This is a question that every expectant father asks himself: “Am I ready to be a dad?” It’s a daunting question with a lot to unpack. Even if there isn’t a little one on the way, this is still an important consideration before making the commitment to bring a child into the world.
So, ARE you ready to be a dad?
Let’s go over the 5 points on the checklist. You can also take our quiz, which is here, near the bottom of this article (though you lose points if you skip ahead. Just kidding. Kinda.)
Am I Responsible?
Being a father is one of the biggest (or the biggest) responsibilities a guy can have. You are responsible for raising your child to become a functioning member of society. You have to equip them with the tools to succeed in life. You are the primary male role model in their life. Your role in your child’s development can not be understated. For example, according to a study by the American Association of Pediatrics, father’s “involvement in play with preschoolers predicted decreased externalizing and internalizing behavior problems and enhanced social competence.” Basically, when fathers were involved in their kid’s lives, the kids were more successful in life. You make a huge difference in the life of your child.
Are you ready for that responsibility?
Probably not. No one is ready for that big of a responsibility all at one time. But you can work to become more responsible until your child is born. Here are a few ways you can work toward becoming more responsible:
Be disciplined in something
Wake up at the same time every day, exercise consistently, eat right, read every day, etc. Pick something and force yourself to do it every day. Being disciplined is a great skill that you can grow, and it will come in handy when you are a new dad
Get a pet
Having a pet that requires you for everything is a great way to force you to be more responsible. Much like a baby, your pet needs you for food, potty time, play time, etc. A pet forces you to think outside of yourself and focus some of your attention on it.
This is a big one. With a baby, things need to be done on time. Things need to be prepped and ready to go. Imagine you are at home alone with your child. You get a text that you need to meet the Mrs. at the store. This used to be so simple – but now?… Do you have the car seat ready to go? Do you have the diaper bag? Does the diaper bag actually have diapers in it? A change of clothes just in case? Does the baby need to be changed before you leave? Did you empty the diaper genie earlier, or are you going to have to put the dirty diaper somewhere else? Did you let your car get down to ‘2 miles to empty’ because you thought the next time you got in you’d be going straight to the gas station? This list of questions could spell disaster if you procrastinated your responsibilities.
Being a father is an immense responsibility. Make sure you’re ready!
Am I Financially Stable?
Part of being a responsible father is being able to provide for your child. Your household (single dad, both parents work, stay at home parent) needs to be able to put a roof over the head and food in the belly of your child.
Obviously, financial stability looks different to everyone. Do you need to be making 6-figures and have a million dollars in a 401k in order to be ready for a baby? Of course not. But, having stable income, being financially responsible and prioritizing your child is crucial. Having a baby is expensive. Check out our article on how to budget for a baby if you’d like to see how expensive a newborn can be. Here are some considerations about being financially responsible:
- Job/Career: Do you have a job that pays irregularly? Can you see your job/position being eliminated in a moment’s notice? Do you travel erratically for your job? These are all things that might have been perfectly fine when you were single or without a child, but these don’t spell s-t-a-b-l-e.
- Spending: Do you spend more than you make? Do you buy whatever you want, whenever you want because you own a credit card(s)? Things might need to change. Take time to reflect on how you spend your money, and what monthly expenses come with a newborn (again, check out this article).
- Saving: Have you viewed saving money as something you’ll do when you’re older? Well, if a baby is on the way, that time is now. Being able to shell out some cash for an unexpected expense with your child is something you need to prioritize. Want your child to go to college? That process of saving can start from the time your little one is born.
Being financially stable is a big part in taking that next step toward being the best father you can be. Shouldering the responsibility of providing for your child is not only necessary, but honorable. It’s why you see all of the dad memes about dads being cheap or thrifty. A great father prioritizes their family’s well being.
Am I Ready for a Change?
Having a baby presents a lifestyle change. Now, how drastic of a change depends on the person.
When we told people that a baby was on the way, nearly all of the feedback went something like this:
“That’s so exciting!”
“I’m so happy for you guys!”
“Get ready for a lot of long nights!”
“Say goodbye to your social life!”
“I hope you can function on no sleep!”
“Everything is about to change!…Everything”
“I hope you don’t mind lots of crying!”
Notice a trend? We did. After the excitement of the news of a baby, the following responses were almost all negative. How sad is that!? The only thing people could think to say was how miserable having a baby was? What did we get ourselves into??
So, does your life change? Absolutely it does! But….what does that really mean? Here are a few examples of lifestyle choices that might need to be adjusted when the little one comes around:
- Leaving at 4pm for happy hour at the bar with your friends to ‘catch up’….until 2am…every night…
- Heading straight from work to the gym to workout…for 3 hours…every single day…
- Spur of the moment road trip 4 states away to visit that one friend from college
- Realizing your true calling to be a drummer and practicing through all hours of the night
- Finding a briefcase, driving across the country to Aspen to return it, finding out it’s full of cash, spending all of it, realizing it was actually ransom money, replacing the cash with IOU’s and somehow making it out alive…So you’re telling me there’s a chance!?
Aside from some of the more drastic examples, you are the one that can determine how much your life changes. For example, my wife and I love going camping (some might call it ‘glamping’). Set up the camper, spend the weekend relaxing, hiking, swimming, cornhole, etc. Did we decide to put that on hold until our baby was ‘old enough’ to go? Nope! My son Micah made his first camping trip when he was 5 weeks old. You know yourself, your baby and your situation better than anyone. You decide how much things change when the little one comes around.
Am I Selfless?
Humans are selfish. Even the most selfless person you know is selfish — they are just better at getting over that trait. Becoming a father means you can’t be selfish any more. It’s not all about YOU anymore.
You learn this lesson on a different scale when you get married. You don’t just think about YOU anymore; there is someone else in the picture. Maybe you used to spend a Saturday sleeping in, playing video games, watching football then ending the night out with your buds. With a spouse in the picture, that Saturday looks different. But, you still find a way to carve out some YOU time.
When a baby comes along, you have to be willing to potentially sacrifice more of that YOU time. Baby goes down for a nap, so you start a project. Oops! The baby woke up early — you’re back on dad duty. You sit down to eat those freshly grilled steaks – perfect when they’re nice and hot. Oops! Baby just spit up all over the place, and while you’re cleaning them up they have a blowout. 20 minutes later, those perfect steaks are no longer hot-off-the-grill. It’s the 4th quarter, your team is on a 2 minute drive, trailing by 4, needs a touchdown to win, just got into the redzone, and…..baby woke themselves up crying, and they need dad to help them go back down.
Are you ready to be the dad your child needs you to be? Note: this isn’t to say that you never have any time to yourself again. Kids are different — some have perfect sleep schedules and you get tons of time to do your own thing. BUT, it’s important to know that you need to be prepared to sacrifice some YOU time to be ‘on’ for your child.
Am I Supported?
Having support when raising a child is crucial to that child’s development. What does that look like? It’s not just about the parents. It’s about close family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc. that interact with your child.
Check out this study from the National Institutes of Health, which looks into parental roles in childhood development. “We conclude that while children do better, on average, living with two biological married parents, the advantages of two-parent families are not shared equally by all.” What does this mean? Well, a child that has mom and dad at home generally has a better chance at life (better in school, less likely to struggle with substance abuse, etc.). BUT — what if mom and dad are always fighting? What if mom and dad have a terrible relationship? Is that child better off than a single mom/dad?
A rocky, shaky, more bad days than good – type of relationship doesn’t magically get fixed when a baby comes around. Sleep deprivation and stress don’t exactly make a struggling relationship better. Working to have a strong relationship before the baby comes is critical! Your child needs to see a healthy relationship as they grow up. This sets the stage for them to succeed in life.
Do you have family, friends or neighbors that can give you support? Having a trusted group of people that can help you out on a moment’s notice makes a world of difference. What is your plan when you get held up at work and someone needs to pick up Baby from the sitter? Baby is sick and needs to stay home, but your boss needs you to come in? You want to go on a “date” (what’s that, again?) and need someone to babysit? Having a system of support makes life so much easier when the baby comes.
When it comes to friends, it’s said that if you say ‘no’ enough times, the invitations stop coming. Your friends will understand that your life is changing when the baby comes. But make sure you still have time to get out (take your baby!) and do things with your friends. Saying ‘no’ to every single invite will eventually land you with zero invites. Make it a priority to continue putting yourself out there and spending time with friends and family.
Take our am I ready to be a dad quiz!
So, Are You Ready?
Having a baby is the best thing ever! If you feel like you aren’t ready, that’s totally normal. Like I mentioned, people probably only tell you about how hard having a newborn is. And, it can be a trying time. But it’s totally worth it. It’s hard to be ‘ready’ to be a dad until you are actually holding your child in your arms. Can you ever be completely ‘ready’ for something you’ve never experienced? No! But you can start to practice some of the tenets of what it takes to become a great dad before the baby comes.