Dad Talk: Can You Be Happier With Less Sleep, Money and Sex?


How am I going to be ‘Dad of the Year’ if I’m a self-serving psycho who craves little things like food and water?

All joking aside, surely you know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, it is a motivational theory often used in the workplace. Maslow believed that people are motivated by certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. In short, it looks like a pyramid and Maslow believed that we needed to build a strong base before moving onto higher needs.

According to Maslow, we are motivated by the need for things like food and water, safety and security, intimate relationships and friends, feelings of accomplishment, and the feeling of achieving one’s full potential.

Image credit: Simply Psychology

After nearly a decade of being a father, I am here to tell Maslow: “brother, you are wrong!” I won’t go as far as to say that we actually don’t need the things he described; however, I question the order of those needs. More specifically, the needs of a dad change and knock that pyramid upside down! I’ll give you some examples.

Sleep (A physiological need)

Before kids: Set alarm, get up when alarm goes off, go about my day, go to bed when I felt like it. I wasn’t terribly concerned about staying up late on Friday because I could just sleep in on Saturday. I typically slept through the night, no problem. Even if I didn’t, I could always take a little nap while watching SportsCenter.

After kids: No need for an alarm, because there is screeching with a kid attached to it, or better yet, just trying to get in my bed. I never realized I would have to fear for my body while I was sleeping, but it only takes ONE misplaced elbow or foot as a three-year-old is trying to climb across the bed to realize that I needed to start sleeping while wearing a cup! I still stay up late on weekends because when else can I watch the scary movies and play the “bad” video games? However, I suffer in the morning when the sun and youngest child get up at the same time.

Take a nap, you say? What is that? I’ll sleep when my youngest leaves for the second time after moving back from college.


Pre kids days. OK, this is WAY pre kids but look how relaxed we look!

Money (A safety and security need)

Before kids: I made it rain! It seemed like every time I turned around, I was getting paid. We finally hit the sweet spot after years of school were over, and we both had careers. Meet for drinks? Yes. Want takeout tonight? Of course. Last minute weekend trip to … anywhere? Why not?

After kids: What happened? Unlike sleep, this was sneaky. When our first child was an infant, she required nothing! I didn’t even have to buy food for her at first since my wife gave Prairie Farms a run for their money. Almost 10 years and multiple kids later and my wallet is always empty. Field trips, extracurricular activities, birthday presents for knuckleheads I don’t even know, the list goes on and on. However, we have learned to find the free activities and shop at Costco during peak food sample hours; we are planning a trip for 2028, and my wife loans me money for coffee at work on Wednesdays.


Sex (Belongingness and love need)

Before kids: Ah, those were the days. It was like Ludacris in “What’s your fantasy?” We could do it whenever and wherever (and we did). Living room couch? No problem. Kitchen? Why not? Leave the bedroom door open? Yes, we were crazy! Why even put on clothes when we will just be at it eventually?

After kids: ***Crickets*** Okay, maybe it isn’t that bad but it isn’t the same. Gone are the late afternoon random-room-quickies. The Quickie is literally quick by necessity as we have replaced it with 20 minutes on Saturday mornings before the kids have realized they can get out of bed and trying to bribe the children to leave us alone by letting them watch a movie. You would think that our evenings would still be prime time for “doin-it,” but I will refer you back to the changes in physiological needs on this one.


Point A to Point B (Esteem needs or feeling like we have accomplished something)

Before kids: Grabbed my keys, got in the car, ran all of my errands in a reasonable amount of time, went out to a lavish dinner (because I still had all of the money), came home for exciting sex with the wife/minx, fell asleep for the entire night and didn’t wake until I felt like it the next morning.

After kids: Ask kids 20 times to put on shoes, finally conceded and put shoes on youngest, try to trick children to race me out to car, realize I forgot my keys, tell children to put hands on car and freeze while I sprint back into the house to find the keys (don’t tell the wife I left them alone on the street!), wrestled younger children into car seats, remind oldest children several times to stop whatever they are doing and put on seat belt, drive to location of errand number 1, get all kids out of car, herd children to door, try to have a quick conversation with store employee while trying to grow eyeballs in the back of my head to supervise kids, finish with employee, repeat getting back to the car and into the car, scrap the rest of the list, and head to Costco for a lunch consisting of samples.

Ironically, I still feel the same sense of accomplishment as I did when I didn’t have kids and got all of the stuff done!


Heart (Self actualization or achieving one’s full potential)

Before kids: Here is the funny thing, I actually thought I was meeting this need before I had kids.

After kids: I didn’t know what I was missing and my heart is now spilling over. Who would have thought that watching my child shoot a basket, talking to them about Star Wars, wrestling before bedtime, or hearing about an accolade bestowed upon them in school would give me so much happiness and pride? My pyramid doesn’t look like Maslow’s, mainly because there is less food, sleep and due to blankets being stolen, less warmth as well; it is actually more of the inverse and hardly described by a pyramid as there are innumerable blessings about being a father that make it all worth it. I wouldn’t change anything if given the chance (except more sex).

Happy Father’s Day!

Kwame Curtis is an Air Force dad and father of three. After four years in South Texas, his family is currently stationed in the United Kingdom and his 5-year-old may never forgive him for the change in climate. He loves to drag his kids to famous sites all over Europe, feed them local food from different countries, and teach them the important things in life, like the words to every Michael Jackson song.