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Dads Telling It Like It Is

I’m willing to bet good money that dads don’t often get together to discuss their fears, frustrations, and deep thoughts on parenthood. Which is why I surveyed a little over 100 dads across the country from vastly diverse backgrounds, political affiliations, religious beliefs, and age groups to find answers for us daughters, wives, mothers, and other fathers who may feel alone in what they think about being a parent. My husband is many wonderful things, a devoted father to name one, but an emotive and eager communicator is one thing he is definitely not. Judging from the initial reluctance with prospective dads, I’d say he’s not alone. I had to emphasize the survey’s anonymous feedback setting to gain my first 45 responses, and the rest came from the urging of my friends – fellow mothers. I know a survey about moms would’ve yielded more immediate results, but our community is already so delightfully transparent. A survey of dads’ unspoken thoughts is intriguing because theirs is just the opposite. The following answers to some seriously probing questions are hilarious, shocking, and fascinating.      
1. Do you wish you were a stay-at-home dad? Why or why not? 
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I am [a stay-at-home dad]! It’s great, I never knew I'd like it so much. I have a close bond with my kids I'd never have otherwise.”

▪ “No. I love my children tremendously, but when I'm not working (job hunting or vacations) I feel useless, like I'm not doing everything I can to provide for my family.”

▪ “Yes, absolutely. For me, it would be far more meaningful to raise my kids each day rather than fighting the morning commute each day in order to make money for people I care little about doing things I don't necessarily enjoy. I view the proper raising of children as a much greater cause than shallow materialism and trying to "keep up with the Joneses".”

▪ “Not at all; my wife stays at home, so it is my responsibility to support the family. Also, my wife is much better with our son and has better patience than me.”

▪ “No I do not. I have worked my whole life and I would probably go nuts staying home all of the time. I have to be doing something and helping provide for my family.”

▪ “Yes, because my entire paycheck goes to three kids' worth of childcare, why am I working?”

▪ “No. Can't handle stress of it”

▪ “No. I would love to spend more time with my kids but I would be too afraid of failing as a stay at home parent which in my opinion is the most important job in the world.”

Summary: There were a handful of SAHDs loving their role. Out of the remaining working dads, more than double said they’d rather support their families financially.
2 What parenting tasks would you rather not have to deal with at all?

Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “Her [my daughter’s] first period.”

▪ “There really isn’t anything about parenting I don’t thoroughly enjoy.”

▪ “Bed time. My son already hates it if I’m the one to put him down.”

▪ “Buying the kids’ clothes – especially forecasting what sizes they will fit in a given season next year.” 

▪ “Cleaning up the various bodily fluids is my least favorite.”

▪ “Discipline. It hurts me to discipline my children even though it must be done.”

▪ “Middle of the night vomit.”

▪ “Potty training. OMG it’s horrible.”

Summary: The undesirable parenting tasks were spread out between a wide array of categories like bed and bath time and different household chores. To my surprise, the majority of dads expressed a fondness for all parenting tasks or indifference to them by stating “that’s just what parenting’s all about”. Having to clean any type of bodily fluids and disciplining took 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
3. What do you regret not doing before having children? 

  Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “Starting a business, investing more time and energy into my career so I didn’t have to cut my teeth now and miss out on family time. Also, paying off more student debt!”

▪ “Travel to places like Europe, Costa Rica and Bora Bora. Pay off student loans and/or all debt.”

▪ “Nothing. We put off having children for 8 years in order to do the stuff we wanted. We made a plan, set goals, and followed through on them. With grandparents in the same town as us, we have childcare 24/7. Because of this, we still have much of the freedom we had before having children.”

▪ “Traveling more. I'm a homebody, and was never much of a traveler. Now that I can't, it's kind of all I want to do.” 

▪ “The best thing is my kids. I have no regrets.”

Summary: A large portion of the dads regret not traveling more before having children because of the extra expense and planning it takes to travel with them. The rest of the dads were split between wishing they’d prepared/saved more and not having any regrets at all.
4. What do you miss most about life before kids? 
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I miss spontaneity. Everything is so regimented now. If I just want to up and go to a concert, I can’t. That kind of thing takes months of planning.”

▪ “My quiet Saturday mornings are gone. Gahhh!!!!!"

▪ “What do I miss most? Easy- free time spent with spouse, hobbies, friends.” 

Summary: Most of the dads miss spontaneity and peace and quiet the most.

5. What do you like most about life with kids?

Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I like most the kids’ insights into life. Our three-year-old, for example, recently asked why does Superman wear his underwear outside of his clothes.”

▪ “I like watching them grow and become someone I helped mold into a good person.”

▪ “Having the security and warmth of a home filled with activity, energy, and enthusiasm of children.”

▪ “They are hysterical even when they are misbehaving!”
▪ “What I like most about dad life is even mundane experiences (like riding an escalator) become awesome, amazing times.”

Summary: In regards to what they like about life with kids, it was a tie between unconditional love, being able to teach/mold them, and their ability to make life humorous/exciting.

6. What are some things your parents did during your childhood that you promised never to do with your own children?

Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I promised not to use shame as a disciplinary tactic.”

▪ “Do as I say, not as I do.”

▪ “Arguing in front of the kids is something I never want to repeat but it doesn't always turn out that way.”

▪ “My parents kept me very accountable but did not show love and affection.”

▪ My parents were supportive of my interests but never got involved.”

▪ “I promised I would never push religion, guilt, or use emotional manipulation at any level.”

Summary: There were so many different responses with this one. The top 4 answers were inconsistent/unfair discipline, arguing in front of the kids, prioritizing family time, and showing affection.  
7. What advice would you give yourself as a new dad knowing what you do now?
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “If I had to go give new-dad me advice, I'd tell him to listen to no one and just jump in the deep end and raise this kid. Everyone has parenting advice, and like 90 percent of it is designed to scare you and stress you out.”

▪ “I would tell myself to just enjoy it more.”

▪ “I recommend to new dads that they realize it's okay if their child doesn't like them initially or that the new dad doesn't get the immediate pure love that mothers seem to gain immediately.”

▪ “Be more patient with them, they won't cry forever.”

▪ “Don't yell. No matter how angry you are and how hard it is…don't yell. All it does is make your children fear, not respect, and it will crush you the first time you see your child slink back from you in fear.”

▪ “I need to think about how my kids are perceiving me, and protect their innocent and fragile hearts, but also do what is best for them in working them into responsible and whole people.” 

▪ “Hold the course and be consistent. Be a dad and don't worry about being their friend.”

Summary: The majority of the responses related to being more patient (both with the kids and with the stage they’re in) and taking time to relax and enjoy being a father.
8. What topics cause the most arguments between you and your spouse now that you have children?
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “Sex doesn’t come often.”

▪ “Money and how it would be used. She was more lax on spending.”

▪ “Correcting the kids in a way that (inadvertently) goes against what was already said or done.”
▪ “Household and kid chores. Always so much to do. Too much for one person. Someone always feels they are doing more (to the dislike of the other).”

▪ “The love we show to each other! We spend a lot of our love on our children & sometimes that can be interpreted as loving the children more than each other.”

▪ “Cleaning the house and picking up after our son. The person watching him should pick up after him.”

▪ “At first the topic was daddy the parenting partner, or daddy the employee. There were points when I felt like I left one boss to come home to another. Over time I have been given space to be the partner with equal say.”

Summary: The responses were almost perfectly divided into 5 categories: discipline, money, household chores, not enough quality time with each other, and lack of sex.
9. What kinds of things do you wish your spouse would say/do more often in terms of helping you in your role as dad? 
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I wish she would help out more around the house. Often times she's so focused on our child that I am left doing every chore possible in the home.”

▪ “Telling me that I’m a good dad. Giving me verbal praise that I’m not just an idiot.”

▪ “I wish she would leave more, give me more one on one time with our son.”

▪ “I wish my wife would thank me more for the small things. I would also appreciate not being told what to do like a child.”

▪ “I suppose I would appreciate it if she acknowledged that rough-housing with the boys is actually parenting.”

▪ “One thing I asked my wife to do was to step back and let me struggle. It’s easy sometimes to step in and take over but she has worked hard to become more conscientious about leaving me to handle things, even if it takes me forever to change a diaper and the baby is fussing.” 

▪ “Here are my expectations.”
Summary: The majority of dads wished their spouses would take care of the household chores, so they didn’t have to when they got home from work. The next largest group wished their spouses would offer more encouragement, and the third largest group want to come to an agreement on discipline, especially in public.

10. I think I’m a great dad because ________.
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “I think I’m a great dad because I’m consistent and fair in my discipline and what I expect of my child.”

▪ “I make lots of mistakes and lots of blunders, but I do my very best to be honest and open with my kids and asking them for forgiveness when I fall short.”

▪ “I love my son more than anything in this world.”

▪ “Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m a GREAT dad, many lessons learned. However, I always tried to be an example to my sons, be at all their events, provided for their needs, and be supportive of their career decisions.” 

▪ “I'm a great dad because I've got great crazy as they are, they are great kids!”

▪ “I think I'm a great dad because I love my kids with every ounce of my being. I will do whatever I can (and even some things I can't) to foster their creativity, their imagination, and their learning - and my kids will always know that I am there, that I love them, and I will do anything to protect and help them.”

Summary: There were too many different responses.


11. I don’t think I’m a good dad sometimes because ________.

Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “Playing with them frustrates me to no end.”

▪ “Not going to do this one. I'm doing my best as most are I'm sure.”

▪ “We're stuck in a small apartment, and I can't find a better job to provide better.”

▪ “I don’t feel like a good dad because no matter how hard I work, I can’t keep up with providing what the family wants, and no matter what I do for my wife and children, there is never a point where they stop and tell me that I’m enough.”

▪ “I don’t feel like a good dad because I don’t lead the kids spiritually as much as I would like to."

▪ “I get impatient and wish them away to bed to I can decompress.”

▪ “Not so hot: it's hard to know when to be strict or let things slide and I feel like I don't strike the right balance enough.”

▪ “I don’t feel like a good dad when I just have to have some time to myself, so I put in a movie, beg them to be quiet, and tell them I’m “napping” so I can spend 10 minutes on my phone by myself. “
 Summary: There were too many different responses.

12. What do you really want for Father’s Day? 
Real Quotes from Real Dads:
▪ “Personal trainer to lose the dad bod.”

▪ “Going out to dinner with the family and the kids actually behaving the entire time there...”

▪ “What I really want for father's day is to see more dads assuming their responsibilities as fathers.”

▪ “To be enough.” 

▪ “A mug, every year, for the rest of my life.”

▪ “Time alone to play the video game I haven't opened from LAST Father's Day.”

▪ “A custom tooled leather guitar strap or more tattoos.” ▪ “Not appropriate to print.”

▪ “A day away from work, kids and responsibilities doing something I enjoy. And a motorcycle.”

▪ “More grandkids!”

▪ “Something from my kids that is from their hearts...pic collage or video of how much they love me.”

▪ “I want to sleep in.”

▪ “Humm…nothing really, it’s just another day - I do what I have to do because that is what needs to be done!”

▪ “Sex and the night off.”

▪ “To be remembered and appreciated.”

▪ “Another tie.”

▪ “Ice cream cake.”
 Summary: It was pretty evenly split between time with family, alone time, appreciation, material possessions, and sex.

This survey was originally designed purely for entertainment value. It still fulfilled that purpose – the “ice cream cake” answer for question 11 alone, especially after reading a dozen “sex” responses, was worth every minute spent sorting through pages and pages of data. Unexpectedly, this little project evolved into something much better than my first plan. It revealed the tender hearts behind passive exteriors. It showed that just because dads aren’t as vocal as moms, it doesn’t mean they care any less or don’t take their roles as seriously. Perhaps it suggests we need to take the time to have these conversations with our spouses or fathers may benefit from seeking out the thoughts of other fathers on parenting. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to ask your spouse these questions with an open mind (and perhaps a large glass of wine). Like me, you may just find ways to strengthen your parenting partnership and express to him the appreciation he craves as a father. Or, at the very least, you now have a hilariously inventive list of what he might really want for Father’s Day. 

About the Author
Eden Klinedinst
Author: Eden Klinedinst

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