Background An in‐depth exploration of the experience of midlife fathers of developmentally disabled young adults (aged 19–32 years) was motivated by a dearth of research in this area (McKnight, PsyPAG Quarterly, 94, 2015, 10). Method Five fathers participated in semi‐structured interviews which were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2009, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method, and Research. London: Sage). Results The final thematic structure comprises four inter‐related themes. They demonstrate a high degree of concern for children's well‐being; the joy adult children confers on their father's lives as well as the difficulties men experience in response to the limited opportunities available to their offspring. Importantly findings also illustrate the way in which men struggle to contend with painful emotions. Conclusions Societal conceptions of masculinity, fatherhood and disability necessarily influence the way fathers experience the world (Yarwood, Fathering, 9, 2011, 150). It is imperative that service providers recognize the particular challenges faced by fathers, seeking ways to better engage and support them.