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The Fatherhood Experience

As I reflect on my journey as a father to my 9- and 6-year-old daughters, I am filled with gratitude and love. While it's been the most rewarding experience of my life, it hasn't always been easy. There have been highs and lows along the way, and I know more will come. In this article, I want to share the greatest joys and challenges I've experienced so far, offering a candid look into my fatherhood experience.

Greatest Joy So Far

The greatest joy of fatherhood for me has been developing a strong, loving relationship with my daughters. As a mental health counselor working with kids and families, I saw firsthand the importance of the parent-child relationship and the need to nurture it from a young age. Before becoming a father, I knew I wanted to prioritize building a relationship with my children that balanced warmth and love with respect. By striking that balance early on, we've been able to have a fun and enjoyable relationship while also maintaining clear boundaries and respect for authority. Over the years, this has helped us navigate life's challenges together with ease and understanding.

Biggest Challenge So Far

My biggest challenge as a father, one that I'm sure many can relate to, is the need to be "on" and fully present most of the time. Despite the daily stressors I face, my daughters expect my undivided attention when we're together. They're unaware of my struggles, and rightly so – they deserve to feel prioritized. However, there are days when I'm exhausted or preoccupied, making it difficult to engage with them wholeheartedly. This often leads to feelings of guilt, wondering if I’m doing enough as a father. While my flexible work schedule has allowed me to be more present in the home and build stronger relationships with my girls, it also demands a higher level of energy and output, leaving me drained on some days. I strive to balance my responsibilities with self-care, but it can be a challenge to prioritize my own needs and well-being.

Advice to New Fathers (or My Younger Self)

Get a babysitter! That's what I wish my wife and I had done early on when we had our first daughter. As new parents living away from family, we didn't prioritize finding someone to care for her while we pursued our hobbies and interests. At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal since we enjoyed spending time together as a family, but in hindsight, it likely impacted our social life and the connection between my wife and me. We stopped pursuing activities just for the two of us, and I believe that's important to maintain. Continuing to engage in your individual interests or shared activities as a couple can help strengthen your relationship and support your mental well-being.

As this journey continues, I know that there will be ups and downs, and my joys and challenges will evolve. I'm grateful for how things have gone so far and excited (though a bit nervous about the teenage years!) about what's to come. I hope that sharing my experience has been helpful, whether you're a fellow father who can relate or an expectant father looking for insight. I'd love to hear from you!

Consider these questions and send your responses (250 to 300 words) to What has been your greatest fatherhood joy and challenge so far? What advice would you give to your pre-dad self? We look forward to reading your responses!

Visit CHKD Dads in Action page, and listen to Andrew’s Five-Minute Fatherhood Talks.

About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew Jatau is a Licensed Professional Counselor and content creator currently working at Hopscotch, a leading pediatric behavioral health company.  He is the founder and CEO of Mylemarks, a website dedicated to providing engaging social-emotional resources for children and adolescents.  Andrew has worked in a number of settings providing mental health services to youth and families, including a day treatment center, a university counseling center, and most recently, a private practice in Virginia Beach.  He previously served as a Fatherhood Consultant with CHKD, helping to organize and facilitate fatherhood programs in the Hampton Roads area.  Andrew resides in Aurora, CO with his wife and two daughters.