It is a running joke in our family that I have never been ready to have a baby. My wife comments about how each time she came home with the news of a pregnancy, I literally turned green and became ill. Now with five children- one still living at home and four married, and with 9 grandchildren - I think I may have proven them all wrong. I was always ready for fatherhood; I just didn't know how I would manage it all.
I suspect many men feel the same way, especially when they contemplate the responsibility associated with being a dad. A father's principle role is provider, and that role can get a bit overwhelming when you think about diapers, medical bills, strollers and car seats, and school clothes, not to mention college, cars and wedding plans. And a dad, if he is worth the title, needs also to be nurturer, teacher, and friend. It is a big job.
Candidly, if any man thinks about it too much, the doubts would cause him to walk away from the opportunity of fatherhood. After all, are we ever really ready to take on being a dad?
If you are wondering about whether you are ready for fatherhood, you should consider your answers to these key questions. If you can't feel pretty good about your answers, and you still want to be a dad, you need to initiate a change project in your life and get yourself to a higher maturity level.
Are you fully committed to your partner? While I know that not every marriage with children lasts all the way through to happily ever after, I also know that children not part of a family with a mom and a dad together suffer greatly. If you are going to bring a child into the world, you owe that child the benefits that a nuclear family can bring.
So if you can't see yourself married forever to the woman who will bear that child, you should not be in a rush to become a dad. The risks are just too great.
Can you put someone else first in your life? Being a father means sacrificing your wants and desires for your partner and children. I'm not saying that you have to totally efface yourself and slip into the background. Quite the contrary, most successful dads work hard to find a balance between their needs and their family's needs. But you have to be prepared to sacrifice the sports car for the practical family car, and maybe not play golf or go fishing or play video games quite as much as you did before you had the baby. Being willing to make your own needs secondary to those of your family is a prerequisite for being a great dad.
Do you have a good support system? Fathers and families do better when there is a positive support system around them. Are your extended families supportive of your choice? How about your friends? Will your employer tolerate the focus you will of necessity have to give a family?
Do you have a church or other social support outside of the family? Having people you can talk with, seek advice from, and generally feel to be helpful as you adjust to parenthood is an important part of taking the next step.
Do you have, or can you find, some good role models? Not all of us men were blessed to have amazing fathers of our own. There is a natural tendency to become the dad to your kids that your dad was to you. It is constantly amazing how over the years I have opened my mouth to say something to the kids and heard my own father's voice coming out. If your dad was not the role model you want to follow, do you have a good role model? Maybe an uncle, a friend, a mentor or other man might be a consideration as a role model for you. If you don't have one, find one and learn how he has been a successful dad before you make the plunge into fatherhood.
Have you thought about parenting? Becoming a good parent is a conscious choice. As mentioned earlier, we tend to revert to the parenting styles of our parents if we don't choose some other way. Make sure that you have thought long and deeply about what you want for your children, what you hope to teach them, and how you want to interact with them. Read parenting books, talk to other successful parents, and get into a social circle with other parents. Making conscious choices about your parenting approach and style is critical in determining if you are ready for fatherhood.
Do you show good judgment and maturity in other aspects of your life? Taking a hard look at yourself is a good part of the decision process. Do you make mature choices in your life? Do you budget and save part of your income, or do you spend everything you make? Do you accept the consequences of your decisions responsibly, or do you try to shift blame to everyone but yourself? Do you just live for the moment, or are you making choices now with the end of your life in mind? Successful parents have to be mature and focused on the long term in order to do what's right for the people who depend on them.
Can you accept that even the best parents weren't totally ready when their child was born? Finally, it is my experience that no man is every totally ready to be a father. If we are smart about it, we react responsibly when we learn that fatherhood is in our immediate future. The old adage that "if you wait to have a baby when you are ready, it will never happen" has some truth to it. Most babies are unplanned and men who become good dads step up to their responsibility and get themselves as ready as they can in the time they have.
Fatherhood has clearly been one of the greatest opportunities of my life. Even with green colors and nausea at the announcement, I have found great joy in being a part of my children's lives and trying to help them learn values and attitudes which will make them successful. If you are wondering if you are ready for fatherhood, think seriously about your attitudes and maturity, but be open to the possibilities. And you can be a great dad!