There are certain things in life that books can’t prepare us for. Skydiving from a plane, for instance. You can read all the books you want, but there is no written account that can accurately describe the feeling of your body hurtling toward the earth after jumping from a plane.
To a first-time father, parenthood often feels like jumping out of a plane. You can read every book out there, watch every video and listen to all the advice that people want to give, but there is just no way to understand fatherhood until you’ve actually experienced it. And like skydiving, some men enjoy it and look forward to doing it again, while others find fatherhood traumatic enough to decide that once is enough.
When my wife was pregnant I read all the books, which prepared me for knowing the stages of my son’s development during each trimester and little else. But I was lucky—my wife was born to be a mom and helped guide me through the largest pitfalls.
Even so, I found there were a few things about being a father that I was unprepared for. 

1. Seeing your child for the first time

Few things in life will overwhelm you like seeing your child for the first time. I’ll admit it, I cried when I first laid eyes on my son. It was a completely unexpected reaction, as though all the dormant love inside me suddenly welled up and overflowed out of my eyes. I have a feeling I’m not the only father this has happened to.

2. The drive home

The three-mile drive to take my son home from the hospital took approximately two hours—not because of traffic, but because I drove so slowly and carefully. I’m not one to drive 10 miles an hour below the speed limit, but I certainly did that day. I also took every side road I could find to avoid traffic. In no book I read was there a description of the nervousness I felt while delivering that valuable little package to our home.

3. The crying

We’ve all heard babies cry. Nobody likes it. If it isn’t our baby, we can tune it out, or just leave. But you can’t just leave when it’s your own baby. We’d like to, but we can’t. You’ll soon find that not only is the volume of a baby’s cries surprising, but the length of time that a baby can cry is horrifying. A loud scream for a couple of minutes is tough, but when it goes on for an hour or more you’re ready to break out the whiskey and start pouring shots for both of you. The only positive thing I can say about this is that it will eventually pass. I won’t say you’ll look back on it and laugh, but it will pass.

4. Being ignored

Part of being in love and in a relationship is focusing on each other’s lives, having someone to talk to. But when a baby is born, that baby becomes the center of the universe. Your exhausted wife doesn’t want to hear about your tough day at the office or your bad week in fantasy football. You might as well be a paint-by-numbers next to a Rembrandt because that’s how much attention you’ll be receiving now that there’s a baby in the house.

5. Sex dive

Speaking of being ignored, you may be feeling amorous, but your wife likely won’t be. A baby is exhausting, even with two people caring for it. And let’s be honest, the mom always does more. Your wife likely feels tired, stressed out, unhappy about her body and completely unconcerned about your sexual wants or needs. In fact, she’s probably blaming you and your sex drive for every late-night dirty diaper she has to change. The last thing on her mind is doing the thing that got her into this situation in the first place. Your sex life as you knew it, carefree and uninhibited, is over for a long, long time. Get used to it.

6. The joy of feeding a baby

From the outside, feeding a baby always seemed like a joyless necessity, sort of like watering the flowers. But once I became a father, it quickly became the highlight of my day. I’d come home from work and sit in the recliner with my son and his bottle (and a beer for me) and watch television until he fell asleep on me. Often I’d fall asleep as well. I’ve never felt as calm and relaxed as when my son’s warm, tiny body was tucked into my arm, dozing off with a bottle in his mouth. It’s better than any therapy or pill ever invented.     

Gary Sprague

Gary Sprague lives in Maine with his wife and two sons. He is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in several print and online publications, including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Grown and Flown, Mamalode, Mommyish, and Your Teen. He expects this will continue because his sons give him lots of material to work with. You can read more about Gary and his life at

My Dad Showed Me the Greatest Lessons Are Taught Through Example

In: Fatherhood
grandpa holding donut box with grandson

Waiting at the window, I arranged the blue ruffles on my brand new dress and flipped my hair around to look just right. It was a night to be fancy. It was my first date. My face was flushed as I looked forward to the night ahead. I knew it was a big deal to be taken out and I would get special treatment. I would pick the restaurant and maybe we would have some ice cream and walk around downtown before the sun went down. After that, I was pretty sure we could go to the store and that...

Keep Reading

It Doesn’t Matter How Old I Am—I’ll Always Need My Daddy

In: Fatherhood, Grown Children, Living
Vintage photo of little girl on bike with her dad

I have always been a Daddy’s girl, much to my mom’s frustration.  She always said my dad and I were wired the same, and that’s why it’s always just “worked.” Sure, we have had our struggles and frustrations—when two people think almost the exact same way, certainly there will be battles. But my dad has always had my back, without fail.   Whether he had to question a school decision or staff my senior class retreat (yes, my dad is featured in my high school yearbook), I knew he would be there. He thought he would lose me someday, that having...

Keep Reading

I’m Just a Little Boy, but Daddy You’re Teaching Me How to Be a Man

In: Fatherhood, Marriage
Daddy on the floor playing with son, color photo

I’m only a little boy, still too young to tie my own shoes or make my own breakfast. My days are filled with playtime, snacks, lots of hugs from Mommy, and plenty of tickles from you, Daddy. Right now, my life revolves around me and you and Mommy. I don’t know much about the world outside our home yet. I haven’t learned about responsibility or self-discipline or sacrifice. I haven’t had to find my place in the world yet. But I guess I’m pretty lucky because even though you may not know it, you’ve already begun teaching me everything I...

Keep Reading

You’re the Father You Never Had and I’m So Proud of You

In: Fatherhood, Marriage
Dad and kids walking on beach

Can I tell you about my husband? He’s amazing. He’s kind and doting and loves Jesus, but perhaps his most endearing trait is the absolutely incredible father he is.  In our early days of dating, he was crippled by the fear of what type of father he would be. To him, fatherhood was burdensome, grumbling, abandonment, and fighting for the final dollar during tax season. His experience as a son crippled his anticipation as a father.  But I knew it all along—what an incredible dad he would be. Although I must admit, he has often far surpassed what I even...

Keep Reading

To the Stay At Home Mom From Your Husband: I See You

In: Fatherhood, Marriage

To the woman who sacrificed her comfort zone—leaving her family, friends, and everything she’d ever known—to follow her new husband across the country for his job: I see you. To the wife who pours herself into making a house her home, only to have to move again: I see you. To the wife who put her career, education, and personal pursuits on hold for the sake of her family: I see you. To the mom who went through pain and misery for nine months, only to have motherhood turn out to be nothing like she’d dreamed and longed for it...

Keep Reading

I Struggled With My Son’s Diagnosis, But Found Hope in the Special Needs Community

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

When I found out I was going to be a father I was beyond excited. My wife and I had been trying to conceive for years before she got pregnant. So, when she told me I was going to be a father I wanted to shout it to the rooftops! I made sure to call my wife every day at work to make sure she ate lunch. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of her. We later found out that we were having a boy, and started to plan everything. We started to paint the baby room with blues...

Keep Reading

My Son is Growing Up, But I’ll Hold On To the Pictures Forever

In: Fatherhood

A certain part of my heart longs for these moments to never change. I look back on pictures like this one, where my oldest son tastes the salty breeze on his lips for the first time, feeling the sand underneath his toes and laughing out loud at this wholly new experience. I look back and want to freeze it, but in something more than a single picture, more solid than a flimsy memory, more lifelike in substance than what a camera can fashion. RELATED: Stay With Me a Little Longer, Daddy Because that little person who could not stand without...

Keep Reading

I Want My Sons to See How Important It is to Cover Your Wife

In: Fatherhood, Marriage

Transparent moment—I did not always do the best job of covering my wife. Early in our marriage, I was often guilty of being selfish. Our first of four childbirths had contentious moments. From the whistle I jokingly wore on our first trip to the hospital while she was in labor, to me telling her in the midst of her frustration that if we didn’t have the baby that night, she could decide if she’d go into work the next day—I’m not proud of the way I handled some of the challenges. RELATED: 5 Ways To Love Your Wife After the...

Keep Reading

Dads: Your Kids Love Doing Things Because They Get to Do Them With You

In: Fatherhood

This piece was co-written with the author’s husband, Nathan Glenn. I remember my husband taking our daughter golfing for the first time and wondering if she’d enjoy it like he did. He’d dress our kids up in Pittsburgh gear, hoping they’d love the Steelers and Pirates and Penguins as much as he does. When we imagined our someday kids, he hoped he’d have someone that would want to play catch with him and go sit on the banks for hours fishing. Now here we are over a decade into this parenting three thing, and our oldest has her own clubs...

Keep Reading

This British Dad’s Parody of Orlando Bloom’s Daily Routine Has Us Cracking Up

In: Fatherhood

Two men on the same parenting journey see things a bit differently. Read to the end for this British dad’s hilarious take on what it’s like to be a father if you’re not a famous A-list celebrity. Ever since his cinematic debut as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings film series, celebrity actor Orlando Bloom has been capturing hearts around the world. Let’s be honest, we all know why our wives were so excited when Pirates of the Caribbean hit theatres. Outside of fantasy, there’s not much that makes Mr. Bloom relatable to the average Joe. However, parenthood tends...

Keep Reading