I want to be an awesome dad. Yet chasing the ideal of fatherhood can be a supremely discouraging act – because in the end, no one is perfect.
So do I give up? Do I throw my hands up and say, “screw it, I am not going to try anymore!” Or do I wake up the next day, and go after it again?
I think this is the point that many men get to – (or maybe I am speaking for myself and it is just me. Either way, I shall go on...) I have a choice today and everyday:
– Face the truth of what I feel, talk about it, get it out of my heart and seek encouragement.
– Stuff my feelings and hope they go away after a beer, some wine and some football, (insert random vice here)…
I think I bounce between the two, though frankly I turn to video games more than anything else.
Nevertheless, as we do this – as we deny the feelings of inadequacies, or the actual pressure we feel. We are slowly hardening our hearts to the emotions we feel and little by little the pressure of fatherhood can drive us to make bad decisions.
Decisions seemingly inconsequential, from looking at porn, to the more serious infractions of cheating on a spouse (be it emotionally or physically), drug and alcohol abuse, or perhaps straight hand in crotch, Al Bundy style, disregard. Whatever it is we do and make excuses for, the root of it is avoidance and self-medication of feelings and past hurts.
To sum it up – it is quitting at the work of being a father.
What does quitting in fatherhood look like? Well, only you know the answer. It is not as obvious as literally abandoning your child, or leaving your family. It is different for every man. For me, it looks like a man engrossed in work, responsibility and just doing enough to get by. That may be good enough for some, but in my heart of hearts, I know I could do more if I just let myself make mistakes.
So how can we break through? Here are some things I try to live by that help me when I am down or discouraged:
- Be honest. When you mess up, just look at your kid and apologize.
- Talk to other dads. We have all been through it in some way. Join our Meet-up group for San Francisco Bay Area Dads
- Get a mentor. Maybe there is a dad out there that is good at X and you are good at Y – buddy up and help each other out
- Talk to anyone who will listen. Feelings of inadequacy can lead to a lot of bitterness and anger. Are you angry a lot? You need to talk about it, get it out.
- Vulnerability is good. There is much strength in weakness. This is when true growth can occur. When you share the truth and move on.
- Don’t quit (or stop quitting). Put down the “vice” or self-medication, and face the challenge that you are avoiding daily. You may surprise yourself and realize you can do it!
What I have learned so far with 3 boys 5, 2 and 1 is that there are good days and bad days. My actions, everyday, are creating traits and honing the characters of my boys. That pressure – is true. But I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to love them and be honest. Then they can learn that being perfect is not the goal, the goal is to run the race and come out better than when you came in. Victory through doing your best and not giving up, even when you fall down. (and no I don’t believe in medals for last place – but we are talking about life here, not a potato sack race)
This is a very personal post, and I make no apologies for it. But I am under the assumption that many men, feel the same way. Share your thoughts below – let’s have a dialogue!