The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Married dad-to-be unsure what to do with his doubts

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: When I first started dating my wife, “Maryann,” I was 27 with no thought of settling down. Right away, though, my family just loved Maryann. She is great: She’s fun to be with, smart, pretty and a really nice person, and she has a great job. My parents and brothers kept saying, “You better lock that down.”

And I did. Now we are expecting our first child, and I’m kind of freaking out and wondering whether this was anything I ever wanted. I feel a little bit trapped.

I can’t tell Maryann. She’s so happy. Is this normal for a man facing fatherhood? There’s no one I can talk to this about without feeling like a jerk. What do I do now?

— Too Much Too Soon

Too Much Too Soon: Grow up fast.

That can mean different things on the stay/go/speak up/shut up/fake it/make it continuum, but it all falls under “owning it.” You’re in this because you listened to outside voices like an obedient child instead of listening to your own needs, wants and nature. I think we all make this mistake at some point, launching marriages and careers and purchases we could stack to the moon, but I also don’t believe mistakes in the thought process necessarily mean the choices made are mistakes.

Regardless, now you need to listen to yourself. And you need to live, breathe, speak, act, love and make choices like a married adult facing parenthood. What do you think that means? What constitutes doing your authentic best?

Feeling like a jerk is part of the process, as we all find out eventually. But for talking freely, get into a therapeutic setting. Stat. For the innocent child, if no one else.

I know that it’s hard to find someone available, affordable and compatible, and to admit that you need help with something that everyone else seems to manage without help. (Pro tip: few do.) But if you edit your words carefully to make yourself look and feel better, then it won’t be the truth, and you won’t get the help you need.

Re: Too Much Too Soon: What you’re feeling is normal. Your life has changed, and it’s going to change even more. This is a crazy time, and you’re not a bad person or “immature” (that catchall phrase for anything women disapprove of) for feeling overwhelmed. Your wife is no doubt second-guessing every decision she has ever made right about now. The difference is that she gets support for that instead of insults.

I’m suspecting this will get better for you, and you will all be fine. In the meantime, I suggest asking men how they’ve felt during their wives’ first pregnancies.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: If you’d like to write something more sexist, then I can update the file (

Other readers’ thoughts:

· Fatherhood (or parenthood) will take all that you have and 100 percent more. It is best to go into it very aware of how to take care of yourself. Ask yourself: What do you love to do? What feeds your soul? What replenishes you? What stimulates your creativity? What makes you love being alive? Answering these questions will help you not feel “isolated” in a decision you already made.

· What were your alternative plans at 27? I’m not being snarky, I swear! It’s just that you don’t mention anything you were doing or wanted to do that marriage and fatherhood replaced. And now you’re unhappy, but you seem to have taken a back seat in the design of your own life.