An Open Letter to Young Fathers, Part 2
If you think connecting with fathers older than you is tough, be prepared for what might happen with your current friends. They might say they want to be supportive, and will help, or hang out (and I am sure that when they say it they are sincere) but the reality is that schedules, activities, and pace of life for people in their early to mid 20's (and sometimes late 20's) is, generally, drastically different than someone who is trying to raise a young child. Your friends likely want to be out late at the bars or clubs drinking, dancing, going to concerts, and at parties meeting women rather than hanging out in your living room admiring how precious your baby is while drooling. This is not a knock on 20 somethings at all. These interests and activities are developmentally appropriate and not compatible with the demands of parenting.
Parenting, as you know, is a big responsibility and it may be too much to think about for some of your friends who want to take full advantage of those years when they have less responsibility. They look at you as the old guy and their brains don't know how to process it! You having a child is a wake up call that their 20's don't last forever, and that they will (and are) getting older. This does not make it hurt any less when those friends disappear and don't follow through with their promises to help or still hang out. I am not trying to make excuses for them, but I want you to be prepared and also not take it personally, as much as possible, when it happens. A friend of mine who is in her early 20's who just had her first child recently went through this exact experience, I learned on Facebook. She wrote as a status "I learned who my real friends are." This is exactly how it feels at that time. It feels like a major betrayal.
You have made the choice to step into maturity much sooner than they have, and you have chosen to live a different reality than them. It really is as simple as that.
There are those solid few who actually do follow through, and you might find yourself spending more of your time with them. Those closest friends who you were most disappointed by will catch up to you maturity wise and will likely try to contact you later, or find you on Facebook and re-establish contact. They will come back when they grow up a bit and get it. (If you are a friend of someone going through this keep this in mind as well!- Keep in contact! Stop by once in a while… It doesn't have to be overwhelming!).
Then there is the change with you partner. All of a sudden, this hot relationship you had been having with passionate sex all of the time fizzles. Her focus is not as much on you as it was before. Your partner has turned her total focus on the baby, and that may be confusing for you. What would be helpful to know is that it is natural process, ingrained in evolution, and it is has been called by some writers as Primary Maternal Preoccupation. Even if she is away at work or happens to go out with her friends to have a night away, she is probably thinking about the baby. It is NOT personal, and to take it as a personal affront will only dig a deeper hole of loneliness you may already be experiencing. There is tremendous pressure on men during this time, because your relationship has not just changed, but changed dramatically! As a man your body and mind have gone through some changes as a result of the baby being part of your world and the significant changes in your relationship, but they pale in comparison to those she is going through. It is really difficult for men to understand this, and without this perspective we do take it personally. This is the time in relationships where it has been common for men to seek out the attention they lost from their partner and find it in an affair. Maybe if I can prepare you ahead of time with this tidbit of knowledge it may help you go into this experience with a different perspective and you will find other ways to sustain yourself and your personal happiness outside of your partner so you'll be able to be there for her and your child rather than angry and hurt and seeking validation elsewhere.
Fatherhood is a monumental journey. It is one of the most, if not the most, rewarding experience I can imagine. That being said, fatherhood can also be fraught with many challenges, especially for younger fathers. My hope in pointing out you are not alone in this is to give you strength beyond the social pressures, the stigma, and the hurt to stand up and voice that you are the father and you do care. When you are younger there is this assumption of immaturity, that you care about other things more, that you will not be involved which can create immense pressure to conform to these expectations, and are easier to give into than fight against. It may help to hear from another man who has been through what you are going through and has come out the other side.
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