“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’ ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.’”
There is nothing that can provide men more of a true meaning of life then fatherhood. Being a father is rewarding and challenging in ways that most of us probably did not anticipate (prior to having kids). Our frame of reference was our own dads or father figures growing up. While our genetics may be similar, our experiences and behaviors may not be. There are some critical issues that men need to face in order to become responsible and committed dads.
- The family of origin influences a father's knowledge, attitudes, values, and behavior about raising and caring for a child. To gain better insight, fathers should be asked what he learned about being a father from his parents and extended family. Not only do they learn how to be fathers, but also they learn how to be men.
- Unfortunately, many fathers lack the self-efficacy they need to be good fathers. Self-efficacy is the belief (in a father) that he has the skills, or can acquire the skills, that he needs to be a good father.
- Some of the biggest mistakes made by fathers come from a lack of knowledge about child development. So it’s very important that dads learn about child development and the physical, emotional, and social milestones their children should reach by a certain age. Raising boys versus girls pose different challenges at different stages of their development. The basics of parenting is similar but fathers need to take these developmental differences into consideration.
- The most important relationship in the home is the relationship between the father and mother. How well the father gets along with the mother affects their children every day. If a father’s relationship with the mother is healthy, then the children will have a model for what a healthy relationship looks like.
- If fathers are going to raise healthy children, they must first learn that it is ok to express their emotions and connect with and understand their emotions. They must then learn to express their emotions appropriately. Some fathers may need help getting their rage and anger emotions under control.
- The emotion that fathers have the most difficulty expressing is the grief that results from the losses they encounter. All fathers experience loss, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce. Losses like these can devastate a father emotionally, spiritually, and financially. If they have a difficult time coping with these losses, then certainly they will have a difficult time expressing these emotions to their children.
- Sexuality and Intimacy. Most men don’t know the difference between sex and sexuality, nor do they understand the concept of intimacy. Most men, unfortunately, are raised to focus on the physical act of sex as the end all and be all of their sexual nature. Men consider these terms interchangeable, when in fact they are not. Intimacy means being close; emotional and personal support between people. It can involve feelings of liking or loving someone, romance, and, ultimately, physical and sexual attraction, and sexual relationships.
- Balancing their work (financial) responsibilities and family life can be an extremely overwhelming task for fathers. In order for them to provide for their families they need to be employed at a job that supports the family financially and securely through medical coverage. Depending on the occupation, the time spent away from family could have an adverse affect on the stability and functioning of the family. The added stress from either side could affect the other aspects of the fathers' lives. Finding the right balance between work and family is essential not just for the family but for the father as an individual.
- Fathers' physical, mental, and emotional health needs to be addressed throughout their lives, to ensure that the stressors in their lives do not take a toll to the extent that irreparable damage has occurred. Experiencing overwhelming stress over an extended period of time can physically compromise the body, contribute to illness and disease, and premature death or disability. Anxiety and depression are very prevalent with men (as discussed in previous blogs). Untreated anxiety and depression could lead to more serious problems, all of which not only could affect them personally, but their jobs and their families as well.
Fatherhood and having a family are defining milestones in a man's life. They change one's perspective on life in ways we couldn't really comprehend as children. It makes us learn to understand ourselves better, knowing we are role models for a future generation. We are faced with overcoming our own fears and addressing past mistakes. Most of all, we realize what is really most important in life, the health and well-being of our children; protecting them whenever we can, teaching them to care for themselves, understanding their unique personalities, and inspiring and encouraging them to see their fullest potential, even when they don't see it themselves.