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The Biggest Worry I Have About Being A Parent, According to 13 Dads

Fatherhood makes you anxious. Here, a group of dads shares their biggest anxieties about being parents.

Fatherhood comes with its fair share of anxieties. New dads worry about the health and wellbeing of their family, which in turn contains about one zillion micro-worries. It makes sense: Parents created life, and now they need to raise it, protect it, care for it, and make sure it doesn’t turn into an asshole. That’s pressure. Of course there are worries. To ensure that dads don’t think they’re alone in their internal monologues, we asked a group of fathers what they worry about the most. The issues ranged from money issues and morality issues to general marriage anxieties and concerns about how they can confront their children about their past mistakes. Here’s what they said.

That My Son Will Make The Same Mistakes I Did

“I was a terrible student. Smart enough, but lazy, disruptive, and just really a jerk. Our son started first grade this year, and I was absolutely terrified that he was going to start off on the same foot. My parents always used to get on my case about being a better student, and I just got annoyed. I just thought they were trying to ruin my fun. I didn’t get it. And it became a real source of friction between us for a long, long time. As a parent now, myself, I see exactly where they were coming from. It’s not so much about grades, but just being a good person. In and out of the classroom. I don’t want my son to make the same mistakes I did, but I also don’t want to deprive him of those learning experiences. I get really anxious trying to effectively keep that balance.” – John, 37, New York

How to Be Honest With My Kids About My Failures

“When I was a kid, I messed up a lot. I got into trouble with the cops. I drank. I fooled around. How am I supposed to look at my kids and tell them not to do those things when the time comes? They’re young now, but in a few years I’ll have to start having those conversations. I can’t lie to them and tell them I was an angel. I’ve spoken with my wife and my therapist about the anxiety it gives me, and they’ve both told me to be honest, but to focus on what I learned, as opposed to what I did. I think honesty is going to be the key. And tact. Lots and lots of tact.” – Brandon, 38, Louisiana

That My Kid Will Get Injured Doing Something Stupid Like Me

“I was a big athlete, and a little bit of a dumbass, when I was young. By the time I was my son’s age, I had broken five bones. I never saw it from my parents’ point of view. And now, I’m a parent. The thought of my child getting injured freaks me out beyond belief. Because it’s not so much a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Like, it’s going to happen. My son has already had some scrapes and cuts, but nothing major. The first time he falls out of a tree, or gets hurt on the playground, my stomach is going to just drop. And who knows? What if he’s playing football or something and ends up paralyzed? It could happen. I think part of my anxiety is natural and expected, but a lot of it comes from the fact that, looking back, I put my parents through hell with that type of stuff. I know it’s coming, and that scares the shit out of me.” – Gary, 44, California

That I’m Going to Drop My Baby

“I’m terrified of holding a baby. Any baby. Especially my baby. I’m a born klutz. I drop things all the time. Trip over things. Break things. I’m just uncoordinated as hell. Which is fine when it comes to a carton of eggs or a lamp. But, any time someone shoves a baby at me, I start to sweat and tremble. We have a six-month-old, which means I have to do a lot of baby holding. The first time at the hospital, my wife and the nurse had to actually give me a pep talk to psyche me up. I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a lot better about it, but I’m still just really, really uncomfortable physically holding something so precious and fragile. Which sucks, because isn’t that supposed to be, like, one of the best parts of fatherhood?” – Al, 43, Ohio

Balancing All The “Life Stuff” In Addition to Our Baby

“What gives me anxiety is the other stuff. By that, I mean all the stuff we used to have to worry about before having a kid. Like working, walking the dog, cooking dinner, and so on. Well, we still have to do all of that stuff now, with the added responsibility of caring for a human life. Some days, before the baby, just seemed overwhelming by themselves. Like, we’d work all day, come home, deal with all the ‘life’ stuff, and be exhausted and drained by the time we poured ourselves into bed. Now there’s a baby in the mix. All that other stuff still has to be done. It won’t go away. And it’s just a wicked source of anxiety every day, for both of us. We’re new, though. New parents. And I think that legitimately taking each day one-at-a-time does help. It’s like, ‘We have 24 hours in which to get this stuff done. Our son is the priority. Let’s build off that. Whatever doesn’t make the cut, well, it can wait.’” – Matt, 37, Ohio

That My Kids Will Inherit a World on Fire

“Climate change. Seriously. Our kids are 5 and 3. By the time they reach our age, who knows what the world will be like? You always hear the old, ‘I’d never want to bring a kid into this world!’ thing. During, and right after pregnancy, you sort of just laugh it off. But, the more and more you hear about the state of the planet – naturally and, like, where we’ve landed as human beings – it is kind of scary. Like, ‘What did I get my kids into?’ I’ll be dead, and they’ll be here dealing with whatever’s left of Earth. Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous to speculate on something so grandiose. But, another part of me just gets scared at the thought of my kids growing up like Mad Max.” – Paul, 36, Connecticut

That I Don’t Match Up to Other Dads

“I get most anxious around other dads, to be honest. Let me specify: I get most anxious around other dads who are with their kids. Watching another dad with his kids is just a gut punch to my insecurity, because it always seems like he knows what he’s doing. When dads get together -—just dads, no wives, no kids — a lot of the fuck ups come out. ‘My kid fell on his head.’ ‘My kid swallowed a LEGO.’ But, when I see other dads in action, I almost always second guess my instincts based on what I see them do. Realistically, I know none of us know what we’re doing – moms included. But, I’m not always able to separate truth from fiction when it’s right there in front of me.” – Liam, 40, Michigan

That Children Will Put Too Big a Strain on My Marriage

“I worry about my marriage. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I are very in love, very honest, and very much devoted to each other. But, I wonder if the strain of raising young children will affect our marriage at some point. We’re actually really proactive about it. We go to counseling, even though we don’t have a ‘problem’. It’s more of a maintenance-type thing. Like going for a checkup, even though you’re healthy. I think that helps.” – John, 36, North Carolina

Having Enough Money

“Money. Money, money, money. Growing up, my family…survived. Most times, we were comfortable. But, there were a few times when I’d see my mom or dad stressing about overdue bills. It caused a lot of arguments, too, between them. So, I’m terrified of the financial responsibilities of being a dad. I read somewhere that it costs, like, a quarter of a million dollars to raise a kid in America. I mean, I don’t have that kind of money. My wife and I both have jobs, but that figure, which, for some reason, is burned in my head, just seems so unbelievably out of reach that I can’t comprehend how we’re going to make it work. The solution, so far, has just been to budget meticulously, and avoid any sorts of frivolous spending. But even that isn’t foolproof. Emergencies happen, ya know? Money has always been a source of anxiety for me. Always. With a family, that anxiety just grows a little more every day.” – Joel, 35, Ohio

That My Kids Won’t Get Along When They’re Older

“When I was little, my older sister and I hated each other. We just didn’t get along at all. I have two children now. My daughter is 10, and my son is 7. I see the same dynamic between them, and it scares me. My sister and I get along now, so I’m pretty confident that it was/is just a phase. But, it’s so hard to watch. They can be so mean to each other, for no real reason. Which is exactly how my sister and I were. It makes me sad, and worries me because I know that my kids will never get this time of their lives again. And I don’t want it to be filled with hate. I just keep reminding myself that things did work out with me and my sister. But, for the sake of my kids – and their memories – I hope that happens sooner rather than later.” – Josh, 37, Pennsylvania

That I’m Unable to Help My Wife With Her Depression

“After our second child, my wife suffered from very intense postpartum depression. That was the most anxious time in my life. Not to sound cocky, but I’m a pretty natural father. So, I wasn’t too stressed out about raising our daughter. But, I’ve never been a totally natural husband. I’m a good husband, but I have to work at it. With my wife’s PPD — and any sort of depression, I’ve learned — it’s just a feeling of helplessness. Utter helplessness. And that made me so, so anxious. All I wanted to do was help. Or, rather, make her get better. But you can’t. You just have to ride it out, and try to be as accommodating and encouraging as possible. It’s such a fragile disease. And trying to be there for her, when I didn’t — and even she didn’t — really know what she needed was an honest struggle.” – Neil, 37, California

That My Son Will Get Hurt

“My oldest son is about to enter college. I worry about him being out on his own. He’s a good kid. A great kid. But even good kids can have moments of bad judgment. And, even worse, you can follow the rules all your life, but that doesn’t mean that some asshole isn’t going to decide to get behind the wheel of a car drunk and sideswipe your son. That’s really what scares me the most, that my son will have an accident or something, through no fault of his own. Even though I’ve come to terms with the fact that our family will be able to deal with whatever might happen down to road, God forbid, I still worry about getting a late night phone call whenever they’re not home.” – Kendall, 45, New York

That My Kids Will Hate Me

“Honestly, I worry about my kids liking me. I know, I know…I’m supposed to be a parent first, and a friend second. And I get that. And, I think, I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want my kids to think I’m cool. Or fun. Or funny. Why can’t it be both? They’re teenagers, so I think my anxiety is a little more intense now because it’s a time of growth and tough decisions. I’m going to have to be the bad guy. And, while I understand why that’s important, I hate it. I can’t imagine a parent who wouldn’t hate it. There are all sorts of relationships you want to have with your kids. I want them to respect me. I want them to trust me. I also just want them to like me.” – Kirk, 36, Oregon