My Potential Problems with Parenthood

Matthew_B_Johnson

I think I’d be a good father.

I’m worried I wouldn’t be.

I don’t have any children yet, and I may never end up having any. Part of me wonders if that’s a good thing. And while I have a long and painful history of talking myself out of things I want because I fixate on the worst-case-scenario aspects of everything, my concerns about one day becoming a father are founded in rational thinking.

Well, as rational as I can be about something that terrifies me if I think too hard about it.

Which concerns, you might be asking?

The biggest one is my disability. Being a quadriplegic, it’s difficult enough to get myself safely from one point to another. I worry I lack the mobility to keep up with small children. Let’s face it, once they learn to walk, they’ve already got a leg up on me (pun intended). They can move farther, faster, and in and through smaller places than I can. They can run across a grassy field or a gravel lot without getting stuck (don’t ask…). They can travel across sand…and I can’t.

What do I do if they run off and I can’t catch them?

Given a small child’s propensity to do something like dart into a street without warning or venture near something potentially dangerous, like an electrical outlet or a swimming pool, my lack of speed, agility, and reflexes are a legitimate concern.


After observing friends of mine with small children, I’ve seen how much energy it takes to keep up with children. Kids are endless fonts of energy. They go at a million miles an hour until they just drop.

Then they get naptime.

I don’t remember the last time I took a nap on purpose. Drifting off face-down in my critical theory textbook during grad school doesn’t count as a nap.

God knows I could use some extra sleep once in a while. As someone with sleep apnea, I don’t get enough rest at night, even with the use of a CPAP machine. Furthermore, I wake up a couple times a night to pee. One of the many downsides to being in a wheelchair is edema. My lower legs and feet retain fluid during the day because the muscles aren’t working to pump that fluid back up to the rest of my body. So, when I lay down at night, all that fluid that isn’t being held down by gravity anymore rushes straight to my bladder.

The last time I remember sleeping uninterrupted through the night was in 2011.

Yes, I realize that was a decade ago.

As a result of not getting enough sleep, I constantly feel like I’m operating at 50%. I’ve developed an unhealthy coffee addiction to compensate for it.

But I can totally quit any time I want (he said in a self-delusional and over-compensatory fashion).

I worry I just won’t have the energy required to be a parent. As I age, I don’t see myself getting any more energetic.


I’ve witnessed able-bodied friends of mine run themselves to the point of exhaustion just keeping their kids dressed in public and getting them to use proper restroom facilities.

Take, for example, my friend Sean, who is one of the best dads I know. He has a little boy who is a total nudist and has zero qualms about pooping in places other than a toilet – we’re hoping that’s temporary. Being able-bodied, Sean sometimes struggles to keep clothes on that kid and to keep him from doing things like pooping in someone’s barn or under their trampoline.

Yes, those events actually happened. Sean is a trooper.

Due to the lack of manual dexterity in my fingers (damn you, nerve damage!), I’m not sure I can do things like dress a child, much less keep them dressed if they decide they don’t want to wear clothes that day. Moreover, at some point, I’ll need to change a diaper. I’m not sure I have the ability to do so, or to clean up in the event of…unforeseen circumstances.

What kinds of unforeseen circumstances?

If you’re a parent, you know.

If not, allow me to present Exhibit A.

When I was in college, my friends Zack and Sarah were parents to two little girls – a three year old and a newborn. The three of us had made plans to go somewhere one Saturday morning. However, as I’m getting ready to go, I get a call from Zack.

“Hey, so…my kid sort of…exploded,” he said.

My mind reeled in a number of unpleasant directions. “Ok…so when you say exploded, what exactly do you mean?”

He sighed. “All the diaper did was slow it down…and cause it to squirt out the sides of her pants. And up her back. And up her stomach. And–”

“Ok, ok, I get it.”

“Yeah, Sarah just threw those clothes away. She’s hosing her off in the tub, which will have to be bleached afterward.”

“I take it you guys need a rain check on today?” I said.

“Yep.”

This is just one of the many, many stories of violent bodily expulsions emanating from a friend’s little one.

I am physically ill-equipped to deal with regular diaper issues, much less a DEFCON 1 diaper situation.


Theoretically, I wouldn’t have shoulder all of the parental responsibilities by myself. Ideally, my future children’s mother would be in the picture, and we would work as a team, splitting the parental duties between us. And if we’re talking theoretical situations, she and I might be married…happily, even.

Hey, it could happen (he said using cautious optimism to mask self-doubt).

But, I worry that my lack of ability to provide child care would lead to an imbalance in the parental workload. I worry I wouldn’t be able to pull my weight as a father and care-giver, which would put a strain on that relationship.

How long is that imbalance sustainable? How long before she is overwhelmed and begins to grow resentful or feel unappreciated? How long before the cons outweigh the pros of continuing our relationship? How long before she decides to excise me from the picture altogether?

I don’t want to go through that. I also don’t want to put someone else through that. And I worry that, even if I’m trying my hardest, a failed relationship will likely be the outcome.


I’m the type of person who tunnel-visions on whatever I’m working on. In order for me to meet a deadline or finish something I need to get done, I often have to block everything else out and focus on the task at hand. Sometimes, this is necessary to be a functional, responsible adult.

However, I also tunnel-vision on things I enjoy doing. I fixate on a writing project. I get lost in a book. I delve into one of my favorite video games. I lose track of time, and everything else around me ceases to exist for as long as I’m engaged in my chosen activity.

Because I don’t have kids, it hasn’t been much of an issue. As long as I complete my work for the day, I’m free to do whatever.

Being a parent changes that.

I’ve noticed that I get to spend considerably less time with friends of mine who are parents as opposed to friends of mine who aren’t. Moreover, the friends of mine with kids often don’t have the energy or time to do things for fun. My friend Sean, for example, rarely gets to play video games anymore.

You may be thinking, who cares? What kind of grown up plays video games?

We do. Thanks to the advent of online gaming, video games have been a great way for Sean and me to hang out, even if we’re in different physical locations. We catch up, crack jokes, and have fun while digitally blowing some shit up.

It’s how we connect and take a break from the stresses of daily life.

Only, he has three kids now, and those virtual hangouts happen less and less frequently.

And I get it. He’s a good dad. He puts his kids first.

Would I?

I’d like to think I would. But I don’t honestly know. I have no experience to guide me. And the older I get, the harder I’m imagining it would be to change my habits and begin putting someone else’s wants and needs before my own.


With all of that being said, I do have a small, but solid sense of optimism about some aspects of parenting at which I imagine I would excel.

I’ve been a teacher and coach for over five years now. The lessons I’ve learned from teaching are what can provide a foundation for me to help my future children grow to be kind, compassionate, responsible people. I’m confident in my ability to listen and offer counsel, to comfort them when they need it, and to provide structure and discipline when necessary.

And I would do everything within my power to provide them with a loving, nurturing home life.

I have wonderful friends and family to whom I can turn for advice, people who’ve blazed the trail and who can point me in the right direction when I’m feeling lost. Having a support system in place alleviates some of my preemptive anxiety about becoming a parent.

Though, at this point, I’m worrying needlessly as I’m not currently in a relationship. Based on my rudimentary understating of human biology, “mom” is a pretty important factor when it comes to whatever children I may one day have.

Right now, it seems a long way off.

When the time comes, I hope I’ll be ready.


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