Something that I had always been aware of but which I had never given much thought to, was the stigma that surrounds young parenthood. Young parents do not fit into the cultural idea of what a parent should be or look like and are therefore discriminated against, shamed for the decisions they have made.
As a young expectant father I experienced this discrimination firsthand. Although not as young as some – I was twenty two and my wife was twenty three – we were still relatively young to be parents in today’s society. Because of our ages, people did not react as they would have normally when informed we were to be parents.
‘Congratulations’ were offered slowly, uncertainly and often accompanied by a questioning tone as if the speaker was unsure as to whether or not they should be happy for us. Most people found it perfectly acceptable to question our decision or to attempt to dissuade us with visions of bright futures lost forever.
Most did not share our excitement and felt the need to remind us on a daily basis of just how how hard raising a child really was. Most believed that because of our relatively young ages we were neither prepared nor capable of being good parents. This was a societal attitude which caused us a lot of frustration.
Yes, we were young but that did not mean that we were not prepared to embark on the path of parenthood. Of course we were unsure as to what to fully expect but this was not a decision we had taken lightly and both me and my wife were completely willing to work hard.
And I won’t lie; at first it was really hard.
Caring for a new baby and his many, many needs can be physically exhausting. Young babies need almost constant care and attention and our son was no different. Between needing to be fed every couple of hours, waking several times during the night – making a good night sleep a thing of the past – and the hours of screaming and crying, my wife and I soon felt physically run down.
The physical exhaustion of parenthood was tightly coupled to mental exhaustion. The very act of caring for a baby all day was in itself draining on many levels- emotionally, cognitively and psychologically. Let’s be honest, playing with blocks or stuffed animals all day is not the most stimulating activity for an adult.
At times I found it quite difficult being a father. I was struggling somewhat with my own adjustment from adolescence to adulthood whilst learning to be a parent. I will admit that at times I found it very tough trying to raise a child all the while trying to figure out my own place in the world.
And I was scared. Parenthood scared me.
During my wife’s pregnancy I was extremely anxious and worried that I did not have what it took to be a good father. I was scared that I would not be capable of providing a good life for my family. I doubted myself constantly, unsure of my ability to care for a child.
But as the months passed and we adapted to our new roles, things became easier and I found that I could do this. I had what it took to be a good father and essentially, it came naturally.
Despite the mental and physical exertion parenthood requires we have experienced moments of fulfillment that are indescribable and more incredible than anything I could ever have imagined.
I love watching him grow and learn new things. It is incredibly satisfying watching him develop as a person. And as he has grown, we have grown alongside him. I have become a more caring, patient man – probably something to do with sitting on the ground for hours stacking rings and blocks.
I have become more self-assured and confident in myself and my abilities. And we have both become motivated to achieve success in a way that neither of us felt before our son was born. Having him in our lives has made us see what is important and what we need to strive for. And although much of our motivation comes from wanting the best for him, we can also see more clearly what we want for ourselves.
And we are going after it.
My wife has already returned to college to complete her degree and is on course to graduate before the year is out. I have finally come to realize what career path I want to pursue and I have plans on returning to complete my masters degree in the near future.
Having a child has made us better people and I wouldn’t change a thing.