I recently corresponded with a friend who just a few weeks before had his first baby. While he and his wife went about the process of preparing for parenthood seriously and felt very ready for the baby, he said that he didn’t feel quite as prepared as he should have for the all-consuming nature of being a baby’s father. Certainly the change in his sleep patterns were expected, but the emotional drain of feeling “captive” to the baby’s needs and wants was a surprise.
He asked me if it gets any better or whether fatherhood will always be so demanding. He mused, “I wonder if I am as committed as I need to be to become a truly great father?”
His question got me thinking about the things that amazing fathers do with and for their families, and the way that they demonstrate total commitment to them. Many of these dads sacrifice career opportunities to keep their kids in the same schools with the same friends. Others stay in a home that is too small or too old so that their kids can grow up in the right kind of neighborhood. A lot of dads drive an old clunker car so that the family can have a large, safe and reliable vehicle, even when their friends get a new car every two years.
With current statistics relating to fatherless families, I am guessing that there are many fathers who have chosen not to make the commitment to family and fatherhood. It is a very foreign concept to me. But I read occasionally about men who have multiple children from multiple relationships and who evade personal responsibility for those now single parent families.
They deny parental responsibility, evade child support and miss visitation opportunities.
But those men miss some absolutely astounding experiences in life. They miss the tender relationships with spouse and children and the beauties of a life of personal sacrifice for something larger than themselves.
Dads can enhance their commitment to their families and their roles by taking some simple approaches to their role as fathers. Each step towards greater personal commitment leads to simply amazing results in our families.
Love unconditionally. When fathers dig deep within themselves to develop and demonstrate love, they find a sense of fulfillment and added commitment. Learning to speak love in a child’s or spouse’s love language can help the growth of feelings of love accelerate for fathers and for family members.
Sustain your kids’ mom. When father and mother are married, committed fathers find ways to love and support their partners, knowing how important the relationship is between children and their mother. Taking time for communication after the kids are in bed, for weekly date nights and for occasional weekends away can build that sense of love and support. If father and mother are not married and not living together, committed dads keep their obligations, communicate effectively about raising the children and take the high road in the relationship. They make the best of whatever situation they find themselves in and they fight for the safety and well-being of their children.
Live and teach values. Committed dads know who they are and the things that are important to them. They have identified core values in their lives and are consistent about modeling and teaching those values to their children. Their daily actions and attitudes reflect these core values. And they seek opportunities to teach their children to accept and live these timeless values in their own lives.
Put balance high on the list. Committed fathers also know that they can’t dip into an empty bucket to meet their needs of their children. They work hard to find balance in their lives by staying physically and mentally healthy, keeping their personal life balance and having a strong personal support network.
Sacrifice the non-essential. Many committed dads know that they have to put a few of their personal hobbies and preferences on hold during their child-raising years. Maybe the man-cave has to wait a while so that family needs can be better met. Identifying the things are that essential and being willing to give up the things that are non-essential are the hallmarks of a father that is “totally in.”
Invest in one-on-one relationships. Fathers intuitively know that they need to spend time with their families, but it is sometimes harder to invest in the individual relationships. My son-in-law understands this concept and shows it by having one-on-one dates with each of my grandchildren monthly. It is a lesson I’m glad he learned earlier than I did!
Multi-task with purpose. Commitment includes finding time to build the relationships and teach important truths and values. Dads who do these things well often find the time by doing more than one thing at once. For example, taking a brisk walk with a child can enhance communication at the same time both father and child are getting physically active. Cooking a meal or a dessert together helps build relationships, teach skills and meet family needs, all at the same time. This kind of multi-tasking helps committed fathers do more in less time.
Put family considerations first. I remember one time years ago when I was given tickets to a Major League baseball playoff game just two days before my wife’s due date with our second child. As hard as it was to give up the tickets, it was more important to be with my wife. (As fate would have it, she went into labor right before the first pitch). Committed dads work hard to make sure that they put their families first in every consideration.
Families with committed fathers sometimes forget how much their dads sacrifice for them. But the fathers know that their commitment makes a difference, and they also trust that at the end of their role as a father, they will feel an immense sense of appreciation for the opportunities that their commitment brought to them and to their children. I am one who has found that sense of satisfaction and appreciation to be real and very meaningful.