When our children are young, they believe Dad knows everything. As they get older and more independent, they may say that Dad is outdated and doesn’t know what he’s saying. Yet, when they become adults and start living their lives, they probably would say Dad was right about everything.
I have been a dad for seven years, and I honestly feel like a different person than when my oldest daughter was born. I started reminiscing on the different experiences I’ve had as a father and the ones I am anticipating will come. Here are 6 phases of fatherhood to prepare you for the joys, sorrows, and love on the horizon.
1. Expectant Dad
You find out you are going to be a dad. This is an exciting and scary time filled with questions. Will you be a good father and be loved by your kids? Will you be a better dad than yours, or maybe live up to the legend your dad was? Embrace this time, but don’t stress if you haven’t read every book on fatherhood yet. You will carve your way. Make the most of this phase by taking the time to learn what you can from dads who’ve already had this experience and to prepare for the next phase.
2. Sleepy Dad
Sleep deprivation is real for a first-time father. Waking up every two hours messes with your brain and body. However, this is a period of building selflessness into your character. You start realizing that another life is at stake. You know that you can do something now. Your wife carried the baby and formed that bond, but now you can physically do something in this child’s life by sharing in the feedings, soothing her to sleep, and supporting your wife or child’s mom. Make this phase smoother by coming up with a feeding strategy ahead of time. I recommend taking four-hour sleep shifts and napping with your baby at least once a day.
3. Playful Dad
In this phase, you are the hero in your child’s life. Dad can do no wrong. Your kids light up when you come home or pick them up from daycare. You invent stories, sing silly songs, tell dad jokes, and your kids eat it all up. Joy is profound in this state. Sometimes, a playful dad can get into trouble if he doesn’t balance play with discipline. Allow your silly side to come out, but agree on specific discipline rules with your wife or child’s mom, like bedtime routines and sugar consumption. You can still be playful and disciplined.
4. Stretched Dad
Years have gone by, and maybe you’ve lost a job or bought a house. You realize other people are relying on you to help keep things together. Even if you are not the breadwinner, the pressure of providing becomes a reality. What if you lose it all? How do you make ends meet? Becoming financially stable is a priority for this dad. Maybe you start a side hustle and are putting in more hours at work. You become stretched because the amount of organization, effort, and energy required of you reaches a peak. Playful dad loses a little bit of an edge, and you may seek more isolation. Don’t keep these worries to yourself. Talk to another dad who has survived this phase for encouragement to move forward.
5. Sacrificial DadBecome a firm supporter of your kids’ dreams and embrace their future successes.
Your kids are older when you realize not all of your dreams will be fulfilled and that deep sacrifices have been made. You learn to adapt and re-examine your passions because your children are worth it. Your family’s happiness is more important than playing golf every weekend or having a guys’ night once a week like you once did. Become a firm supporter of your kids’ dreams and embrace their future successes. Your sacrifices help get them there.
6. Wise Dad
You are the wisdom in your family in this phase. Your kids ask you for help on big financial decisions, fixing things around their new homes, or career decisions. You become the retired coach who still enjoys the game. You play with joy and freely give your time and wisdom. You repurpose your mission and avoid inactive retirement. Don’t work so much on your golf swing in this phase, but find a way to make helping others your priority.
Sound off: What are some of your phases of fatherhood?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your favorite memory?”