Life throws us curve balls sometimes.
Sometimes we can see the ball in the pitchers hand, and we know it’s going to be a curve, but we swing and miss anyway.
Being a father is not much like playing baseball, except for the fact that you can’t just walk off the field when the inning is difficult. [I apologize for that cheesy analogy].
The world looks at young parents from different perspectives in the volatile political and emotional climate of today though.
What are they saying?
If you’re a young parent, or expecting to be one soon, you’ve inevitably heard the cliche statements from relatives of a different era.
“I don’t believe that babies should be having babies”.
This is going to be said so frequently, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. The average age of being a parent from the 1950s to 2006 was 23 years old.
According to the CDC the age of first time mothers has only increased over the years, meaning older generations were actually having babies younger.
“You need to be married before you can start a family”.
It’s not unusual to have a child ‘out of wed-lock’, and it almost never has been. Acceptance will vary depending on how traditional your family is.
Being married changes nothing about you or your kids, and I can say that honestly because I wasn’t married until after I had my first child.
In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to see where people stand on certain topics, and being a parent is no different.
The average age for first time mothers is 26 years old, 31 years old for fathers according to the NY Times. [Read more]
According to the US Census Bureau, the number of single parents has risen since 1950, and that’s not surprising to know just by auditing your list of friends who have kids.
Chances are, you’ve got single moms for friends, and you might even have a single dad or two (but it seems like some fathers just drop the responsibility all together).
If you’re going to be a father now, you shouldn’t consider any option other than caring for your child.
Becoming a parent is no accident (you might not have intended to become one, but both participants knew what they were risking).
If you’re not ready to accept responsibility as an adult, then you should take precautions. But, if that statement is too late for you reading this, follow along.
Providing for your family
This use to be cut-and-dry decades ago. There were roles to be assumed by each part of a family, but things have changed.
It used to be that the woman would stay home to take care of the baby and the upkeep of the household while the man went to work to provide financially.
Today, you’ll find that more couples are both working, and dropping their children off at child-care until they are school aged.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 60% of married couples (with children under 18) are both working.
This is likely due to the rising cost of living, chiefly depending on where in the US you might be living.
That’s not to say it’s the only reason… Some women don’t want to stay home with a child, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This is a big one, and it shouldn’t be ignored. It might even be more important than money in some cases.
So many relationships end because one party is “not there” emotionally or physically.
As a father, your responsibility is to be there for your child and your significant other above all else.
Parenthood is emotionally and mentally exhausting at times, so parents should support each other on this front to be successful.
Learn how to be better
Trust me when I say you’ll have plenty of moments when knowing what to do seems impossible.
Fumbling through the beginning stages of parenthood is going to be the rule for most of us, and the exception for some who maybe took care of younger siblings as an adolescent.
Knowing what to do isn’t as important as making the best choices given the information that you have.
As is with everything, continue to learn how to be a better parent, a better partner, and a better person in general.
I recommend picking up a book on self-improvement, because you’ll want to be the best version of yourself while you’re chasing a goal to be an even better dad tomorrow than you were yesterday.
Qualities of a Dad
Some of these will come naturally, while others will have to be learned over time with experience.
This is the most important quality to have for any parent!
It is absolutely necessary to practice this over and over forever. Never stop practicing this; not only does it help in dealing with our children, but in so many other aspects of life as well.
When you have a stubborn child who refuses to admit they can dress themselves, it’s a lot easier to calmly provide encouragement and allow them to figure it out.
Inevitably, we lose our cool sometimes and we’ll throw our hands up in defeat.
Get yourself together and move forward.
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.
Write the word 1000 times on your chalkboard because it’s important.
It doesn’t mean military focus and precision though. I used to think discipline was punishment, but it’s actually the opposite.
Discipline is “the path” to more freedom than you’ll ever know. I’m paraphrasing the life motto of Jocko Willink, retired Lieutenant Commander in the Navy SEALS.
Find out more about him here, and possibly pick up one of his books to help provide some insight.
You should have a grasp on doing things that NEED to be done, even if you don’t feel like it.
This is parenthood in a nutshell.
Not only is discipline necessary to succeed as a parent, but it’s important in every single aspect of life.
It’s the only way to guarantee success, because nobody accidentally gets abs of steel, or a billion dollar net worth.
Great dads will be able to make informed decisions for their family.
Remove the emotional variable from the situation, identify the facts, and determine the best option for the circumstance.
This is a leadership characteristic, and that’s what you are. As a team, you and your significant other will have to lead your family through all of the difficult times (and the easy times).
My personal experience
Having experienced parenthood at an early age of 20, I’m going to give you advice from where I’m sitting, after 7 years of experience.
My wife and I agreed on the route we wanted to take when it came to our roles, and that put a lot of pressure on her to take care of the kids while I worked 50+ hours per week for over 4 years.
We decided it would be best to not drop our kids for someone else to raise in a daycare.
I’m lucky enough to have found the right person to be on this journey with, so I have no regrets with having kids “early” by the standards of today.
I grew up quickly because I took responsibility for the circumstances in my life. Parenthood has given me some of the most rewarding experiences I have had so far.
Parenthood has kept me at jobs longer than I would have hoped to be, just so I could support my family.
That’s the only thing I have had a hard time with…
Accepting the fact that I have imposed limitations on my life. If I want to make a career change, it needs to be well calculated to consider the impact on my family.
So, my real recommendation? Don’t get into debt if you’re going to start a family young.
Debt is going to put you on a singular path. One where work never stops, but you also never get ahead.
People don’t always take young guys seriously, so even if you’re smart, your job pool is limited without a college degree.
It’s experience that allows us to get better jobs in our 30s without a degree; at 20 years old, you’re still “green”.