12 dads share what men really want others to know about fatherhood, and it’s both sweet and eye opening

The best fatherhood wisdom you'll read today

Smiling dad with daughter on his back
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you really want to know what it's like to be a dad? From it being an unexpected joy, to fighting surprising feelings of sadness, this is raw fatherhood.

Parenting from a father's perspective might look a little different nowadays, with dads thought to be taking a more active role in their child's life four times more than 60 years ago. Although millennial dads believe they're doing a better job than previous generations, there's one particular thing about fathers that stands the test of time - their ability to bring out dad jokes for any occasion, and this is definitely a tradition that doesn't look to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Spending more time with their children and being a bigger part of the family unit has given dads a chance to reflect on what it's really like to have the title of 'father.' That prestigious label that comes with a lifetime of worry, but bucket loads of love. To find out what dads today really want others to know about fatherhood, we spoke to some of the ones nearest and dearest to us, who share their wonderful nuggets of wisdom.

What men really want others to know about fatherhood

1. It'll make you happier than you'll ever know. Father-of-one Alex, shares "Honestly, I didn't really want to have children, if my wife had said she wasn't keen that would've be fine for me. I'd have gone without - all I could think about was the stress, not being able to do all the things I wanted, the mess and I really struggle if I don't get enough sleep. But, I wish I'd known that not all the scare stories are real - it's not a nightmare! Yes, she has her moments and it's not always easy but it's not the horror show some people describe. Our daughter brings so much joy, and is so funny. She even slept through the night from four and a half months. It's made me so much happier than I thought it would."

2. There's times you might feel a bit useless. Not that this is deliberate, as father-of-one Mark clarifies. Mark tells us "I wish more of my mates had told me how surplus to requirements I'd feel throughout the pregnancy and how that will continue through to the first few months. I wish someone had told me how important it was to research for myself and to make my own routine with the baby, find my own way too and not to always ask my wife."

3. Don't believe anyone else's experience will be your experience. Scott is a father-of-two, and thinks everything his brother told him about being a parent clouded it for him before he even started. He tells us "My brother struggled with being a first time dad, and told me the first five years were basically going to be no fun at all. I went into the experience just expecting this to be the case, and was somehow assuming this would be what to expect for me. I soon realised it's pretty hard to enjoy something you've told yourself will be no fun at all, and had to re-think my entire approach to being a dad."

4. Being an older dad is actually great. First time dad Dom, tells us that although he didn't plan being an older dad, it's a great experience. He says "I always thought I'd be a dad in my early 30s like most of my friends. But life and then infertility meant I was pushing 50 before being a dad for the first time - when my friends were considering universities for their kids. Hearing that I was going to be 'soooo tired' because I was older got a little boring. Everyone is tired when they're a parent, and I can't see it was any worse for me. I love that I got so much life experience in before she came along, and feel she's here at exactly the right time to get the best of me. I wouldn't change a thing."

5. Depression can affect men too. Dad-of-three Andy, felt really low after the birth of his first child. He shares "I'd been so excited for the baby to arrive. But after a few weeks, I noticed I just felt really flat. I struggled to concentrate and felt moments of real anger that is totally unlike me. I felt guilty when I realised what I felt was something like depression. My wife was the one in a hormonal storm, finding feeding hard and overwhelmed. But she didn't complain, and I felt like a big let down. I eventually spoke to a Doctor who said it's quite normal. I think saying goodbye to my old life and routine was a bigger adjustment than I thought, and I was grieving for it. I didn't have those feelings with the second two children, probably because I'd made the adjustment and found contentment with our new way of living."        

"I felt guilty when I realised what I felt was something like depression. My wife was the one in a hormonal storm, finding feeding hard, overwhelmed. But she didn't complain, and I felt like a big let down."

6. It can make you reassess your own relationship with your parents. John has two teenage sons. He tells us "My own dad never did anything 'wrong', but he kept us at arms length. There was little in the way of emotional connection or affection. My grandfather had been the same, and I remember a lot of my friend's dads being the like it and it must've been a generation thing. But when I found affection to come so easily towards my own children, it made me realise how much I'd missed with my own dad. I tried to be understanding, but did look at him differently for a while."

7. Kindness is everything. Dad-of-three, Matt, has a very sweet message for other dads. He says "I wish I'd known that being a good dad is best measured by kindness, not obedience. If your kids turn out kind, don't worry too much about other behaviours because you're definitely doing ok." 

8. Redefine your place. Also keeping his message simple - but it's incredibly effective - is dad-of-two, John. He shares "When you find yourself slipping to the bottom of the pecking order, see it as an opportunity to be an unsung hero to your family instead of a resentful whingebag."

9. Make your role your main priority. Dad-of-three Mike, tells us "Understand that being a parent should and will be your main priority in life. Everything you do from the point when they come into this world influences them in some way, so try your very best to influence them with positivity. Don't be afraid to show your emotions and make sure you sit with them when explaining different things. Ask them questions and listen to their answers without correcting them. Ask them further questions and let them always feel comfortable asking you questions about anything. Take risks with them and try not to pass on your own fears, it will only hold them back! Finally, hug and tell them you love them every single day because you can't do that forever."

10. Expect the unexpected, always. Dad-of-two, Steve, shares a poignant and hilarious anecdote with us: "Parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint… go at your own pace and don’t put pressure on yourself to get it 'right'. Every day is different and every child is different. Doing your best is enough. Plus, always have thick duty bin bags, as you never know when you’ll need to put your arm down the toilet to deal with a big poop..."             

"Take risks with them and try not to pass on your own fears , it will only hold them back! Finally, hug and tell them you love them every single day because you can't do that forever."

11. You're always learning. Dad-of-two, Fraser, tells us "The big new things I took out of it (and would say to others) are: The more you put in, the more you get out of it. Also - being a father is a voyage of self discovery. It really takes you back to your own childhood and makes you relive it to see how you want to do things differently. But on a practical sense, the sleep deprivation thing is something you really really can’t explain. It’s insane!" 

12. Nip resentment in the bud. Craig has a teenager and a young child. He found unspoken resentment from both sides built up with his wife, and often went unspoken - leading to problems if left unresolved. He concludes our roundup by sharing "When both your lives change so enormously, it's easy to believe the other has it easier in some way and if you don't voice concerns, you'll build resentment for each other. Try and go out just the two of you when you can - talk about things away from the chaos of the kids. It really helped us."

We share the top DIY secrets shared by dads,  and best gifts for new dads. Young children can excel in the classroom with help from their dads, according to a report.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.