As a new Dad of a beautiful, healthy girl all I kept hearing was how great fatherhood was going to be. How in love with my newborn I was going to fall. Immediately and without exception she would 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. I was ready to give up my free time to do whatever was needed for my new child and my wife. What I was not, however, ready for was the resentment. For that I found myself feeling extremely guilty.
You see, what nobody told me was that so much of being new Dad to an infant was dealing with the crying. Figuring out what to do. What will work now? What does she need? What a terrible father I must be because my daughter was frustrating me. What I had to figure out was that this is the only way an infant knows how to express itself. So when its hungry… it cries. When its tired… it cries. When it has poopie diapers… it cries. My responsibility was pretty basic – figure out the problem and solve it. There weren’t very many, if any, signs of affection from my daughter to me that I could recognize that would give 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 its great”, or “this is the best thing ever,” neither of which was true. Being a new dad sucked! It was hard and mostly thankless. This is how I actually felt and for this I felt guilty as hell.
It wasn’t until my daughter turned 6 months old or so that I really started to enjoy her. That was around the age when she began to acknowledge me. Either with a smile or with a squeeze of the finger or just a look. She changed and now I loved her more. Now it began to get fun.
I learned that all I had to do was to 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’s okay to NOT love it. Its 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 it was all worth it.
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.