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I Was Happy With My Dad Bod—Until I Had a Kid

Photograph by Twenty20

There's no damn reason a man's body should change because his wife is pregnant, yet that doesn't keep men like me from consciously, or unconsciously, deciding that parenting is as good an excuse as any to let yourself go physically. That's part of the sneaky appeal of parenthood, although to be totally honest, when I became a dad at 38 it had been more than a few years since I'd paid much attention to my physical appearance.

I had a dad bod, not fat or unhealthy necessarily, but also nothing to be particularly proud about. I was a little doughy and a little misshapen and that didn't really bother me too much. In the past few months, however, my now 19-month-old son has started running around in ways that have made it damn near impossible for me to ignore how out of shape I've become.

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I love watching my son play in the backyard or at a party. This is partially because I find my son endlessly entertaining and his enjoyment of life gives me joy. But to be brutally honest, I also like to watch my son play from the comfort of a deck chair because I like being a sedentary dad and chasing him around exhausts me and makes me feel like a very old man.

So while I'm generally happy with my body, there's a part of me that feels guilty for not being able to keep up with my son's crazy baby energy.

My son's favorite games right now are "Let's have Daddy chase me," "Let's race in the direction we're definitely not supposed to go," and then, "Let's race back to where we're definitely not suppose to go after Daddy carries me away from it repeatedly" while my favorite game with him tends to be, "Let's sit quietly and watch Dex play." So while I'm generally happy with my body, there's a part of me that feels guilty for not being able to keep up with my son's crazy baby energy.

My legs are five times longer than his. There's no reason he should be able to outrun me.

I particularly feel guilty being regularly winded by chasing after my baby because my wife works as a preschool teacher, so she literally spends ten times as much time chasing after kids and while she's perpetually exhausted, as all good parents should be, she has much more of an excuse to be.

So maybe it would behoove me to start taking the condition of my body more seriously, if not for my own sake, or for the sake of my wife, then for my son. Because this dad bod is only going to continue to get older and more decrepit in the years ahead unless I do something to curb this decline.

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I can't imagine a world where my son would ever actually be proud of my physical condition. He's never going to be the kind of kid who tells classmates that his dad can beat up their dad, (Although depending on how huge of a nerd he becomes, he may be able to say, confidently, that his dad has a more exhaustive, encyclopedic knowledge of early "Simpsons" episodes and Weird Al album tracks than they do.)

But I would at least like for my body, and my physical condition, to not be a source of enduring shame for my family, which is a goal so modest I suspect even a creaky old man like me might be able to achieve it.

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