How my life changed after becoming a dad

18th June 2024

Danny, our Workplace Training Specialist, shares his experience of becoming a dad at 21.

Becoming a parent at any age is a big life change, and looking back I don’t think anyone could have said anything to prepare me for the experience. When I found out I was going to be a father at 20 years old I don’t think I ever anticipated that I would navigate the initial journey easily.

I hope that in sharing my experience I can encourage other fathers to open up to friends, family or access other support to help them navigate the challenges of fatherhood.

How my life changed after becoming a dad

Like many people my age at the time, I wasn’t averse to living on virtually nothing for the majority of the month. At 21 I was employed on a recruitment subsidy with a national charity, earning £550 a month as a ‘trainee admin assistant’. While I was happy to live on this as a single man, my income now needed to provide for two other people. I grew increasingly anxious about money and felt tremendous guilt every time I spent on myself.

As time progressed my life became a cycle of working, helping with the bedtime routine, watching TV and going to bed. My world began to shrink and I felt increasingly isolated. Money worries stopped me from visiting my family and my friends were at a very different stage of life to me. They were travelling or spending their time together while I watched from a distance, feeling like I was missing out.

I found the lack of sleep to be the most difficult part of fatherhood, generally managing a couple of hours of broken sleep between night feeds. I grew exhausted, stopped taking care of myself and became irritated with those around me.

Support for fathers

I wish I could say that I reached out for support at the time but I did what most new fathers do: I silently soldiered on while trying to navigate a pivotal life moment unaided at a young age.

While I loved my daughter more than anything, I carried an incredible amount of shame that I wasn’t experiencing her arrival as the joyous occasion it should be.

The National Childbirth Trust estimates that up to 25% of new fathers experience mild symptoms of depression during the first year of parenthood but post-natal support for fathers is still hard to find and rarely talked about.

In 2022 I welcomed my third child into the world and it’s a very different experience to where I was 14 years ago. I have much more patience than I did before, I know how to ask for help when I need it and I know to be kind to myself on the tough days. I love being a dad but more than that, I love being their dad. They make me so proud.  

First time fathers face many struggles, as do long time fathers, step fathers, grieving fathers, care givers filling the father role and everyone in between. I encourage you to talk to those around you when you need to.

Even if it feels like the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

Sources of support:

Fathers Network Scotland provides information & signposting to help you become the dad you want to be and give your children the best possible start in life.

Breathing Space is a confidential phone line for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16, feeling low, anxious or depressed. Phone on 0800 83 85 87. Open Monday - Thursday 6pm to 2am and Friday 6pm - Monday 6am.

Time for You is an online wellbeing support service provided by SAMH for anyone experiencing mild to moderate emotional or mental health difficulties aged 16 and over and living in Scotland.