The Coach is In…
“Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.” Naveen Jain
Father’s Day – Keep Evolving
Yesterday was Father’s Day. The day we celebrate those who perform the role of father in our lives. My father passed in April of 2017. This was the second Father’s Day without him. I realize that although he is gone, his investment lives on. There is comfort in that, and a challenge that I live up to that investment. This Father’s Day I spent time thinking about how fathers have evolved, and the work still to be done – one man’s opinion.
My Father was part of the Traditional generation. Born in 1921 his life was shaped a great deal by the Great Depression, and World War II. He was part of the generation when the roles of men and women were much more defined than they are today. The man was the ‘provider.’ The woman was the ‘caretaker.’ He worked outside the home, took care of repairing the home, and taking care of the ‘outside.’ The woman raised the children and took care of the meals and the inside of the home. These were not absolutes, as my mother is an example of a woman who worked outside the home as a substitute teacher for the years my brother and I were in school.
I would not describe my father as disinterested in his role as a father, but I could tell when I was younger that he viewed it as no his main purpose. Perhaps, that is why I worked so hard to receive his ‘favor’; or, maybe it’s just a boy and dad thing.
As I entered my late 20’s and thought about becoming a father, I knew that I wanted to be more involved with my child from the moment they were born. There were a number of fathers of the Baby Boomer generation who must have thought the same way, as you could see fatherhood evolving; and, it was not just fatherhood. The roles of men and women began to evolve as women increased the power of their voice and began to work outside of the home. Men began to cook more, help in raising the children, and other ‘housework.’ (By the way, it was my mother who told me that I needed to learn to iron, to cook, and to clean. Now, it was likely because she envisioned me spending some time on my own after college, and she wanted me to be prepared. Little did she know that the roles of men and women would become increasingly blurred in terms of the ‘maintenance’ of their lives. Thank you, mom.)
You will have to ask my daughter and step children as to how successful I was with my involvement, and how I cared about and for them. My observation is that we continue to see the evolution of fathers. My stepson is very involved with the care of his two children. Because of his wife’s work schedule, he gets to pick the kids up from daycare most days, change diapers, fix meals, do laundry, clean the house. These are the needs of their lives.
There is one question that lingers for me as it relates to fathers. “Are we doing these things because we are guided by a value that has us as equal partners in raising our children, or are we doing it as ‘favor’ to the mothers?”
Part of my inquiry comes from an observation that there is still a remnant in some men’s psyche that says, “Look at all I have been doing. I need rewarded. I need a break.” And when they get their break, they go off and play with the boys, which is great, but some will revert to the behavior of their bachelor days – drink too much, smoke to much, eat too much. What is the consequence of this? They are not fully functional the next day. Their break became a lot longer and created additional requirements of the mother for caring for the children.
Let’s keep evolving. We are not yet the highest version of ourselves as fathers. Here are my thoughts as to how we can keep evolving.
- Do things that demonstrate you love them. There is nothing more important. A child, and even adults, are more confident when they know/feel they are loved.
- Do things that demonstrate you love their mother.
- Be fully present with your children/grandchildren. Your most precious gift is your time and engagement. Put down the phones, turn off the TV.
- Show them the world when they are young and continue to do that every chance you get.
- Encourage their gifts. We tend to want to ‘fix’ those issues that are ‘in their way.’ While some of those issues are important to help them with, it is easier for them to grow what they already do well.
- You are always a father. Once you have a child, you are always responsible. Have a good time with your friends, just remember that you owe it to your children and their mother to be responsible.
- Help them to be self-responsible and self-accountable. Many parents tell me they want their children to be independent and happy. If that is our goal, then we need to be willing to hold them accountable for better behavior from the time they are very young. Trying to placate them when they are ‘acting out’ only encourages more of the same behavior. If they understand there are consequences for bad behavior they are more likely to modify their behavior.
- The second part of this is to learn to do more ‘with’ your children than ‘for’ your children. A lot of the independence and happiness we wish for our kids is found in their struggle and their overcoming. It builds their confidence.
- Be more interested in giving than receiving.
- Bring laughter with you. Being a parent is serious business. Being able to laugh helps us and our children.
Enough said. Hopefully, we have learned that raising children is not ‘women’s work.’ We have learned the special, awesome, powerful role we have in being a father. I can tell you that part of the reward comes when they are adults and they still want to be around you. Of all the great joys I’ve had because of Heather, Jourdan, and Chad none is greater than knowing them as adults.
To a better you…