Priorities change when husbands become fathers

Guest post by Suzanne DeSelms
Papa Bear Shirt by Etsy seller WLKRDSGN

When you’re falling in love, you have a very important job. You’re choosing your mate for life, and you don’t want to mess it up. You’re looking for someone who makes you laugh and values you as a person. You want to see that he has kindness in his heart and that he will treat you well, even if you’ve been getting on his nerves all day. You also usually seek out someone who you find attractive, and who can make you feel beautiful just by giving you a little look. If you’ve ever been in love, you know the look I’m talking about.

But what you probably aren’t thinking, especially if you are young like I was, is what kind of father will this man be?

I can just imagine being out to dinner at age 17, looking across the table into my boyfriend’s eyes, and saying, “So. What are your views on spanking children?”

Just before we got married, we decided how many kids we wanted, and what we would name them. But still nothing about what kind of parents we wanted to be.

By the time I was pregnant, we discussed a few basics, like that I would breastfeed and that we wouldn’t leave our baby to cry. But it wasn’t until our son was 8 or 9 months old before I got a clear picture of who my husband was as a father.

He’s always excelled at the stereotypical hands-on father stuff, like tickling and throwing the baby up in the air. Recently, he’s started playing “Papasaurus,” chasing 18-month old Benjamin around the house saying, “Roar! I’m gonna get you!” This game involves lots of giggling.

Originally published in The Daily World June 2007. Reprinted with author’s permission.

I’m sure there are many fathers who enjoy this kind of playtime with their kids. But do those dads sit with their kids and read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” eight times in one day? Do they spend weeks working with their kids to teach them powerful abstract concepts, like that we should be gentle with animals because they have feelings too? Do they lay down with them each and every night, gently singing lullabies until they fall asleep peacefully?

My husband does.

Sure, we’ve had our share of parenting arguments … (“Please don’t watch violent movies with the 6-month-old baby in your lap,” and “You gave our 14-month-old baby a whole bottle of chocolate milk?!?!?!”) but whatever problem comes up, we try to talk about it.

I’ve even lost my fair share of these arguments. With kindness and patience, my husband has explained to me why playing wrestling games and sword-fighting with plastic hangers is more about bonding than violence.
We’ve stayed true to our original concepts as best we could. No one has spanked the baby, and we see that he is well-behaved and amazingly empathetic toward other children. He shares well and does not go around shouting “mine” at his playmates.

My husband is the one who’s there for most of the day-to-day stuff. He’s the one who has to deal with it when Ben throws all of his food on the ground or refuses to go down for his nap. He’s the one who has to hold a screaming kid for a time-out, waiting until he’s calm enough to listen to why it’s not OK to bite Papa, even if you are feeling very angry.

Neither of us is perfect, but sometimes I just stop and take a moment to really think about how lucky I am. There are lots of parents out there who are constantly compromising and arguing and about how they think kids should be raised.

If I could go back and talk to that 18-year-old girl, falling head-over-heels in love with a boy who just drove two hours to bring her flowers when she’d had a bad day, I’d bring her a picture or two.

I’d say, “You think you can’t love him any more than you do at this moment, right?”

She’d likely agree that it would be impossible to love him more.

Then we’d look at a few photos of him crying over his newborn son and maybe one of them a year later walking on the beach collecting shells. I’d tell her how many diapers he changes, and how on Saturday mornings he gets up bright and early with the baby, because he knows tired mamas need their sleep.

“You just wait. You have no idea.”

Comments on Priorities change when husbands become fathers

  1. Lovely! I am excited to see what type of daddy my husband will be. You get glimpses from seeing them with nephews and nieces and friends' children, but this is a whole nother thing. Excited for it!

  2. pregnancy hormones abound today! i'm certain that's the kind of daddy my husband will be, but it's tough to say since there aren't any little kids in the family (the youngest is 13). whenever we're at a friends' barbeque though, you can bet he's a total kid magnet for all THOSE kids. makes me hopeful. i'm excited to see how he does when tadpole comes!

    • It's hard to know for sure, but you can even get a sense of it from how he treats you while you're pregnant … my husband was SO patient with three hundred trips to the store for fresh strawberries and pumpkin pie 🙂

      • This is so true! My hubs has been so willing to rub my feet or cook dinner, and he’s read all the books I asked him too. How could someone that nurturing NOT be a great dad? And he tears up when someone even MENTIONS kids. What a great post! I just want to go home and give him a huge tearful hug.

  3. I'm not even pregnant and I got all teary eyed reading this! I'm a stray from offbeat bride…….should really be concentrating on weddings and not babies but i keep sneaking back here!

  4. that is beautiful! thank you for the reminder….sometimes i get annoyed with DH for the stuff he doesn't do (like cleaning, laundry etc) but he is such a wonderful father. and that is way more important than a clean house.

  5. You and I are very lucky, because thats my husband. I fell in love with him all over when I had my son, just watching him cuddle with him, change his diaper (probably more times than me) and fight over weather it was his turn or mine to hold him. My kids are lucky to have a father like him.

  6. That was beautiful! Well, okay, the beginning made me feel a bit weird because at seventeen and eighteen I did talk to my now husband about parenting styles, even though we didn't think we wanted any kids. That said, I figured since I wanted to marry the man, and kids may end up happening, I had to make sure he was going to be a good papa.

    I think what I loved most was this part, "With kindness and patience, my husband has explained to me…". There are so many advocates for mothers in our culture (which is awesome and needed), that I sometimes think guys get left out. Fathers can be just as good, or better, than mothers, although often in a different way. They can provide balance sometimes too. I am glad you two see that in your relationship, and your article was just wonderful for that reason and many others!

    • Oh, wow, thank you for this heart-felt comment. I agree, that because most men don't cosider parenting to be their domain, fathers in general aren't regarded as highly. One of the men I worked with at the time that I wrote this article mentioned he thought it was outstanding because most women wrote Father's Day articles that were more of "Fathers, can't live with them, can't live without them." He said that not once in his 25 years of journalism, had he seen a woman publically praise her husband the way I did for mine.

  7. Beautiful, and so true. I had no idea how hard I would fall watching my fiance become a father. He has looked after me and our daughter since the moment she was born. Words cannot express how deeply I love this man.

  8. something so wonderful about finding a special person to share your life with, and he turns out to be a good father, too. Makes the whole life experience that much better. I love the picture. Not only to see how good he was at being a dad, but to also remember them when they were that little. They grow up so fast.

    • No kidding! The best advice (it's not really advice, just perspective) that I've ever heard on parenting is that the days are long but the years are short.

  9. This makes me look foward to having children so much. For myself, being a good potential parent is something I've always looked for in a man, and it's something I feel confident about with regard to my fiance — but I can't wait for us to actually be parents together.

    Also, your dinosaur bed linen is the coolest.

    • Ha ha ha, thanks. Ben picked it out for his big boy bed when he moved out of the family bed at age 21 months. It helped him feel some ownership of both the bed and the new room. He's almost 4 now and still loves his sheets 🙂

  10. Oh dear, I'm crying and a few days late on my period… oh my! Good thing I can't wait to find out what kind of father my H2B will become.

    You are a very very lucky lady, Suzann.

  11. Haha, I am 18, and when I was 17 I DID ask my boyfriend what he thought of smacking and all sorts of different parenting things. Even though we won’t marry for another few years yet!

    It’s important to me that I can talk to him about anything, including babies! Fortunately he’s chillaxed about it too 😛 and wants to be a dad…..though not for eight years at least ^^

  12. I'm with you there. It has been a learning process for both of us. With our first, we both had what you might call 'sketchy' periods. I was deep in baby blues but not recognising it, he was dealing with a really dodgey upbringing that made it ok to call a 3 week old 'evil'. We talked, we ranted, we submitted, we agreed. He had unbridled love despite what he was saying, I had insurmountable feelings even though I saw devil eyes. We have worked through everything and he is now without doubt the most amazing father I have ever come across. He will get home from an 18 hour day and take the kids to the park. He will spend his only day off in the week taking all the kids to the park/beach. He gives all the kids affection in words and actions. No matter what is happening and with whom, he will stall it if any of the kids need his attention, even if it's just to show the same trick he has seen twelve times before, or to ask him to pour a water.
    Life rocks. We all change. We all grow together with our children. Don't count someone out because they don't act right at first. It's a huge adjustment, and given a bit of time, we get there.

  13. Got me with the tears too, and I'm not pregnant either. But I know this is the kind of father my fiancee is, as he has a 5 year old girl, and I see it every day. I can't wait to have my own child with him.

  14. Great article….I am totally loving discovering the wonderful father in my husband! What a great gift to have a man who can be a great friend, husband and father all in one. We are lucky ladies and should never forget to tell our husbands that!

  15. Awww, so sweet. Probably because I too found a great husband and even better father to our children. Who was all for sharing a family bed even though the two tots and I steal all the blankets and push him out of bed. Who has never made me feel bad for neglecting him, which I know I do sometimes, because his mother never put him first and he wants our kids to know they come first. Who, when our was son was born agreed with me that as much as we love each other we love our kids even more, lol.

    You do love your mate more seeing him ( or her I'm sure) interact with your children. Definitely heart-melting moments.

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