Dads, I have two questions for you. First, when you interview for a job, how many times were you asked about your five-year professional plan? Second, when you found out you were going to be a dad, how many times were you asked about your vision for fatherhood?
If you are like me, the answer to the first question is a lot. The answer to the second question is zero, maybe once or twice if you are lucky.
The fact is, our culture conditions us to think about our professional careers more than our family. We’re taught from an early age to think of ourselves as breadwinners and financial providers and nothing more. Thankfully, times are changing. COVID-19 has rapidly shifted our daily lives and fatherhood duties have expanded beyond financial support. While many dads already know this, many others are catching up.
As the co-founder and Executive Director of Fathering Together, I connect with dads all day who are struggling because they didn’t start by casting a vision for fatherhood, but by asking three questions, we can all be better fathers and have a solid vision for where we want to go and how we want to co-lead our families.
1. Who do you want to be?
When my daughter was born, there were complications. At one point, the doctor turned to me and said, “I’m glad you are here, but if things get worse, I need you to get out of the way. Your wife and baby are more important than you.”
I could have gotten offended, but it was true. My wife needed me to hold her hand and speak words of encouragement, but she needed the doctor’s help much more. And in that moment, I realized my life is no longer about me. It’s about my wife, my child, and their future. So, who was I to become? How was I going to be the best dad?
My answer was simple. I was going to dedicate myself to creating opportunities for my child to grow and experience the fullness of life. I was going to provide structure and support and ensure she knew she could be whatever she wanted with me being there for emotional support. This is easier said than done, but in those first moments as I fell madly in love with her, that was all I wanted.
2. What do you want your children to remember about you?
The classic song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin is the perfect example of what not to be as a father. A man is too busy for his son and when he finally makes time to connect with him, his son is too busy with his own life. My dad sought to be the opposite of that song. He always made time for me and my sister by volunteering for field trips and being home to make dinner. His actions set the standard for me as a father.
As my children get older, I see them imitating me all the time. They want to do what I do. Their attempts at humor are just as bad as mine. Every day, I’m reminded that my actions bear much more weight than my words. So, if you find yourself staring at your phone all day instead of playing games, remember the impression this will have and ask yourself what do you want your kids to remember about you. How will your actions inform them about how you are instead of who you want to be?
3. How will you sustain this vision?
It is easy to cast a vision but sustaining it is the hard part. Much like at my job, I shifted my thinking from a grand goal to a daily plan for my child’s success and for my own mental health too! Every day I take a few minutes to journal in the morning to remind myself of my priorities for the day and the week. I take small actionable steps because otherwise things get pushed aside.
So how will you sustain your vision? Will you take action every day to maintain your physical and mental health, strengthen the emotional bond between you and your child and stay focused on your vision?
While this may be a challenge, know that you are not alone. At Fathering Together, we have over 130,000 dads on a fatherhood journey with you. They come from every corner of the world with different political views, cultural backgrounds. We all share the common experience of fatherhood, so cast your vision and join our community to help you sustain it!
Executive Director & Co-Founder at Fathering Together
I am a husband and father to two spirited daughters that keep me inspired and exhausted every day. I started Fathering Together to provide a community for connection and education for fathers everywhere. Prior to Fathering Together, I have been a social worker, university chaplain, and interfaith leadership consultant, but I always knew I wanted to be a dad. My writing has been featured on Fatherly and I keep a weekly blog at Fathering Together. When not working, I can find Brian writing letters to my daughters, creating “cooking” lessons with them, and learning dance moves too!
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