My First Year as a Father

It’s hard to believe it, but my daughter just celebrated her first birthday. Twelve months ago—as the country reeled from a Trump election and her father reveled in a Chicago Cubs World Series victory—the world was introduced to Evelyn Inez Moeller in a boisterous Santa Monica hospital delivery room around 2 P.M. local time.

Nothing has been the same since, and her mother and I couldn’t be happier about that fact.

The only real blemish on the whole experience has been the mind-numbing, wildly unhelpful baby “advice” posts and articles directed at fathers that I’ve read and/or been emailed during that time. Ranging from insulting to emasculating, the majority of content for expecting and new fathers is rarely helpful.

While I would never claim to be an expert, here are a few of this writer’s humble reflections on my first year of being a father (and, specifically, the father of a daughter).

My time is no longer my own, and I am cool with that fact. One of the bigger barriers to entry that I hear from friends who don’t yet have children is the concern that they won’t have time for their careers, hobbies or vacations once children are born. This is, of course, an accurate statement. It’s also a very shortsighted and selfish one.

Free time is over-rated, especially when left in the hands of the average American male. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. I’ve wasted years of my life watching Sportscenter, playing Fantasy Football, and watching movies I don’t even like just because they happen to be on cable as I’m channel surfing. Aside from my job—which I have found has taken on a new, deeper meaning now that it directly impacts the well-being of my daughter—what’s a better use of time than being with the child you helped to create and the woman who bore her?

Don’t get me wrong—both fathers and mothers need regular time apart from the family to re-charge their batteries with friends, or to go to the gym, etc., but the notion that your life is over the moment you have real, human responsibility presented to you is absurd.

Derelict parents are the worst. I’m no hero or saint, but after nearly two years of this little girl being a part of our lives—from conception to her first birthday party—the idea that someone could simply walk away from their child (or even willingly choose to live far apart from them) is offensive. I understand that divorce happens. I get that certain jobs, like those related to the military, require long-distance commitments. I’m not talking about every scenario out there where forces beyond someone’s control have dictated that a parent doesn’t get to tuck their kids in each night.

What I’m driving at is this—our culture spends an inordinate amount of time “shaming” other parents for things like choosing a hospital over a home birth, or choosing to home-school rather than send their children to public school, when the bulk of our shaming ought to be aimed at parents who bail on their kids and leave a single mom or dad to raise them alone. Let’s balance those scales of social media justice a bit more, shall we?

Moms are the best. Anyone who thinks that there are no differences between the genders has never been a parent. This has nothing to do with how a free citizen in this amazing country decides to live his or her life and has everything to do with biological realities. The maternal instinct is a real thing and is a wonder to behold. My wife, Whitney, like many first-time mothers before her, was worried that she wouldn’t know what to do when Evie showed up on the scene. What I witnessed in a matter of a few hours after our daughter’s arrival—and something that has only grown and matured to this very day—was the transformation of Whitney from nervous pregnant woman to mother. This doesn’t mean she’s never doubted herself along the way, but something clicked in my wife’s mind the first time she saw and held our daughter.

Something inside me changed as well, but it was abundantly clear from day one whose show it was to run. My job, as I have learned, is to support and supplement as a parent. It’s my task to love my wife and encourage her and help her with the heavy (however rewarding) burden of being mom. My role will grow and change as Evie gets older, but for now I’m mainly here to take shifts and give breaks and be a positive, productive force in both of my lovely ladies’ lives. Watching my wife become the amazing mom she is has only deepened my respect and affection for her.

Little girls will steal your heart. I now finally appreciate why it was so hard for my dad to let the first of his three daughters go when she got married a few years ago. All of the jokes about fathers bringing a shotgun to the door when first meeting their daughter’s boyfriend now make sense. There is something special about the bond between a father and his little girl. I hope to have sons one day, but a daughter is a unique blessing that has taught this lug-headed former jock to love and appreciate women in a way that simply wasn’t previously possible.

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