#79. 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Father – FRIDAY REFLECTIONS

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Welcome to this episode of Friday Reflections by Dad.Work!

Every Friday I share the best of what we have been doing in the Dad.Work community, to provide perspective, new ideas, and motivation for you to continue on your journey to becoming the best man, partner, and father you can be.

We go deep talking about:

  • Why you need to be a good man by doing the inner work to discover and heal your patterns and wounds
  • Why it’s vital to stay calm and always have a plan for when you are triggered by your children or your spouse
  • Being intentional as a dad with your parenting ways
  • Why it’s vital to commit to a selfcare routine as a dad
  • Understanding that parenting and connection starts right away and not when they’re big
  • Why creating boundaries is so vital while bringing up children
  • Why motherhood and fatherhood sacredness always important 
  • The importance of always being there for your children as an emotional safe harbor for them

Mentioned on this episode:

The Village

Insight timer Curt Storring

Men’s Group for Fathers

Curt Storring 0:00

Welcome to the Dad Work Podcast. My name is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of dad work. This is episode number 79. Eight things I wish I knew before becoming a father. This is a Friday reflections episode where I will touch on things that I'm thinking about important tips, tricks, tools, techniques, practices, and all the rest of that kind of stuff that I have used over the years to become a better man, partner and father, this particular week, like I said, we're gonna be talking about things that I wish I knew preparing for fatherhood. And this is gonna be useful, if you don't have a child yet, you can actually maybe send this to any of your friends who are becoming fathers. And I think it's gonna be useful if you have a child, because again, this is stuff that I learned way after I had my first son. And so I think that there's something in here for everyone, no matter what stage you're at. And I think there's gonna be a couple in here that might not be on your radar yet, particularly number six. And potentially number seven, I know these are the ones that I have had some trouble wrapping my head around, and really understanding the importance of them. Anyway, we'll get into that in a second, I want to remind you guys that we are doing a free call for the community to free men's group call on the last Friday of every month, including this month, April 2022. If you'd like to join us for 90 minutes, you'll get a chance to introduce yourself meet another man in the community doing a sort of one on one call on a breakout room in zoom, you'll be able to come back and chat about the topic of the month, you will be able to engage in some men's work processes where we go a little bit deeper and get to know ourselves and as well as the other men, which has been transformative for the last couple of months we've been doing it. So if you would like to join us, would you please hop on over to Dad.Work Slash Free. This is sort of the ground level of men's work and men's group and really informed all the other stuff we do from the weekly men's groups Dad.Work slash group to the village, which is our online community of brotherhood and training for fathers, which is dad.org/village If you'd like to join us, and I think that's it guys. You can find everything else at Dad.Work. We've got emails, we've got podcasts, we've got, you know, newsletters, we've got groups, we've got coaching, we've got all sorts of stuff there. So find everything on Dad.Work. If you just type that in your browser bar, and let's get into this episode of the data work podcast, here we go.

All right, dads, whether you are a new father, and you're trying to prepare for fatherhood, or if you're an experienced dad, we'd like to hear some of the things that I wish I knew that might help you along your journey. No matter where you are. We're gonna go through eight things I wish I knew before becoming a father, the first thing, and you will have heard me talk about this plenty of times if you listen to this podcast, but the number one thing that I wish I knew that literally would have changed everything is you need to do the inner work it takes to discover and heal your patterns and wounds. The most important part of becoming a good father is becoming a better man. You could know all the tactics, techniques, parenting styles, but if you're triggered, reactive, angry, withdrawn, emotionally unavailable, or otherwise overwhelmed, you're going to be unable to show up for your wife and your kids. So being a good father starts with being a good man who has spent some time introspecting reflecting on his own life patterns, behaviors triggers, doing some men's work, your goal is not to know how to change a diaper or a bottle and put your baby in his car seat. That is what you typically get when you search for you know, what do I wish I knew before I became a dad, it's like, oh, I didn't know how to change a diaper like, okay, great. You can learn that in like five seconds on Google. This is the real stuff that's going to make your literal life better. In fact, I was reflecting this morning, as I wasn't making breakfast, just doing nothing in particular. I thought if you had told me three to nine years ago, that I could possibly feel the way I feel right now. I would have told you, you were crazy. And what I mean by that is that I wake up in the mornings now. And I feel good. Nothing is weighing on my mind beyond, you know, the whatever issues I'm having of the day or you know, the week, it's not like I've got resentment building up for my wife. It's not like I'm angry at my kids about everything. It's not like I'm, you know, internally calling myself a loser because I keep screwing up. I'm not worried about my ability to perform or be a leader. Everything is just great. And that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. Sometimes it does. And I know how to deal with it when it does. And that means that I feel and this was the thing that I think was most impactful for me on my journey to want to start data work in the first place is I literally feel 180 degrees different than I used to. I used to feel terrible almost all the time. And now I feel content and satisfied and just grateful almost all the time. Anyway, your goal is not to know how to change a diaper like I was saying your goal is to discover process and let go of anything from your past or present that stops you from showing up fully for yourself, your wife and your kids. This means typically adopting a mindfulness practice if you don't already have one. And for me, some of the things that I like to do, which you probably heard me talk about before are meditation. Usually do this 10 minutes a day meditation or prayer, you can start keeping a daily journal, write about what you're grateful for dialogue with yourself to get to the bottom of any issues that come up, or use it just like I do to keep my head clear of ideas that swirl around that otherwise would just take up space that I need to get out of my head to do anything about and also learn how to breathe deeply into your belly and to get yourself into your body and out of your head. Especially if you react explosively to triggers with anger, this was a huge thing for me, I the more I was able to breathe and really feel into my body, the earlier in my anger cycle, I would catch it and I would less frequently explode. I've recorded a number of meditations on Insight Timer, you can look up dad work, or Curt Storring, or meditations for dads, you probably find them on that. You can also take some time to make intentional choices about your day. And I'm talking about what you eat, how you move, how often you check your phone, like just stop and actually audit your life. This is huge for me. And I do this regularly, probably every quarter, maybe twice a year, I will look at as many areas of my life that I can consciously see. And I will make choices about how I'm showing up versus how I wish to show up. And then I will put in practices or habits in place to make sure I'm showing up closer to how I want. Obviously, you should read books, listen to podcasts like this one. And finally, you can join a men's group, I think we have one spot left in our Wednesday morning pacific time men's group, if you would like to join us in that you can apply at Dad.Work slash group. We also of course, run the village, which is an online community of dads who are meeting together discussing things online having regular zoom calls. And in fact, we're just about to get men into their own member led men's groups. So you can join us at Dad.Work slash village. If that is right for you.

That might also mean you need to hire a coach or start therapy if you are not sure how to start any of this mindful work, or do any of this sort of internal healing work that we talked about on this podcast. And look, if you're resistant to that coach therapy, whatever, consider who the stronger man is the one who can't even stand being with his feelings for a moment, or the man who sits with the hard feelings and shows up anyway. That was a hard lesson I had to learn to do as much of this self improvement healing work growth work, whatever want to call it before your child is born. Again, this is for the dads who haven't had your kids yet. And for the ones who have started right now, because yesterday was the best time today isn't the second best time. Because the further along you are on the path to aligning with the most authentic version of yourself, the better you're going to be able to show up for your family. So I didn't even know this type of work existed when I was preparing to have my first son and I suffered mightily because of it. So after nine plus years of parenting three kids, I attribute almost all of my success in becoming a calm, conscious, confident man and father, to the work I've put in on myself over the years, uncovering why I was feeling the way I was feeling. And then sitting through those emotions, and talking about those emotions, and really understanding those emotions and coming out the other side. So all of it the men's work, the meditation, the men's groups, the workshops, the coaching, all the stuff I've done, they've been so fundamental. And like I said before, I literally feel different, literally feel different. So if you are struggling right now, if you don't love waking up because you're anxious and you're worried and you're fearful and you're all these kinds of things, you're angry all the time. Guys, it's worth diving into this because it could literally change your life. Number two is know that you will be triggered and have a plan, there are going to be things your kids do that push all of your buttons. If you're a father already, you obviously know what I'm talking about. And some of the buttons you didn't even know you had. Children allow us to open our hearts to love we never thought possible. But they also reflect back to us the parts of ourselves that we need to work on the most. In other words, the range of emotions after having children broadened significantly and the pendulum can swing much further from one end to the other. So it's important to have practices that can regulate you when you're feeling overwhelmed. And if you've been listening to the podcast for the last few weeks, I have talked about practices like this, I call them crutches. Because what they do is they allow you to get up off your broken leg and move around. Instead of walking on the broken leg and having a screaming fit every time it hurts. And in this case, the crutches are tools like breathing deeply into your breath, labeling an emotion you're feeling and saying it out loud, practicing a two point awareness where you feel your breath and your feet at the same time walking away empathizing with yourself and your children. Those are the crutches that gets you off of the pain which is sort of the the deeper wound that I was talking about in the first point in this podcast, which is you know, you got to do the inner work to heal well. It's hard to heal, seriously heal and come out the other side integrated and whole and authentic. If you continue to step on the broken leg or in this case the wound so get some crutches so that you can eventually heal the underlying wound underneath it. So I just mentioned some taking three to five breaths into your belly when you're feeling over. overwhelmed, can really bring you back, closing the eyes, noticing the body feel that expansion in the belly, you just like you can even do that right now, every time I take a deep breath, I noticed this expansive feeling and then this calm that comes in when you breathe deep enough. Like I said before, you can label the emotion. So some people say, you know, name it to tame it, or feel it to heal it. These are two things that I've heard. In psychological circles. People say that all the time. And it's, it's true, you have to state the emotion, and it can actually lessen its impact on your nervous system, which is weird. But that's why I do that with the kids all the time. And so I do that with myself. You can practice to point awareness, which is a meditation that I learned from Justin Erlich, who has been on the podcast before, where you notice your feet and your breath in your body at the same time, and somehow it just takes away your ability to notice anything else, which is very useful. And again, you can walk away, you can take a minute to calm down, not everything needs to be dealt with right away with which I had to learn, you can actually come back to it and say, Look, I am feeling extremely overwhelmed and angry right now, I'm not going to do a good job communicating about this, I need some time, I'm going to come back to this. And that's the key point you actually have to come back. Don't just repress, you might need to suppress for a moment, but always come back to it. Otherwise, it's gonna fester inside, and it'll eventually explode outwardly. So reacting explosively or withdrawing two of the most common results of emotionally immature men, when they're triggered or upset, can both be incredibly harmful to your children. Our kids are so susceptible to anything that they perceive as interrupting their bond with you. It can manifest its shame, trauma, abandonment, and many other negative mental health aspects later in life. So work on finding some tools to keep you grounded. Now, before you do these things to your kids. If you have done these things already, don't worry, I did them all as well. You can always apologize, you can get better at them, you can change the way that you interact with your children and the relationship you have with them. And then you can apologize when you screw up.

Number three is Be intentional and have a plan. There's two ways of going about life with intention or with inertia. If you don't plan you don't regularly check in with that plan and how you're living your life. And nurture will take you along and one day, you'll wake up wondering how the hell you got where you are right now. I've talked about this on the podcast with dominant core to CIO, he talks about drift, which I believe was an idea from Napoleon Hill. And we talked about this, it's basically inertia when you are just going through the motions. Now as you approach fatherhood, it's vital to have a plan on how to parent what your parenting goals are, what your values are, and how you can align all of these with your partner as a parenting team. So some questions you can ask yourself, what boundaries are you going to set as a parent? What will you do when your child is screaming and crying and seemingly unable to be consoled? Will you allow screen time when they get to that age? Will you use boundaries and consequences or punishment when it comes to discipline? A hot tip there is definitely use boundaries and consequences is cosleeping important to you? When you practice respectful parenting and communication? What skills do you need to learn in order to do any of these things. So these are all very important things to consider and give only a small overview of what you might consider planning for, they can obviously seem overwhelming to be sure, it's actually more important to grant a general parenting style, I guess you'd say, which will lead to a parenting goal, if you will, again, I'm using these sort of in quotation marks as you don't want to get super rigid and structured on this because it should be heart centered, which is actually something you can find by looking at your values and those of your partner. So like you can again, sit down, do the inner work to figure out what is true for you. Bring this respectfully and with common communication to your partner, and then figure out where you can sit. I think it's always best to go into it with a mindset of mindful, compassionate parenting, you can look up Janet Lansbury who writes about right parenting, which really helped me, again, that was very fundamental was a bit of a crutch for me, I don't usually go back and read a whole lot of that right now because it has become over the last five years or so since I started using it. So it's second nature. But man, every time I read an article on her blog, it's just like, mind blowing. It's like, Yes, this is the right answer. And as fathers, obviously, we have to have the active portion of it too. We cannot just parent on the reactive defensive side of things. We have to learn what to do in the positive, which means we need to be able to answer our children's questions of as John Eldridge says in Wild at Heart, his book, you know, do I have what it takes? Am I a man? Does my father approve me? Am I worth fighting for? Like, these are some of the questions that we as fathers can actively answer in our children's lives? Anyway, so take a moment right now. Or when you're done with this podcast, write down your values, what are non negotiables for you get your partner's list, what are their their conflicts, and then starting from those values, you can start to imagine how you'll deal with situations generally, and then come up with a way to communicate with each other when something comes up that you're not sure about. Because remember, this is some of the best advice I ever got. You have never done this before. There will 100% be things in fact, most things that you have no idea how to handle, and that's fine. That's why it's helpful to know generally what your values plans and goals are. So you only have to remember the framework rather than a million individual scenarios. So on top of the intentionality and inertia, it's important to consider your life goals and plan to get there actually encourage you to meditate Get on this and figure out what your ideal life looks like 10 years from now, and then work backwards, come up with what you need to do five years from now, three years from now, one year from now, a quarter from now a month from now, in order to reach that ideal life you envision and make sure your wife and kids are part of that. Because you are responsible for creating the direction of the family as a father. And so get clear on where you are going so that you can leave them there as an important part of this point to be intentional and have a plan not just for parenting, but actually your life. Because that is part of parenting, your kids will do what you do, not what you say. And so how you live your life will actually become a template for what is acceptable in their lives. Number four is solidify your habits and prioritize self care. Continuing on the back of the previous point, on the most granular level, what habits do you need to develop to get to your ideal life, I would really recommend developing some of these as early as possible, so they're easier to keep, again, if this is if you're a new dad when your baby is born. Or if you already have kids, then doing these things as early as possible now is gonna give you the best chance to actually have a long enough runway to be able to get the fruits from all these habits. So obviously your schedule is going to change, it's always going to change every single year, it seems for us it changes. And that's not even whether there's another new child being born, it's just the stage of life. And the activities that we do in that stage of life are all different. So you're gonna have to keep up on this mindfully intentionally like the last point. But if you have a strong base of habits, it's going to be way easier to maintain healthy and useful habits when your life is changing with the addition of a child or whatever else is going on in your life. So one of the most important things a father can do, as we've talked about plenty of times on this podcast is fill your own cup regularly. If your so called cup is empty, how can you be expected to fill anyone else's cup up from your own cup, I always get the sound of a metal spoon scraping on the bottom of a metal mug. And when I think about filling your family's cup up with yours is empty. That sort of like grading terrible noise. That's what happens when you don't do your own self care. But when you're fulfilled and you're nourished mentally, physically, spiritually, you show up as much better man, partner and father.

As opposed to when you're worked down, you're overworked under slept, you haven't done anything for yourself in months, it's really, really hard to be supportive for your family. So instead of being selfish, as a father of self care is actually very self less. So commit to it for you, for your partner for your kids. You can help each other out if you communicate early on. Guys, your self care routine is highly personal, but it might include things like exercise, going out by yourself once a week for an hour, going to a men's group once a week, getting a monthly massage, reading, hiking, playing a sport, whatever it is, make sure there are things in your day that you do for you so you can feel full to give that to your family. Number five is understand that parenting and connection starts right away, not when they're old enough to get it. Man when my first son was born, I thought I cannot wait until he's bigger so I can start parenting him and teaching him stuff like Oh, alright, I guess I'll just chill. Until then. I figured that there wasn't much I could do with him or for him to help him out or influence him until he was much older and able to absorb the lessons I wanted him to learn. And it turns out that was a huge mistake. The first moments the first hours the first days and the first years literally inform the rest of our children's lives. You may not be able to toss a ball together right away or teach them the importance of hard work and responsibility. Well, you can teach them in this phase is much more important. You can teach them what Love feels like. You can co regulate with him soothing him when he's upset, showing him how to react to things not going his way. You can set boundaries and establish clear communication from the start. You can give him the skin on skin contact that he needs to establish connection with you and help his brain develop. I have experienced and research shows that the early stages of childhood are fundamental to how we grow and mature as humans. Now anecdotally, I compare my eldest son to my youngest son and man, I just see such a huge difference. When my first son was born, I knew none of this. I was easily dysregulated didn't have any emotional intelligence wasn't even mature really, and wasn't able to bond with or sued with him well, he was much more dysregulated codependent and disagreeable. And it's taken a concerted effort on our part as parents to teach them the tools after the fact and give him the love he needs. Now, to combat the lack of connection he probably initially fought with us. Now on the other hand, my youngest son is securely attached both my wife and myself it is very obvious. He is calm, agreeable, regulates himself with ease and has very clear boundaries. The difference is unbelievable. And well, obviously they each have different personalities. It's so clear to me the difference in parenting that has been in each of their lives. So guys, it's never too early to begin bonding and connecting. Number six is the mother baby dyad is a sacred bond. This one might be coming out of left field for you. But listen here. Outside of the Western culture, there exists an idea called the fourth trimester or the first 40 days or the golden month. Now most cultures believe that the bond between a mother and a baby is created, strengthened and solidified during the first few weeks or months after birth. During this time, the mother should be supported by her family so that she feels calm, peaceful and completely He's to bond with and care for her new baby. Just so you guys know I talked about this on my podcast episode number eight, I believe it is with McLean McGowan, who is a doula among many other things. And she works a lot with mothers. And she breaks down a lot of why this is so important if you'd like to dig into that more. And so this touches obviously on the important developmental benefits of connection, insecure attachment from my last point in this podcast, but also includes the importance of this time for the mother. Not only will your baby developed secure attachment and a solid foundation, but your partner will have the space and time to transition into her new role as a mother, some spiritual traditions speak of death and rebirth. And in my experience, they're always many, many cycles of death and rebirth in our own lives. And one such opportunity is parenthood. A death of the non parent self occurs when we must surrender and let go of things that once served us, in order to be reborn as a parent, this period after birth is incredibly important to the mother of a child because this death and rebirth cycle or simply this transformation is monumental. Without this time, and space and support, new parents can feel confused, lost, unsure, this can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and disconnection from Baby partner and your old life. And so I encourage you, as a father, to prepare for this period, and give your wife and new baby as much time and space as they need to form a bond. Help your partner by making things easy and comfortable for her as much as possible. Do not make demands of her physically, be gentle, and loving. Guys, again, this is so antithetical to our culture, right now,

people think like they have a baby. And then you know, within a couple of months, they should be back at work and the baby goes the babysitter, and you know, you should be having sex again. And everything should just be fine, right? Like that is so, so backward, we do not give motherhood and fatherhood, the sacredness that it deserves. And I think we're suffering as a people as a culture as individuals because of this. And so this seems woowoo perhaps, but it was the way that we do things, when we did things in a less distracted, less modern way. And I encourage you guys, you must help your partner by doing the other steps in this podcast, getting to know yourself, being comfortable with yourself sitting with your emotions, all those sorts of things. Help your partner by providing her the space and the sacredness of that space to connect with the baby. And really, really let them connect. Because that is the most fundamental thing you could possibly do in the very early days. And then make sure you're part of that. And get in on some of that sacred connection with your new child, be their skin on skin, love your wife, be gentle, have people bring you things, expect things of other people, because this is a fundamental, monumental part of your life. And I hope that you have people around who know how important it is. Because again, guys, not very many people in our society understand how sacred and precious being a parent is. And so people don't really get like, oh, yeah, great. Well, he's not gonna be able to come out to the bar very much well, okay, congrats, dude. Like, I'm sorry if there's men in their life like that. But I really hope that you have or can ask of your friends, that they support you and bring you meals and like, don't come and visit if you're not comfortable with it. Anyway, number seven, it's not your job to protect your child from all suffering and failure. For those of us who have a tendency to want to control things like me, it can feel like it's your responsibility to make sure nothing bad ever happens to your child. In my case, I am overly controlling comes from a place of love in part, although some of it is an ego response. And that distracts me from the discomfort of feeling out of control. In other words, it's mostly my own wounding, not a grounded state of Protection, that I'm offering my children. As a father, you will need to learn to let go and surrender to the fact that your child is his or her own person. It's not your job to interfere with their lives to stop them from suffering or feeling consequences. It is your job to make them emotionally and physically safe, especially at first, it's only too easy to become dominating and controlling, stifling the child and making him believe that he doesn't have the ability to make decisions on his own. And so in order to encourage independence, resilience and confidence, we must support but not control. It's useful to look at your own behaviors and patterns right now. Consider if you'd like to be in control. If so, ask yourself where that comes from? What does it feel like to be able to control? What do you believe about yourself when you're not in control? Are those things true? Is there a wound to process and heal? And going back to number one? This is one of the hardest things for me because I you know, you want to do everything right? You don't want them to be hurt, you don't have anything hard. And it's like, oh, wait, actually, the reason that I am the man I am today is because I got through a whole lot of hard stuff. It was hard and honestly, I wish that I had a little bit more support along the way. And so how do I have that in my kids lives? Okay, well, I gotta let them do hard stuff. And their hard stuff is gonna be different than mine because they're not going to come from a so called broken home. They're not gonna have the same words as me. That means I have to be more intentional about actually making it harder for them, rather than coddling them. So this is a total mind effort for me coming from the opposite direction as a child. I Do I now do the opposite as a parent and love them so much and support them, while also like building challenge into their lives where not much would have existed anyway. Number eight, it is your job to be there for your child. Always. Having your child develop a secure attachment to you is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child become a safe harbor and a launchpad. In the words of Dr. Dan Siegel, who I've talked about plenty of times in this podcast, definitely pick up his book, The Power of showing up and brainstorm. If you have teenagers, be the safe harbor where your child comes when he needs support and soothing, have him know you support him, you see him you love him no matter what. And at the same time, be the launchpad from which he feels safe and confident to blast off exploring the world in his own way, knowing that you will still be there for him when he's blasted off. This is the basis again of the book I just recommended, I highly recommend it for everyone. It's been probably the best book I've read on sort of basic foundational parenting. And Dr. Dan Siegel says there's the four S's which are required for secure attachment, which is safe, seen soothed and secure. I know Jason Gattis, who has been on this podcast before says supported and challenged for the last s which I really, really liked. Because it touches on the last point number seven in this podcast. But basically, if you show up for your child, and then make them feel physically emotionally safe,

seen internally, not just like okay, there you are, but I really empathize with you, I get it and soothed when it's you know, physical injury, emotional overwhelm, you should be able to co regulate with your child until he learns to regulate with himself, oh, this will allow him to feel secure, and have that safe harbor and Launchpad relationship that I just touched on. So I'm sure there's like a million more things I could go on here. But these are the eight most important ones that I've made notes of. So I hope they're helpful. No matter whether you are a new parent or a seasoned parent, these things are constantly a good reminder for me. I was just actually thinking about when I was talking about this last point, like yeah, I'm really doing my work right now to find out where I can challenge while being supportive. So anyway, guys, that's it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed, let me know what you think by leaving a review on Apple, or you can leave a rating on Spotify these days. Please hop over the app to do that. If this was even moderately useful. If it was worth its free value, I would very much appreciate a review in return. Thank you so much. And that's it for this week. Make sure you're signed up as a subscriber to the podcast. Make sure you sign up as a subscriber to the email list. We send out a weekly newsletter, as well as we send out a 14 day free course if you'd like to sign up for that. It's Dad.Work/Email. All right. Thank you guys for listening. We'll be back here next week with another episode of The dad work podcast.

That's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. It means the world to find out more about everything that we talked about in the episode today, including Show Notes resources and links to subscribe leave a review work with us go to dad,work/pod that's dad.work/pod. type that into your browser just like a normal URL Dad.Work/Pod. You'll find everything there. You need to become a better man, a better partner and a better father. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.

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