BY TARYN JEREZ, Interview with Leo Jerez
The old saying goes that a woman becomes a mother when she finds out she’s pregnant while a man becomes a father once he holds his baby. There is a plethora of women’s perspectives as first-time mothers from parenting magazines to mommy blogs, but what about the transition that men feel becoming a dad? Society’s appreciation of the roles that fathers play in their children’s lives has definitely grown beyond the simple balance of discipline and provider with a side of dad jokes, thankfully. I thought it would be fun to sit down with my own husband and new dad to our sweet baby boy as he celebrates his very first Father’s Day to share his perspective.
Which moment did you truly feel like you had become a dad?
Honestly, I’m still not sure I “feel” like a dad. I definitely get little moments of “Dad feels.” For instance, the first time the doctor walked in and asked me, “Hi, are you Isaiah’s dad?” or when I come downstairs after work and he looks up at me and smiles and screams “Dada” with that little voice of his. But, outside of those moments, I still honestly feel like regular old me.
But, maybe that’s what fatherhood has always been about; just a “fake it ‘til you make it” thing where nobody really feels like they have this fatherhood role down perfectly.
I guess if I had to pick one “moment” that really stands out as the most “Dad moment” so far would be buying my first pair of New Balances and khaki shorts! That and the first time Isaiah wrapped his little hand around my finger. There will never be anything that compares to that.
What has becoming a dad in the last year taught you about fatherhood?
I feel like I’ve learned the true meaning of responsibility. Before becoming a father, it was very easy to fall into habitual thoughts that were, frankly, selfish. Now, I feel like most of my thoughts and efforts go towards the preservation and well-being of our beautiful boy. The first few months home from the hospital, you quickly realize that nobody else is going to take the responsibility of fathering your child, and you have to step up as a man and be there for your kid.
Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that sense of responsibility also manifests itself as a severely unwarranted fear of dying and leaving my son behind without a dad; I suddenly see the danger in everyday life around me where before I was more blissfully unaware. I never had so many morbid thoughts until after becoming a father!
How has your own experience as a dad changed how you view your own father?
I definitely have a newfound respect for my pops. I often call him up now and ask him if he remembers caring for me as an infant in the same way I’m caring for my son. It’s hard to imagine my dad waking up in the wee hours of the morning to clean up dirty diapers that I made. I actually feel a greater sense of camaraderie with him. We’ve been through the same “boot camp,” and we both know the toll a newborn brings, and the sheer pride of seeing that little one grow.
I’ve also found that I care a lot more now about the legacy of the Jerez-family name. I consider my dad to be a very special human being; he can capture an audience like no other and show superhuman levels of empathy and genuine care for others. A lot of my own unique personality, I attribute directly to him. Well, now it’s my job to pass that on to my son. And, one day when both I and my father are no longer on this earth, my boy will then carry on our name and that special “Jerez” aura. And, that is something really special.
What advice do you hope to impart on your son when he becomes a dad one day?
Son, all you can do is your best, every single day. You will question yourself. You will feel like you’re falling short. But, rest assured that when your child looks to you and seeks comfort, then you will know you’re doing everything right for them. No one has this all figured out on day one. But, just as you hope to impart wisdom on your child, be open to learn from them as well, and you will soon find yourself amongst the ranks of the greatest dads around.
Also, you pamper that mama. She carried and gave birth to that baby for you, and whatever she needs, you step up and do it for her without hesitation until she’s fully recovered – and even after.
As you celebrate the special father-figures in your life this Father’s Day, I encourage you to ask some of these questions to learn more about what “becoming Dad” was like for them. You may learn something new about their perspective and journey to family and fatherhood that you can look back on for years to come.