It sounds like such a tired cliché to say becoming a father changes you. Of course it changes you. You have a kid now and you didn’t before. How is that not a change?
But the way your life goes topsy-turvy is about more than just having another person in the house. Some studies have suggested that becoming a father actually alters your brain chemistry. Whether your neurons are firing differently, there’s definitely a change in your behavior. Things you never imagine yourself doing are now second nature. Words come out of your mouth that just don’t sound like you. And your clothing preferences, oh my goodness, it would have horrified the younger, childless you.
Here are 20 ways that everyone becomes a different person — the good, the bad, and the just plain surreal — when they become a dad. Is it worth the personality transformation? Yes and then some. And for more fascinating facts on fatherhood, don’t miss The 30 Best Things about Being a Dad.
You become more affectionate.
If you weren’t into public displays of affection before, that’s all about to change. There’s going to be kissing and hugging, and it’s going to happen on demand, at any time and any place, and you’re going to be okay with it.
You get really excited by small accomplishments.
Like a child that manages to eat vegetables. Even a single bite of broccoli will make you do a victory dance.
You have a lot of opinions about parks.
Before having kids, parks might’ve been something you were only vaguely aware of. But as a father, you’re not only intimately familiar with every park that’s a short drive from your house, you also have strong opinions about them, from which ones have the most creative jungle gyms to whether the toddler seat to adult seat swing ratio is fair. And for more on the joys of fatherhood, here are the 50 Amazing Instagram Accounts for Dads!
Hand washing becomes your religion.
Kids are like sickness incubators. They touch everything, and then those dirty hands end up in their mouths, and it’s like the Black Plague all over again. Baptizing their filthy mitts with soap and water is the only thing separating you from an IV drip.
Your respect for sleep increases.
You used to take sleep for granted. You loved it, but you yearned for it like you yearn for water. Which is to say, not at all. You turn on a faucet and there’s water, and if you wanted to sleep you just went to bed. Not anymore. Every second of peaceful slumber is like a precious gift.
You’ll spend more time on the toilet.
Not because of any digestive issues. It’s just the only place you can get any “Me” time anymore. You’ll end up spending hours in the bathroom, relishing in the fleeting moments of privacy.
You’re responsible in ways you never thought possible.
It’s one thing to be in a relationship and have people depend on you financially and emotionally. It’s quite another to become a dad and realize you’re responsible for keeping this tiny new human being alive. He or she depends on you for everything! That’s an awesome responsibility, and not one to take lightly.
You avoid wearing white clothing.
Being a parent involves being on the receiving end of an endless torrent of splattered food and body fluids. A dad in white is like a Jackson Pollock canvas. It’s just waiting to be covered in an explosion of color.
Most (if not all) of your friends are other parents.
You used to pick your friends because they loved the same music, or the same sports teams. Now you’ve got friends because your respective kids are in the same school, or befriended each other on the playground. Hope you enjoy awkward conversations with people you have nothing in common with besides having children roughly the same age!
You’re not as risk-prone.
When you were younger and childless, being careless with your health felt like good gamble. But now that you’re older, and there’s this tiny person who depends on you, taking risks — whether it’s booze and cigarettes or driving too fast — seems like the most selfish, wrongheaded thing you could ever do. That’s right, you’re boring now. And happy to be so.
You can experience a full range of emotions in under a minute.
Being a dad can be an emotional rollercoaster, quite literally. In the span of just 60 seconds, it can take you from red-faced anger (“Put that down! Why aren’t you listening to me?!!”) to full-on weeping (“You were just a baby yesterday!”) to heart-swelling unconditional love (“I just feel so lucky to be your dad.”) Are all dads manic depressive? It sure does feel that way sometimes.
You worry about money, but not for yourself.
You don’t care anymore if you’ve got enough set aside to keep you comfortable in your twilight years. The only thing that matters is, are you saving enough for their future? How are your kids going to pay for college? What about their weddings? Sure, it’s maybe twenty years down the line, but these are the things that keep you awake at 3am, staring at the ceiling and wondering if you’re doing everything you can for them. If you’re in need of some money management tips, check out our 20 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Money.
Your definition of “cool” changes.
Almost everything you used to care about — being respected and adored by strangers, appearing dangerous and impetuous, having good taste in music and fashion — disappears when you become a dad. What’s “cool” when you’re a dad is being tall enough to reach things on the high shelf, having control (or at least veto power) of the car radio, and occasionally decreeing that it’s okay to have cereal for dinner. That, my friend, is cool.
You never forget to lock the bedroom door.
Not every night. Just on “date night,” if you catch our drift. No reason to give your son or daughter fodder for therapy someday.
You learn to think before you act.
Your words have power, especially as a father. So you stop blurting out the first thoughts that come into your head. You start considering how other people might react, and whether you’re speaking out of anger or raw emotion, and how sometimes it’s just a better idea to say nothing at all.
You watch more children’s programming than you ever thought possible.
We’re not talking about Sesame Street, which you probably fondly remember from your own childhood. We mean dozens of shows, cartoons and live-action oddities. Are you familiar with Veggie Tales, a show about a bunch of anthropomorphic vegetables? Or how about Caillou, the saga of a bald kid who can’t stop making whiny demands and has what is probably the worst theme song ever inflicted on other human beings? As a dad, you’ll not only be familiar with these shows, you’ll know most of the mind-numbing plot lines by heart.
You learn to accept losing
Being a good dad means losing at almost everything, including card games, one-on-one basketball, and rock-paper-scissor showdowns. Even though it’s at least partly by design — you don’t get extra dad points for crushing the competition, particularly when they’re your own children — at least once you’d like to remember what it’s like to soundly defeat a Candy Land opponent.
You require so many more pockets.
Never owned a pair of cargo pants? Well, you’ll own several pair when you become a dad. Not because you think they look stylish, but because you suddenly have an urgent need for pockets. Being a dad means that you’re essentially your child’s sherpa. You’re holding on to everything they might possibly need at any moment, from baby wipes and apple sauce packets to EpiPens and their favorite lovies. Remember when just having a pocket for your watch and keys was enough? Those days are long gone.
You’re not prepared for how quickly your kids become smarter than you.
One minute, they’re looking up at you in awe and wonder, convinced that you’ve got all the answers to how the world works. And the next, they’re older and asking questions that leave you stammering and confused, and they don’t seem nearly as impressed with your knowledge anymore. You still don’t quite understand how it happened so fast.
You’re just like your dad.
You used to insist you’d never be a parent exactly like your dad, but now you see reflections of him in everything you do. Good lord, now you’re even dressing like him and using his favorite phrases, like “You are in so much trouble, mister!” And you know what? You’re okay with that. If you’re still searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift for your dad, look no further than our 30 Unique Father’s Day Gifts for the Dad Who Has Everything.
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