there is me as me, and me as a dad, and me as a husband, and the balance is maintained. Still fearful, still scared sometimes, but always committed.

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Jeremy Pair October 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Thanks for all the comments. I had a feeling I wasn’t alone in some of my feelings. I always heard being a parent was hard work but it was also so wonderful. Well a) no one explained what they meant by “hard work,” and b) I thought wonderful meant automatic. I used to deliver furniture, bail hay and chop wood; I thought that’s what they meant by hard work. And by wonderful, I thought they meant it would mask any “hard work.”

I was naive at best. I just try to get some reality out there to some guys thinking of becoming dads. And let some already dads know that it’s probably okay or normal to feel the way they do.

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Jason Thomas October 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Jeremy

Thanks for the post! My wife and I found out in August that we were going to be parents for the first time. We were filled with excitement, anticipation, and fright all at once! I’ve never pictured myself as being the perfect dad, in fact, at times I worry that I won’t be. Fortunately I have incredible friends surrounding me that have been down this road already.

However, our first ultrasound awhile later broadcast to the world that there are 2 babies growing, that’s 2x more than we thought! Talk about life change already! That news has brought a crazy sense of responsibility and future planning into the mix. As a couple, we’ve been able to do whatever, whenever we want. When we heard one baby, not a big deal. But 2? Wow! What an intense blessing.

Thanks for your blog, it’s encouraging for those of us walking this journey for the first time!

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