Expectation Vs Reality: Dads On Parenting (20 Experiences)

There are some things that people assume will happen once they have kids that actually take place, like feeling exhausted and worrying about every little thing. Most people would agree that yup, despite their best efforts, they are more tired than they thought they would be and when their baby gets their first cold, they can't stop thinking about it.

At the same time, there are a lot of things that are impossible to predict or know ahead of time... and most parents would probably say that's the beauty and joy of being a mom or a dad. After all, if parenting was super predictable, it wouldn't be that much fun, and most parents would say it's an experience they love (at least most of the time since every toddler has at least a few tantrums).

We often hear about what parenting is like from a mom's perspective, but what about dads? Are there things about being a father that they didn't expect at all? Anything that was a big surprise? All parents can absolutely relate to hearing these kinds of stories since having kids can be such an interesting, exciting journey.

Here are 20 dads on parenting, talking about things that they expected and the reality of raising children.

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20 Disciplining Them Is Harder Than It Looks


Some dads totally expect to discipline their children and make sure that there are consequences for poor behavior... but it seems like many find it very difficult. While they expected to be cool with discipline, when push came to shove, they just couldn't do it.

As one father posted on Reddit, "Dad of a 4-year-old girl here: What surprised me most was how hard it is to punish her. She is just so... cute. I just want to cave every single time she says please. I don't, but man I really want to." (Awww.) It sounds like this is a common experience for dads with adorable kids.

19 Kids Are Much Smarter Than We Are Led To Believe


For this dad who posted on Reddit, he was surprised "By how soon my kids became more intelligent than me."

It seems like this dad didn't expect something like this to happen, probably because many of us assume that, yeah, as the grown-up of the house (along with one's partner), we would be the smartest. The reality is that kids really do say the darndest things, as the old saying goes, and kids can be cunning at a young age. Even if someone isn't a parent themselves, they definitely know at least one precocious child and they can't believe the things that this child says.

18 Deciding Daycare Needs To Happen


Something else that dads change their mind on? Putting their kid in daycare.

As one dad posted on Reddit, he used to expect that he would take care of his kid all the time (or maybe his partner or relatives would). Once he had a child, the reality of the situation was that he was definitely going to need to put his kid in daycare. He wrote, "Before kid: 'I can't see why any parent would want to put their child in daycare.' After kid: 'I can TOTALLY see why parents want to put their child in daycare.'" This is definitely something that you wouldn't be able to really know until you experience having a kid.

17 Those Protective Instincts Kicking In Once The Baby Is Born


Most fathers would probably say that before their wife had their baby, they knew that they would love their child and all that, but they didn't think that they would be so protective. And then that totally changed.

As one father put it on Reddit, "Just became a dad three weeks ago. The thing that surprised me most was how anxious I am when people other than my wife hold him. I had thought I wouldn't be this protective, but I was wrong." For this guy, the expectation was that he wouldn't have felt this strongly about others interacting with his kid... and the reality was the complete (and adorable) opposite.

16 Memento Mori


Everyone knows that they won't be alive forever, and yet it's not a thing that people want to dwell on. It's sad and difficult and it seems better to live in the moment and enjoy yourself.

Having a baby makes many fathers think about this, though, and it's not something that they expected would happen. The reality is that being a dad makes death seem scarier: as this dad said on Reddit, "The instantaneous feeling of mortality. When my wife told me she was pregnant...something I'd wanted for so long...my very first thought was OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE. That's something I was passively aware of, of course, but not something I'd ever really cared about. Suddenly, I cared a LOT."

15 Girls Love Dirt Just As Much As Boys Do


It makes sense that not every dad expects their daughter to like "typical boy things" like dirt or playing with certain toys. After all, that's not what society has led us to believe, and we're always being told that girls like pink and dolls and boys like blue and trucks.

For this dad posting on Reddit, his expectation was that his daughter would prefer staying prim and proper, but that wasn't his reality: "Guy here with a 2-year-old girl. My daughter loves dirt. Will not stay out of it. If we take her to the playground, she runs off the side and starts clawing into the earth."

14 Stoic – What's That?


Some men wouldn't think that once they had a child, they would throw vanity to the wind and get super silly with them. They would expect to stay cool, calm, and collected, as masculinity often implies men should be. That's just not a thing that happens, though.

One dad's story from Reddit shows that this expectation was far from reality: "I was amazed at how little I cared about looking or acting cool. Like, in public I will giggle like a school girl and make high pitched noises and kiss my daughter, and twirl her around and change her diaper and just be dorky." This is so awesome to hear and any dad that will do that is definitely the best dad ever.

13 Unlocking The Inner Zen


Does patience really grow with fatherhood? Many fathers probably doubted it would... because while patience might be a virtue, not everyone has it. Sure, having kids is a big deal, but it's tough to think that it would change your personality.

According to this dad on Reddit, he didn't expect to have a personality change once he became a dad,  yet it was his new reality. He said, "Apparently I have unlimited patience when it comes to my kids. Other people bug the hell out of me, but with my kids, I can spend hours explaining math problems or history, or talking, or playing games. When they were younger, hours of finger painting and 20-piece jigsaw puzzles."

12 You Repeat Yourself


It's easy to think that once you become a parent, you'll do things differently from the way that you were raised, even if you had the best 'rents ever and were a super happy child. You might have hated how your mom always repeated herself and asked you to do things over and over again... so it might be a surprise when you find yourself doing this.

This was the experience this dad had. He said on Reddit, "Here's one for all you new dads. Something I wish someone had told me because I never considered it. You're going to repeat yourself A LOT. So get ready for it and resign yourself to that fact. The sooner you make peace with it the better off you'll be."

11 You Really Have To Get Responsible


You really do have to become super responsible once you become a dad, and it might be a bit surprising, even if you do assume that your life will change and you can't do all of the things that you could before kids.

This Reddit post proves that to be true. This dad was surprised by "The crushing weight of responsibility." He continues, "Before kids, the option was always there to just pick up and leave to do whatever. New job? Sure! New city? Why not! Go hiking for a week and the drop of a dime? Hell yes!" It seems like every dad can relate to this.

10 You Don't Mind When They Sleep In Your Bed


While spooning might be a thing in relationships, a lot of couples like to sleep far away from each other because it's easier to fall asleep. (So romantic.) It makes sense that you wouldn't think that your habits or preferences would change when you had kids, but sometimes they do. For this dad, he didn't expect to be able to sleep with his kids in his bed, and this became his reality of being a parent.

He shared on Reddit, "I can't sleep when my wife is touching me, but have no problem with my girls sleeping all over me (often end up in our bed)."

9 Your Social Life Changes And It's Totally Fine


If new parents know one thing, it's that they have to say goodbye to going out all the time (at least for a little while). It's just not practical or possible with a newborn and, later, a toddler (or even with a child, really). But most dads probably wouldn't expect to be totally cool with the change in their social life.

For this dad, his social life changed and he was fine with it, and that was a reality that he didn't expect. He posted on Reddit that he was surprised by "How everything changes and you're okay with it without even knowing it." He talked about how he and his wife used to go out a lot more and once she got pregnant that stopped and they were cool with it.

8 Those Emotions Surface


This dad on Reddit said, "I was also surprised how emotions came to play in my life. Things that never bothered or affected me before would bring tears to my eyes. Hell, TV commercials started to make me tear up!! What is up with that!?!?!?!"

That's not only really cute and sweet but also must be a surprise to a lot of fathers. With how much emphasis society puts on men being stoic and emotionless, it must be quite the surprise for many fathers to experience these emotions. This is probably because it's impossible to know exactly how much love you'll have for your child until you have one. It's just such a life-changing event.

7 Routines Matter A Lot


Before you have children, you might think that a routine is boring because life should be exciting and who wants to live according to an agenda? But having kids changes things and makes you realize the importance of a routine.

As this father shared on Reddit, a routine is a really useful thing when you're a parent, even if you didn't think so before becoming one: "Get into a routine and schedule with kids. I.e. naps, eating, bedtime, etc. People think you are just being strict by holding to these schedules but what they don't understand is that the kids learn to depend on the predictability of their day and it creates a less stressful environment for the kids and then ultimately you. Speaking from experience, do this and start early it does wonders."

6 Being Tired Isn't As Bad As You Expect


Take it from this father of a newborn who posted on Reddit: yes, dads will be tired, but it's not really as bad as one would expect. "I was a new dad 17 months ago. Here's what I learned: Everyone tells you that you're gonna be tired. That's true, but it's not life-ending. People make too big of a deal out of it."

This is interesting because new parents are most likely scared of the sleep deprivation that they always hear about, and it seems like they would all agree that while it sucks and they would love more sleep, they could still function and live their lives and take care of their children. It just becomes your new reality: you're tired, yes, but you can handle it.

5 You Won't Care About Changing Diapers, Either


Would any dad expect to be okay with changing diapers? Definitely not... because this seems gross and difficult to deal with. Or at least that's the way that movies and television shows make it seem.

The same dad who posted about the whole being tired thing on Reddit also said, "Changing diapers isn't that big of a deal. It takes 2 minutes, and then it's over. Change your fair share."

While no one would expect to be fine with this, it seems like the reality isn't that bad at all. It's not scary or too hard. It's just something that you do, like a lot of aspects of parenting.

4 You Don't Need To Ask/Just Help With The Baby


A dad who has two kids -- a baby girl of four months and a three-year-old son -- said on Reddit that while he originally thought that he should always ask his wife if he could help with the kids or do something, that wasn't the best approach.

His wife would have preferred if he would have just made the choice and done it instead of asking first. He said, "Don't ask your SO if they want you to do something for the baby. If you think it's right then do it. With our first, I was always saying 'Do you want me to have him for a while?' which made my wife feel like I had no initiative, rather than me just trying to be polite." The reality is that your wife wants you to help.

3 It Really Is Life-Changing


It seems like every man who becomes a father assumes that his life will be altered in some way, but maybe those changes are kind of obvious (like not being able to take every vacation that they want to, having to save money for college, staying home to take care of the baby, and so on).

This father who posted on Reddit didn't expect his life to change as quickly and as much as it did. His new reality? Thinking about his son 24/7 and having no problem with his new life: "How suddenly and completely my life changed. How I always worried and wondered about my son. How I easily gave up some things I used to do. How much patience really makes a huge difference."

2 You Have To Put Effort Into Your Marriage/Relationship, Too


People might give advice that a baby changes a marriage or relationship, but most people might not think about that too much before becoming parents. It's kind of a depressing thought, and you're so excited to have a baby and start a family that you wouldn't want to go down that road.

For this dad on Reddit, he was surprised by the fact that it really is true: your relationship does take work post-baby. He said, "although it is awesome, you REALLY have to work at your relationship with the mother. My wife and I work hard to stay civil sometimes. I think the trick is to take turns, make allowances and don't be demanding on the other."

1 Society Expects Moms To Be Around More Than Dads


As this dad said on Reddit, "I can't really cover any of the direct child feelings that haven't already been covered here. So the one thing that has struck me as a dad is how sexist our society still is. I'll be out with my son, and even if we're just having dinner, I'll have people say to me, 'you're such a good dad, spending time with your boy.'... No. I'm just a father. That's what dads do."

It's super sweet and inspiring to hear this dad's story. It sheds light on something that dads might not expect until they have kids: society thinks that moms spend more time with their kids than dads do. That becomes a reality that they have to deal with. But if most dads are like this one, then the kids will definitely be alright.


References: Reddit, Reddit, Reddit

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