Before my son arrived every parent I knew — and many I didn’t know — felt it was their civil duty to offer me unsolicited advice on parenting.
To say I felt well informed was putting it mildly. I knew exactly what I was in for. I expected to be up late ... a lot. I expected to be tired all the time. I expected my dog-loving friends to naively compare having a newborn to having a puppy. (Yeah, it’s exactly the same thing.) I expected that my new white sofa would soon be replaced by a more durable dark leather model. I expected to grow apart from some of my non-parent friends. I expected to eat most of my meals standing up. I expected my libido to dip and my belly to grow.
But there was one thing I didn’t expect — I didn’t expect to lose a large part of myself to fatherhood. And I’m not talking about the extra dad-bod weight.
No one told me I’d no longer have the time or energy to do the things that made me me. No one told me I’d lose the passion for my creativity, the desire to write my stories and the drive for my success.
See, before our son Max arrived, driven was the word most people used to describe me. I was driven at work, a total ladder-climber. That competitive adman whose career was defined by awards and job titles. I was always focusing on what’s next. How can I get to the next level? How can I be better? How can I top myself? And even when I wasn’t working, I’d still be writing. All the time. Anything and everything. Screenplays, pilots, articles, short stories, status updates … you name it. Everything I wrote was an opportunity to reach people.
I was the same way in my personal life. My social life and home was my justification for all the years of hard work: a visualization of how I wanted my life to reflect to others. My husband and I bought our dream house in the hills, a space made for entertaining. And we did lots of it. Dinner parties. Pool parties. Oscar parties (well, obvi). We loved being social. We loved laughing with old friends and connecting with new ones.
Then Max came into our life, and almost instantly, those aspects of my life disappeared. The guy who could finish a feature script in a matter of weeks. The guy who read books and studied and invested time in others. The guy people came to see if they wanted to laugh, talk and figure sh*t out. That guy was gone. Completely AWOL.
As I dove head-first into the day-to-day of raising a child, many of the interests and activities that used to be so central to my life got pushed to the sidelines. I didn’t see it coming, but man, did I feel it.
Once I became a father, it felt like the price of all that drive and ambition was too high, because it required too much time away from my son. It’s not that I stopped aspiring to be creative and social, it simply came down to a matter of time. But what starts as a loss of time can gradually lead to a loss of identity. I used to be so many things. But now I’ve only got time to be one thing. Dad.
Could I be a dad and still be me?
Four and a half years later, I’m able to look back and I realize I didn’t lose myself to fatherhood, I found myself in fatherhood.
Max has singlehandedly redefined my priorities, my relationships and my sense of self. Sure, I lost many freedoms but in doing so, I’ve gained the most important ones: the freedom to cut myself some slack. Freedom to think less about myself. Freedom to give all of myself to Max. And that’s okay. Because I love him more than I love myself, so it’s only natural to put him first. He is more important than I am, and fueling his growth and development is what drives me now.
I am still passionate about the same things. They are just more focused now. My passion is to foster his creativity, my desire to write our stories, and my drive is to help encourage his success.
Over time, I was able to accept what I had lost and embrace what I had gained. Fatherhood has taught me a deeper capacity for love and self-sacrifice, more sympathy for others, and has given me a fearlessness, confidence and inner peace I’d never known before. And regarding work, I’ve never been more productive and focused because fatherhood has also taught me the importance and necessity of time management.
I have come to believe that sometimes the point of parenthood is to lose yourself. Your self is so much larger, more resilient and powerful than you think. And certain identities have to be shed along the way in order to make room for a bigger life. A better life. And that’s what fatherhood has brought me.
No one told me about it. I didn’t expect it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.