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Becoming a Father: An Identity Shift

Becoming a Father: An Identity Shift

Today’s post was written by Bright Horizons Client Engagement Manager, Sean O’Brien.

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

I started working at Bright Horizons just a month after my son, Oliver, was born. As I went through new hire trainings over the first few weeks, I was invariably asked the above question. Once I had mentioned that I had a newborn, I felt a strange pressure to talk about him during all of my introductions. But I didn’t want to be the person who only talks about their child. I also wanted to talk about who I was as a person: someone who enjoyed running and being active, an avid reader and soccer fan, a craft beer and whiskey fan, and a travel enthusiast. I think that all of these things represent who I am beyond being a semi-professional diaper changer.

As much as I told myself I wouldn’t be the person who only talks about his kids, I quickly began to understand how that could happen. Having a newborn is all-encompassing, and can permeate everything that you do. It impacts your lifestyle, schedule, and priorities; and can quickly become the lens through which you view your life.

So, how do you ensure that your interests, hobbies, and defining characteristics don’t end up falling by the wayside when you become a parent? How do you keep agency over your own identity when your schedule is so heavily influenced by an infant that is reliant on your care? Here are a few helpful tips to maintain your sense of self after having a baby.

Make Your New Schedule Work for You

The key point that I’ve discovered is to make a conscious effort to hold on to those aspects of yourself that are important to you and to make time for them. Instead of shaping your schedule around your hobbies, try fitting your interests into your schedule. Going for a run after work and getting home late just isn’t viable anymore, so instead I have blocked off my lunch hour as a time for me to get a run in during the day. If I want to read, I’ll do so while my son naps. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly better than nothing!

Share Your Hobbies with Your Child

Another solution I’ve found that works well is to include Oliver in my activities – whether that means spending weekend mornings watching soccer with him on my lap, enjoying the outdoors together, or reading my favorite stories to him. The aspect of fatherhood that I was most excited about was having the opportunity to share my interests with my son and to help him discover who he is – and this is a great way to start.

Some things will have to wait (see whiskey collection). But as he grows up, I hope to involve him in more aspects of my life, so Oliver can start to expand his horizons and I can keep doing what I love.

Becoming a father is a monumental shift, but it doesn’t have to mean a loss of identity. Get creative around incorporating old hobbies into your new life, and find ways to share your interests with your little ones.

More on Fatherhood

• How can fathers prepare for having a baby? Read our guide to pregnancy for dads, with tips & advice to support your pregnant partner emotionally and help her stay safe and healthy.
• The role of a father is always changing in our modern world. Read our advice and tips for being an engaged, supportive and loving dad.

Talking Fatherhood with Millennial Dads

Our very candid panel of modern working dads told us about stepping up as parents, dance classes on Super Bowl Sunday, sharing the load with mom, redefining self-care, and “embracing the poop” in a job that’s harder – and more fun – than they ever imagined.

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