“What about the loss of identity when you become a dad?” This question was posed to me by a chap who was just about to become a father. I was flummoxed by the question at first. There were all manner of issues he could have asked, but whether he’d have an identity crisis was not top of my list.
I was expecting to be asked about loss of sleep, what it was like changing nappies or maybe, just maybe, how having young kids impacts on your sex life. Oh no, he went straight for the jugular and asked me about loss of identity.
As an aside, I should add the question was very well timed. Just a few hours late this chap did indeed become a father. I shall have to catch up with him soon and see how he is getting on as a dad.
Identity is a thorny issue. I recall one of my in-laws saying to Mrs Adams and I: “You’ll no longer be John And Gill, you’ll be Helen and Izzy’s parents.”
It wasn’t that bad, it’s not like John Adams disappeared completely into a thick, opaque, fug of fatherhood and parenting. I didn’t melt into a gigantic blob that was inseparable from my kids and I can’t tell you I had an identity crisis.
That said, I was honest with the guy that asked me about loss of identity. I said that loss of identity could be an issue.
I thought about my own life. I used to be very sociable, but I don’t get out and socialise as much as I once did.
My friendship groups have changed. They revolve more around my children and their social lives or the ability to get a babysitter. The number of child-free friends I have can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
When younger, I could afford to be silly with my money. I once spent £70 on a pair of gold shoes to wear to an award ceremony just because it seemed liked a funny thing to do. By contrast, this week I am marking all our outgoings on an Excel spreadsheet to see where we can cut down our outgoings.
Once upon a time I was a great traveller. While I still get to go overseas occasionally, it’s rare and holidays are restricted by school term times. I long ago accepted my days of undertaking regular long-haul travel are over. Simply trying to organise a weekend away with Mrs Adams is difficult enough.
When both my kids started school, I started calling myself a school run dad. It’s quite an apt name for me. I was a stay at home dad, indeed I still am the at home parent in this household. I combine this with working at home while my kids are at school and my day revolves around the school drop off in the morning and collection in the afternoon.
I don’t look at any changes to my life and identity as bad developments. I was once a bit brash, a bit of a clown (many would say I still am a clown), selfish even. I would identify myself by my occupation, either as a journalist or someone working the arts of public relations.
It’s not so much a loss of identity I’ve experienced as a change of identity. I’m not as reckless with my money as I used to be. I don’t have to stay up until two AM just because all my friends are. If anything, I am more confident in who I am and whatever decisions I make, my kids are at the centre of them. Fatherhood has made me think of other people more and that’s no bad thing.
There are those people I have known who have thrown themselves entirely into the role of Tiger Dad or Earth Mother. I’ve always felt that’s a risky strategy as one day your kids will leave home. Without children to pin your identity on, such individuals will be a bit lost.
You need to keep some aspect of your identity, but that identity will change when you become mum or dad. If it doesn’t, you need to take a long, hard look at your priorities.
Where do you stand on this? Do you think you experience a loss of identity when you become a parent or is it a change of identity? I’d love to know your thoughts so feel free to pop a comment down below.