As a new dad of a beautiful, healthy girl, all I keep hearing is how great fatherhood is going to be. How in love with my newborn I am going to fall. Immediately and without exception she will have me wrapped around her finger. I heard this from A LOT of people.
My reality was quite different. I did love her totally and would do anything for her. I was prepared for the lack of sleep and ready to give up my free time to do whatever my new child and my wife needed. What I was not, however, ready for the resentment. For that I found myself feeling extremely guilty.
You see, what nobody told me is that so much of being a new dad to an infant is dealing with the crying. What will work now? What does she need? I must be a terrible father because my daughter is frustrating me. What I found out is that this is the only way an infant knows how to express themselves. So when she is hungry… she cries. When she is tired… she cries. When she has a dirty diaper… she cries. My responsibilities were pretty basic – figure out the problem and solve it. There were not very many, if any, signs of affection from my daughter to me that I could recognize that would have given me any satisfaction.
So here came the guilt. Friends would ask me how my family was? Isn’t it great being a new Dad? And I would always answer, “of course it is great,” or “this is the best thing ever,” neither of which was true. It sucked being a new dad! It is hard and mostly thankless. This is how I actually felt, and I felt guilty as hell.
It wasn’t until my daughter turned 6 months old that I really started to enjoy her. That was around the age when she began to acknowledge me. Maybe she would give me a smile or a squeeze of the finger or just a look. She changed and I loved her more. Now it began to get fun.
I learned that all I had to do was get through the first 6 months. To do all that was asked of me by my family and not to expect to love it. New dads out there: It is okay to NOT love it. It is hard, but one day you will notice something in your child- a smile, a touch or simply some recognition that she knows you and loves you. My resentment turned into gratitude for these little moments, and in the end it was all worth it.
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema
Gabe Hernandez is an actor and a bartender from NYC. He currently lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife, dog and 2 daughters, ages 6 and 4.
Honest and Courageous. I appreciate your candor.