Parenting is always different than what you thought it would be. You can do all the research on sleep regressions or toddler tantrums but still find yourself surprised by how it feels to actually be in it. Maybe it’s easier — or harder than you could have imagined. But one thing is certain: Becoming a parent will change your life forever. One Reddit dad posed a question to the popular r/Parenting community about these changes — and the responses are insightful, comforting, and laced with tough love.
User u/RCerberus90 asked “Dads: At what age do you get (some) of your life back?” The Reddit user gave some context and expanded on his question before asking other Redditors to share their thoughts. “I have a little boy; he’s awesome, although he has his moments,” the new dad shared. “I was expecting my life to change when we decided to have him.”
But as his kiddo enters toddlerhood, u/RCerberus90 admitted to struggling. Every day feels like Groundhog Day; my weekdays consist of: Get up, to work, come home, play with blocks, then bed,” he wrote. “My weekends are the same, except I don’t go into work. My question is, when does it get easier? Everybody I speak to laughs and says: ‘It doesn’t get easier,’ that’s not helpful…”
He says he knows his life has “changed forever” now that he’s a dad, but he was looking for some timeline for when parenting gets a little easier. “Is it simply when your child is old enough to entertain themselves for an hour or so while you do your own thing and take a break?” he asked.
The responses boiled down to one of two answers. Parents either gave an age where they really felt like they got some semblance of their lives back, or they answered with tough love: that you don’t ever get your life back, and that he might be asking the wrong question.
“What do you mean by ‘get your life back’? Genuine question,” u/DadHead2023 asked. “Because although I get the general gist of your question, it’d probably pay to be specific about what your average day (and odd weekend day) would look like in comparison to how it does now? Just to gauge expectations.”
“I’m confused on what you mean by ‘get your life back,'” u/Ornery-Tea-795 said. “This is your life. Your lifestyle has changed because of your child. If you need to go out and hang with friends, then get a babysitter so you can do so. Just because you have a child doesn’t mean your life stops; it just changes around the baby and what the baby needs a bit more.”
Welcoming a baby into the world does change a lot. Experts say the physical changes from becoming a father are akin to a second puberty. And this phase can be lonely. You adjust to new responsibilities and the weight of caring for and shaping a new life. The reality is that there will be things from pre-dad life that won’t ever come back. But some things will eventually shift back closer to life before kids — including a restful night of sleep and having chunks of time that you can carve out just for yourself to see friends or be alone.
“Three years. Your time is not your own until your child is around the age of 3,” u/HMourland answered instead. “It is around this time that children go through radical cognitive changes and begin to develop the skills necessary for you to get some time to yourself.”
But it really just depends on what you struggle with as a dad. One Redditor, u/Aggressive_Boat_8047, felt like the “toddler years are definitely the hardest, in my opinion…The first few years are a grind. You’re just surviving and also keeping a tiny person alive, but I definitely don’t think it’s forever.”
u/Muchbeauty says the shift comes around 5 years old. “My son will be 5 in February, and it is getting easier to be ‘me’ again,” they shared. “He doesn’t need constant monitoring; he can (and wants to) play in his room alone, and he’s actually really funny, and it’s fun to hang out with him. It’s way less Groundhog Day! Hang in there!”
These Redditors are right: The first few years of parenthood are tough, and you’re often left feeling like you’re swimming without a life jacket. But it does eventually get easier as your kids get older and you settle into who you are now as a parent.
While you may get some personal time and some sense of yourself back as you move away from regimented diaper changes, nap times, and midnight wake-ups, you may never get your old life back. But that’s the beauty of becoming a parent. You have chosen a new adventure, a new way of life, and a different you to become. Sometimes it might feel hard, and sometimes it might feel monotonous. But more than anything, it’s what you chose. Embrace it. Become the new person — a fuller, better, different you.
You can read the entire Reddit thread and all the responses here.