By Mario Vela
I’m 32 years old, and for the last seven years I’ve been terrified of the thought of being a father. I am an analytical person, and can lose myself in thinking of worst-case scenarios. But now I am finally comfortable and excited that my wife of ten years is expecting just had our first child.
Why have I been concerned all these years? I questioned my ability to raise a child since I never had a traditional father figure. My mother left my father when I was an infant and married someone with whom I always had a contentious relationship.
In my journey to becoming an expectant father, I’ve used my analytical nature to my advantage. I have thought about why I was afraid to have children, have worked through my fears, and have developed some ideas to help transition from my role as a husband to my new role as a husband and father. I want to share these tips with expectant and new fathers to help them, too.
- Create a list of parental figures. Think about your role models. What good qualities do they have? Try to embody those qualities and pass them along to your child. Do not limit yourself in gender- or culture-based learning, as it is possible to learn more from diverse perspectives. Since I had an open mind in learning from others, I was able to leave some of the limiting social constructs of my own upbringing behind.
- Learn from others. Have dinner with your friends with kids and learn from their experiences. Spend time with them and listen to their triumphs with their children and also of the challenges they encounter. Ask yourself if this is the life you want to pursue.
- Create a support system. My wife and I recently moved to a different city, so creating a support system has been a little more difficult than usual, but we have developed relationships with friends whom I value and trust. Those people have helped me overcome my fears and will help us when our baby arrives. It’s important to know we’re not alone.
- Spend time with other people’s children. Visit with your friends’ and family’s children and interact with them. Rather than just hearing stories from others, this will allow you to learn from experience and see the patience and care required to raise your own children.
- Be honest and set realistic expectations with your partner. When my wife let me know that not having children was non-negotiable to stay married, I came to the realization that my children are a source of my legacy. I finally realized that I have something to offer.
Through this decision-making process, I learned from some of my closest friends and relatives. In the end, I made a personal and, for me, a very difficult decision: I know that I can offer a strong future to my children. I kept questioning my abilities as a father, and eventually learned that I have every right to be a father, and that I will be a good one.
*Editor's note: Mario and his wife Ana welcomed their baby girl less than two weeks before we published this article. Congratulations to Mario and Ana!