The definition of father: a man in relation to his child or children. What does this even mean? Am I only someone in relation to my kids? This can’t be enough. I need to be more, I need to be an involved father. But how and why?
“I am a father.” This is something I have to tell myself every day. Please, don’t get me wrong. This sentence is not a negative one. I love saying it. But, I need to say it.
Throughout life, we are taught a lot of things. How to talk, walk, swim, read and write, do maths, do sports, become a good student. We study, we are prepared and get educated for a career.
These are all important things, but I was never officially schooled on “how to be a father”.
As I write this I have 3 beautiful daughters (yup, I have been blessed with only girls…..and I love it!). When I heard “the news” for the first time: “Babe, I am pregnant!”, I was excited because society told me to be. In reality; I had no idea what to expect.
9 months flew by and before I knew it, there I was; “a father”, with no schooling or experience required.
We attended all the right prenatal classes and of course I had my own father and grandfathers as references, but that is almost like saying just because I watch rugby I can play rugby…
While growing up my mother always told me that presence is important. So I decided I will try that, “to be present”. Only, one small problem, I have a full time job AND on top of that I am a very ambitious entrepreneur. So how can I be more present when I have extra mouths to feed? It sounds like an oxymoron. You need more money to sustain your family but you must also be more present to spend time with your family!
So, I decided to be INVOLVED.
I would change nappies, bath our girls, burp them, feed them, put them to bed, get up at night for them, play with them, teach them and above all love them. VOILA, the rest could remain exactly the same.
I soon realised that this is a monumental task, but I am a father, so upward and onward. I would just sleep less, keeping everything else the same. Slowly however, I started neglecting my friends, my family and then my wife. But as long as all remained the same, everything would be good. MASSIVE MISTAKE!
Ultimately I had to accept that I am not Superman. I can’t be anywhere and everywhere in a micro-second. I had to accept my changing circumstances and seriously adjust the way I was doing things or risk everything.
Thank God, He made wives.
Women have a natural ability to parent. This stunned me about my wife. How quickly she could become selfless and cared for these new “monkeys” in our lives. I loved seeing this transformation in her. I also wanted some of this “magic” and I knew that with her guidance I could. And boy-o-boy, what a privilege it is to be involved as a dad and have a relationship with your child.
Being involved is not simple.
It takes time, a lot of time, perseverance, patience, tons of energy and did I mention less sleep?
Dads are supporters for the first few months. Your wife is your baby’s life source and this really is something special to witness. But it’s in these 1st few months that you need to lay the foundation for your new and wonderful role as family man by embracing becoming a dad and sharing the responsibilities of parenting.
There are loads of thing you can do which will help both your wife and baby.
Small thing I do that make a huge difference:
- Doing the dirty work, like changing diapers, cleaning the house and taking over as the primary caregiver for our older daughters.
- Protecting our family by putting my friends and social engagements 2nd. It was my decision to become a family man, the good, the bad and the uncomfortable. So my 1st responsibility is now my family.
- Supporting my wife by giving her a break and putting her wellbeing 1st.
- Understanding how lonely it can be and waking up with her for night feeds, sick kids and midnight parties (because some times a baby just wants to play at 2am….embrace it, don’t fight it).
- Respecting her “job” as a mom, letting her know she contributes. The world places massive expectations on moms, but strange enough not on dads. This has puzzled me since Eliana’s birth (our first born). I could quickly see that this was the case with the amount of compliments I got from family and strangers. All just because I was involved. Naturally I like being complimented, but I felt that it was so unfair. I was being praised for holding my baby or changing her nappy at a gathering with family/friends. My wife was doing far more than I, yet people praised me for just being a dad. It felt so weak to be praised for that. Know that your wife does not get the same amount of praise, she probably feels judged most of the time. Be her biggest fan! Praise her, support her and help her know that she is doing a great job!
There are loads of research on the importance of involved dads and why kids need their father but his relationship is not just beneficial to them but also to YOU! Almost 6 years into being a dad, I can, with absolute certainty say that kids give you back 10 times more than that which you put in.
My TOP 10 benefits for being an involved father:
- I know what true love is and how much God loves me. I finally understand His love now that I feel the love I have for our kids.
- It has made our marriage stronger. I support my wife, trust her “mother’s instinct” and follow her lead. I help when she seems unsure, carry her when she is tired and praise her when she thinks she is failing. She is my number one and her needs come before anything else (even my own). I’m determined to show our kids what a healthy marriage looks like.
- I enjoy the small things in life, like the colour of the sky, rain drops falling on my head, the fact that every stone on earth is unique (I really find that amazing), ants and spiders. This renewed respect for life, all gained just by spending time with our girls and seeing the world through their eyes.
- I realised that the best things in life really are free… Laughter, play, wrestling, exploring the outdoors, swimming, talking, joking around, singing and going for afternoon walks in our neighbourhood.
- Being involved saves me money. Yes, this sounds strange, but If I am not involved I will need to pay somebody else to teach our kids the things that only I can. In our home that would be maths, how to swim, how to keep their bodies healthy, make sure they brush their teeth properly etc. I’d need to pay for someone to help my wife because NO person was meant raise a child alone.
- It’s kept me fit… I am sure I have no need to elaborate on this one.
- I can protect them, because I am there with them.
- It motivates me. Kids have a way of looking into your soul, accepting you, loving you and believing in you. My girls give me confidence to be better, work harder and strive for more.
- It builds my faith. The Bible often speaks about kids and their faith. It’s spectacular to witness their faith firsthand. We can all do with less doubt and more child-like faith.
- It has taught me about forgiveness. How to let go of the things that don’t matter and not hold on to whatever negativity is pulling me down.
Being an involved dad has endless benefits and it’s a dicision you have to make.
One thing I can promise you; the returns for this action will keep paying dividends until the day you die.