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My Wife Is Pregnant and I’m Not Ready to Be a Father. How Do I Get There?

An expecting dad is expecting his life to change for the worse. The Goodfather sets him straight.

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Goodfather,

My wife just popped. You know that moment where the stomach starts to show and it all gets real? We’re there, and everything hit me. It happened way fast and I realized I’m going to be a dad. My life will never be the same. I’m not excited anymore — that part has worn off because I’m pretty sure my life is pretty much over. 

I don’t think I’m being dramatic here. I have a life that I really like. I have a bunch of friends who are single or dating, some married, none with kids, and we hang out a bunch. We have a flag football team. We play Wednesday and Saturdays and always hit the bar after. On Saturdays, we stay for hours talking, playing Buck Hunter and having a great time. I live for it.

I haven’t even considered until now that I might have to give this up for the kid. I mean, I could maybe go to the game, but then I’ll be that guy — showing up for the least fun part and skipping for the night of catching up and revelry. I’m facing that reality and it just sucks. It also sucks that I have no one who will understand. My friends’ joke that I’m gonna have to retire my numbers and that they’ll Livestream the fun from the bar. My wife, well, there’s no way she’ll have sympathy. She’s into the kid and is sorta hinting she wasn’t all that into the flag football team. My parents… well, they are so excited for the kid that I’m avoiding their calls. 

What the hell do I do?

Game Over in Georgia

Fatherly IQ
  1. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?
    7+
    5-6
    4-5
    I can function on little to no sleep
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Congratulations, both on the upcoming birth of your child and the inevitable death of your selfish and repressed bachelorhood. I don’t know if I’m going to get you to celebrate both, but I’m damn sure going to try.

First, you need to understand that your fears are valid. A life that you were once accustomed to is going to end. Good for you. There’s a name for the changes you are experiencing. It’s called personal growth and, you’re right, it is really hard. But it’s also basically what keeps us from becoming boring assholes. 

Change is always stressful. Having a baby is one of the most stressful life changes that a person can go through. You will absolutely need to take care of yourself in order to not lose your mind. But, importantly, it will have to look different than the way you are taking care of yourself now. 

I can see that flag football is part of the way you care for yourself. You’ve got some good exercise and some great camaraderie. Spending time with friends and getting your heart rate up are both great ways to combat stress and depression. So I’m loathe to suggest that you ditch the activity completely. But the way it’s structured, man… Let’s just say it will be incompatible with your new way of life. 

Sure, you could try and save your fun flag football times, but there would surely be something else that you’d be required to sacrifice. So you’ll need to find a way to preserve the benefits without falling down the path of resentment. Because being born to a resentful father has some serious Dickensian overtones. Your kid deserves better than a dad who’s twisted up because his Wednesdays and Saturdays were “ruined.” 

The worst trap you could possibly get into is believing that your partner is somehow complicit and responsible for the fact that you no longer have a self-care regimen. So, before things come to a head — a.k.a. your baby crowning — you need to talk with her about what’s going on. 

I wouldn’t lead with the whole “not feeling excited” thing. As you know (I hope you know) she is dealing with a lot of hormonal fluctuations right now. That means you need to enter the conversation with as much positivity as you can. Smile. Be gentle. Let her know you want to get this right, but you’re afraid that you’re going to be a stressed-out dad and you’re worried about losing your friends and exercise time. It’s important to let her know this is an issue that you want to solve with her help. 

My assumption here is that you actually like your partner, and hopefully, you love her too. That’s probably why you’ve decided to have a baby in the first place. That kid is a symbol of the love you share, the trust you place in each other and your desire to collaborate on long term projects. If that’s not the case, then you’ve got bigger problems to figure out, which will likely require the skills of a professional therapist. 

The solution that you and your wife find will be unique to your circumstances. And frankly, they will be unique to the way you plan on raising your child and your planned division of labor. There’s a really good chance that the ideas you have about how to keep up the social exercise with your friends will change drastically after your baby arrives. The important part is that everyone is on the same page and oriented to the concerns before the kid shows up. 

Look, there is a significant chance that once you have your kid in your arms, flag football will feel like the least of your concerns. You may be so exhausted in the first months that it makes zero sense to go romp in the park with your buddies. In other words, the issue may solve itself. But it might not. In that case, you need your partner on board and you need to be working as a team. It’ll be easier for her to do that if she’s not surprised.

Despite the fact that you seem to be a guy who likes his routine, you’ll probably have to find some flexibility and take the opportunities to exercise and hang with friends where you can find them. If you have good friends, they’ll understand. If your friends are dicks about it, then you might need to find some friends who understand your circumstances. There are tons of new parents groups that you can join with your wife. It might help to hang out with people who are going through similar circumstances. You might even find another dad who is missing his buddies. 

Yes, the life you knew is going to be over. But that doesn’t mean your life is over. It just means that it has changed. It changed for your parents and it changed for their parents. Go ahead and give them a call. I’m sure they’ll tell you the same.