What to Do About Fear
“The problem for expectant fathers is that there are reasonable and unreasonable fears,” says Frances Brown, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with a couples and family practice in Honolulu. “Many young fathers find it hard to draw the line between them, because they feel it’s their traditional duty, as the provider, to cover every contingency.” It’s reasonable, she suggests, for Greg to chart bottom-line expenses and then trim a bit, putting off any big-ticket expenses such as a car, trip or new home. It’s unreasonable, though, to act as if an occasional takeout Chinese dinner will leave you homeless.
In my case, I wore shirts twice before putting them in the laundry, skimped on shoes and haircuts, and let my ordinarily cheerful demeanor betray a wary, hunted look (not so smart when you’re angling for a big promotion). At least I didn’t go the route of my neighbor, Neal, whose impending fatherhood inspired a series of ever larger and more grandiose moneymaking schemes. Thank God I didn’t “get in on the ground floor!” of anything, except the baby section of the department store.
When my boss came through with the lowest raise I ever had received, I mastered my anger, realizing that he was sending me a message, not an insult. Then I let my wife throw out the more threadbare elements of my wardrobe as the first step in looking for a new job. “Change requires growth,” Brown says, and it was indeed time to move on. I did, and I moved up, too, to a higher-paying job at a better magazine.
Today, 11 years later, I’m here to report that we eventually moved to a larger apartment, and we still visit Hawaii. In fact, this past summer on the island of Molokai, I sat on a green hill overlooking a whitecapped ocean and talked to a young Hawaiian who works as a guide for adventure campers. The topic of discussion? The pressure of being an expectant father.
The advice I gave Jack was to concentrate on being there for his wife and child that first year, and to not spend all of his time working and fretting. I reminded him that he didn’t need the complete unabridged Encyclopaedia Brittanica, a computer with CD-ROM, a college fund or a remodeled house right off the bat. Just remember, I told him, hang on to your dreams.
And forget about serving leftovers, at least after the second day.