Good to Know
What I’m Glad I Knew About Myself Before I Became A Dad, According To 12 Men

A dozen men reflect on the self-knowledge that helped them succeed.

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That I’m not patient. That I know how to be flexible. That I sometimes need my space. When we asked a variety of men what they’re glad they knew about themselves before they became fathers their answers proved an important truth: self-reflection is a crucial part of parenting. Looking inwards and taking stock of your traits — positive, negative, and everywhere in between — helps you understand not only what will make you a great dad and partner but also the things you’ll need to work on or explain about yourself to ensure everything runs smoothly. The stories of the men we spoke with also prove that we don’t always know why we’re good (or bad) at something until the stakes get high, and that’s just fine, too. Here’s what they told us.


That I’d Have So Much Fun

"Everyone seems to hate 'today's kids'. They seem to long for simpler times when you had to go outdoors to have fun, and kids understood the value of playing with their pals…blah, blah, blah. That’s a load of nonsense. That's just parents envious of how cool today's kids' toys, games, and movies are. I grew up in the 1990s and 2000s, so I was happy with whatever I had. It was enjoyable. Today's children, on the other hand, may experiment with everything from virtual reality to robot coding. How can you sneer at something like that? I'm pleased I'm not one of those parents who won't allow their kids to do what they want just because it's a video game. I knew raising a kid would be fun, but if I’d known just how much fun, I would've had kids a lot sooner.” - Josh, Florida


That I Could Function on Little Sleep

“It may not be the healthiest of skills, but I was the king of pulling all-nighters in college. Fast-forward to becoming a parent, and I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what I was told would be sleepless night after sleepless night. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined, but there were definitely bumps in the road. In a weird way, I used my college stamina as a way to motivate myself. Maybe to keep myself from feeling old and tired. And it worked pretty well. Changing a diaper is a lot easier to do on zero sleep than writing a physics paper, so I’m glad I had some unofficial ‘training’ in being able to handle the dreaded parent’s sleep schedule.” - Aaron, 36, Illinois


That I’m Not Patient

“One thing I knew about myself going into parenthood was that I am not a patient person when learning new things. Typically, I like the bare minimum of coaching and teaching, then I like to jump in and learn on the fly. With parenting, obviously, that can be dangerous. But I knew I wasn’t going to listen to endless podcasts, or read all the books. So, knowing my shortcomings, I realized that I was able to prepare by doing two things: finding books that worked for me, and asking people for their top three pieces of parental advice. I was able to balance figuring things out on my own and having help with the basics.” - Brian, 42, California


How to Love Unconditionally

“I’m glad, and very fortunate, to have known what it feels like to be the recipient of unconditional parental love. Even before I became a father, I made a commitment to love, support, and be there for my children regardless of the inevitable ups and downs I knew life would throw our way. I’ve also made it a point to prioritize every milestone, not only because they are memories that I will cherish, but because I know from first-hand experience that it will have a positive impact on their lives and experience as a parent.” - Jason, 65, Florida


That I Was Vulnerable

“When my wife first told me, ‘We’re pregnant’, I froze. Her smile confirmed she wasn’t joking, and I slowly came to terms with the fact that I was going to be a father. My emotions became uncontrollable. I cried like a baby for minutes in my wife's arms. Those tears were a mix of joy and fear — the joy of becoming a parent and fear of potentially messing everything up. My wife was shocked to see me so emotional, but she comforted me and made me believe that we could do it. That day I knew I would cherish my child’s emotions. I threw out all of the toxicity and ego society places on men, and decided to be an honest, loving father that my family could be proud of.” - Brent, 38, Florida


That I Would Always Be Learning

“Before becoming a parent, I was very busy with my own career. The change in lifestyle and the adjustment that comes with parenthood is not an easy one. So I was glad to realize that I would always be learning about being a good parent, and about myself as I continued to grow. Many people think that once you have kids, it's too late to figure out who you are as a person. Or that it’s too late to explore your own interests. The truth is, it's never too late to learn about yourself and be happy with who you are becoming as a father. As a parent, I should not only focus on my children but also myself. That way I can provide my family with the best version of myself, and always be getting better.” - Mike, 29, Philippines


That I Could Do Better

"I did not have a great childhood. I wasn’t very close to either of my parents for a long, long time. What I learned from that experience was that, no matter what, I wasn’t going to ever let anything get between my kids and I. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. I may not love every decision they make, but I will support them and let them know that my love for them as a parent goes way beyond my feelings about mistakes or disagreements. I’m no ‘Father of the Year’, but my upbringing taught me how to raise my children with as much love as I can give." - Shannon, 45, Alabama


How to Be Flexible

“I think people are way too hard on themselves when things don’t go the way they planned. Before I became a parent, I learned how to be flexible and roll with the punches. It has helped me in my relationship with my partner, and especially with raising our daughter. Sometimes as much as I’d like to leave the house on a set schedule that my partner and I had planned, it’s not possible. Instead, whenever I walk out the door with all of my daughter's belongings — not having forgotten something — it’s a win for everyone. Whether it’s trying to make time for certain things, or trying to juggle what seems like 10,000 teddy bears at once, being flexible and agile is so important as a parent.” - Alex, California


How to Ask for Help

“It’s literally all I did my first year as a dad. Mostly asking my own parents for help with just about everything. ‘Is it normal for the baby to do this?’ Or, ‘Should I be worried about that?’ I wanted to gradually build myself toward parental independence, of course, but I wasn’t ready to mess around with the safety or health of our child. Eventually, I was able to find a balance. I started trusting my instincts. My wife and I relied more on each other instead of outside counsel. I know so many stubborn new parents, and I respect their wanting to figure things out on their own. But I was glad I was confident enough to admit what I didn’t know and wasn’t afraid to ask for help when I thought I needed it.” - Cal, 45, Nevada


How to Stay in Shape

“I’ve always kept in shape. When I became a parent, I realized exactly how beneficial that is. Early on, it was constantly walking around the house, up and down stairs to grab more diapers, carrying the baby - it was a workout. As our son grew, it became playtime almost 24/7. Just running around from one activity to the next. And now that he’s a little older, he’s into all sorts of things that require traveling, making plans, and going to-and-from practices. I used to work out because I wanted to be as healthy as possible. As it turned out, staying fit was the best way to make sure I didn’t miss any precious moments with my little boy.” - Kevin, 37, Connecticut


That I Needed Space

“I knew before I became a father — before I fell in love and got married, even — that I would need a relationship and a family that could give me space every now and then. I’ve been committed to my family from the start, but I’ve also been very clear that I need some time to myself. Not a lot of time, necessarily, but good, quality time to recharge and self-reflect. I’m very blessed that my wife honors that need, and every time I am able to enjoy that type of personal space and alone time I come back a better father and husband. It’s something I’ve known about myself since I was a young man, and it’s proven very valuable to me as a husband and father.” - David, 40, Toronto


That I Was Great Under Pressure

“I’ve always thrived in stressful situations. I don’t purposely put myself into those situations, but I have a pretty good track record when they’ve proved unavoidable. Becoming a parent is kind of the ultimate stressful situation, really. I anticipated that reality going in, but had no idea what to expect beyond, ‘This is going to be rough.’ And I was right about two things. First, it was/is the most stressful situation of my life. Second, I’m able to handle it. I have confidence in me that’s been building over years and years of dealing with trying situations. I’m proud of myself for knowing that confidence would be there when I needed it as a new dad.” - Steven, 43, Michigan

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