Ask any man who’s ever inhaled the intoxicating scent of his newborn’s head and he’ll tell you: Having kids was the best thing to have ever happened to him. Talk to him a few months later, and he might have a little more to say. Because, as much as we all agree that having children is a total joy, we also acknowledge that it comes with challenges. That’s why this Father’s Day we’ve given a handful of dads the best gift we could imagine: a cloak of anonymity, allowing them to reveal their true feelings about fatherhood and, in the process, show the rest of us we’re not alone.
Michael, a 53-year-old stay-at-home father to a 16-year-old and 13-year-old
“I knew going in that the bond between children and mothers is biological — one with which I could not compete. But sometimes I wish at least one of them picked me. When my wife was around, they would walk right by me to her or writhe in my arms until they got to her. The other aspect of playing second fiddle is that a human wife only has so much energy; kids, work, and sleep come before dad, often. I guess that puts me in the fourth-fiddle position. Which kind of puts me out of the orchestra.”
Mark, a 45-year-old teacher with three kids ages 7, 11, and 14
“In the past 14 years, I have had less than a week alone in my own house. There is never a moment when I’m not surrounded by my children or, for that matter, my wife. I would give anything to have a week with no one else in my own house. And I wish I enjoyed playing games with my children more than I do. I can occasionally rally myself to play something — Yahtzee, puzzles, Legos — but I am an introvert by nature, and so I always find myself wanting it to be over. I also hate spending my weekends attending their activities, especially things like gymnastics, where you have to take an entire day to see your child compete for 30 seconds.”
Elliot, a 30-year-old property manager and father of 10-month-old twin boys
“I really regret not doing more drugs before the boys arrived. If you would have told me the last time I had the opportunity to take a hit of acid that I was going to have twins, I would have had two hits. I have three hits of shrooms in my safe right now, but no opportunity to take them. I really should have done more mind-altering drugs. And I regret not cleaning out my house more ahead of time. I should have taken a few days to clean the basement before my kids arrived.
“I’d do it again, but, hell yeah, if I could just do one instead of two I would do that. I won’t tell you which one I’d keep, but I definitely know.”
Benedict, a 36-year-old accidental parent to one baby girl
“I hate watching all these super-parent videos on YouTube where people seem to have boundless energy and are constantly having a great time. Also, being the working parent, I don’t have time to read ‘how not to fuck up your child’ books all day. This puts me on the back foot when my wife and I are making strategy decisions about raising the kids.
DB, a teacher with a new 3-month-old son
“I hate the weight I’ve gained. It’s easy to eat too much with your wife when she’s pregnant and then while she’s breast-feeding. We’re making smart changes to our diet, but there’s no time to exercise when there’s a newborn. I wasn’t in shape before, but now it’s getting out of hand.”
Harry, a 52-year-old editor with a 22-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter
“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. This applies to our parents and our children, and that can lead to the uncomfortable truth of favoritism. My closeness to my daughter and my prickly relationship with my son was a source of guilt when they were young children. ‘The Boy’ — I learned this nickname from Homer Simpson — accidentally came along first, when I was 29, and I wasn’t at all ready.
“Some fathers have said a man truly falls in love for the first time when his daughter comes along. I agree. She was my angel. Mom loved her, too, but she was a real daddy’s girl. She was everything ‘The Boy’ was not: calm, funny, and she followed me everywhere. Fortunately, after many travails, my son and I have forged a close and loving bond.”
Richie, a 38-year-old banker with a 10-month-old baby
“The chain of command goes mother, baby, any other mother, mother-in-law, nanny, babysitter, then me. I am just family finance, and apparently I should do better in that department. I work 12 to 15 hours a day, take the kid for a walk every morning, and — Rodney Dangerfield–style — I get no respect. Also, her boobs look better now but are basically off-limits. It’s like a biological ‘eff you.’”
Daniel, a 30-year-old student with a 9-month-old
“Everyone warns you about lack of sleep. And there is something to be said for that, but I find the lack of free hands far more frustrating. Fatigue is challenging, but having to keep up with a baby and simply never having enough hands for the task is far harder. I wish someone would have warned me about that.
“That said, it is wonderful to watch my son grow, and he does become more fun daily.”