Why John Stamos Is Ready to Be a Dad: 'I Had to Do Some Work on Myself First'

John Stamos and fiancée Caitlin McHugh are expecting their first child

Uncle Jesse is going to be a dad! The beloved Fuller House star opens up about expecting a baby with fiancée Caitlin McHugh. Subscribe now for the EXCLUSIVE baby news — only in PEOPLE!

John Stamos has had quite a reign as one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors. But the preternaturally youthful actor, 54, says he long felt as though something were missing.

Now, Stamos and fiancée Caitlin McHugh, 31, are expecting their first child — and their family will become whole.

“I always wanted to be a dad. Clearly I had to do some work on myself first,” he tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “I have a youthful thing. People say, ‘Oh, you look young.’ You start believing you’re gonna live to be 150. And then you wake up and go, ‘No, man, this is it. This is not a rehearsal.’ … People would say, ‘You should have a child.’ I was like, ‘That ship has sailed.'”

Michael Tran/FilmMagic

The Fuller House actor adds that he’s grown since his marriage to actress Rebecca Romijn, whom he wed in 1998 and divorced in 2005.

“I was young. My values weren’t set properly,” he explains. “I’ve kicked and screamed going into adulthood.”

He also says he spiraled after the 2001 death of his father William, whom he credits with keeping him grounded during his early fame by insisting he still flip burgers at the family restaurant.

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“I just lost sight of who I was, who I should be,” he says. “You start compromising your beliefs. It just gets further and further. Then you go, ‘Wait a minute.’ I wish I would’ve pulled it together sooner. I was heartbroken. I loved my dad. It broke my mother too.”

  • For more on John and Caitlin’s happy news, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

His mother, Loretta, died in 2014, and Stamos went through a dark period, getting a DUI in 2015 and checking into rehab a month later.

How did he pull through?

“You have to be really honest with yourself and go, ‘I’ve been given everything. This is selfish,'” he says. “I was so lucky to have all that great stuff growing up. How dare I not keep that with me? I had two great parents. How dare I be so selfish and think about myself so much? You have to surrender. You have to give up: I don’t know what I’m doing. My way’s not working.”

But Stamos knows his parents will be watching proudly as he becomes a dad.

“It kills me that my parents aren’t here to be part of this, but I know it probably wouldn’t be happening
if they weren’t up there,” he says. “You know how you put your father on a pedestal, and he’s a superhero, and then as you grow older, you go, ‘Ah, he’s just a man’? I never got to that point. Till the day he died, he was bigger than life to me.”

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