Fatherhood; one of the most important yet underrated jobs in the world. Yes, we know what many dads provide, a home, security, an education, vacations, all that material stuff. Yet, if that is all they provide, why do countless studies show the dangers of an absent father? Engaged fathers have shown to increase the chances of their adult children being happy, making positive choices, having good relationships and being successful. Children without the presence of a father are more likely to become involved in gangs, land up in jail and struggle with relationship and mental health issues. Daughters with absent fathers are at high risk of teen pregnancy and getting into abusive relationships. Living together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that a father will be present just as being a part time or long distance dad does not mean that dads are uninvolved.
Very few dads go into fatherhood planning on being an absent father. In fact many fathers are under more pressure than ever to provide, and unlike their own fathers they are expected to take a 50/50 role in parenting and household chores. Most modern dads would not wish that away, they actually do want to be involved in every aspect of their children’s lives. They want to provide not only financially but emotionally, cognitively, physically and spiritually too. But, with so many goals how do fathers find balance? Where do they find time for doing the things that make them who they are, that feed their needs without putting their spouses and children on the backburner? There are only so many hours in the week and sometimes being successful and providing means working long hours or bringing work home. Then there is technology, we are always connected, always on call, and as a result often absent even when we are together. A staggering 72% of working dads feel emotionally and physically worn out.
Dads need to ask themselves: What does fatherhood mean to me? And how do I want my children to remember me? As the dad who is always busy or working? As the dad who really didn’t care that much about providing or spending time with his family? As the dad who put his needs aside to keep everyone happy? Or as the dad, who strived to find the balance between working hard, being there for his family and maintaining a strong sense of self. Dads are leaders; they influence by their actions and example. As human beings we were not made to work ourselves to the bone at the expense of our relationships. Because relationships are what life is all about. As a father, your life has changed. There may not be time for many solo pursuits but rekindling hobbies that you haven’t had time for, could actually mean you have an opportunity to create new memories, teach your children about who you are and what is important to you.
MANAGINGING FAMILY TIME AND FINDING BALANCE:
- Establish goals: Take the time to actively plot out what is important to you as a father.
- Track your time: Track your time for a day or two, this can simply be a mental of how you are spending your time. In today’s connected world you might be surprised how much time you spend on YouTube or Netflix. For those tied to their phones, there are actually apps to keep track of how much time you spend on each app on your phone.
- Plan ahead: Sure, being spontaneous is great but planning your personal life means you’re more likely to make leisure activities a priority.
- Be present: Work hard and stay focused at work, but also be in the moment with your children and spouse. Emails can wait for an hour and the world won’t end if you put your phone on silent for an hour. If you do have to work late on occasion, that’s fine, but the next time you are with family be present physically and mentally. You can’t be everything to everyone.
BONDING OVER NEW INTERESTS:
- Start with your first love: Nothing will beat sharing what is most important to you with your child. Just remember to keep it fun, especially if it is something that requires a bit of skill. Don’t push and find a way to approach it at your child’s level and using their own interests. For example if you want to watch your favorite sports team, you could get the whole family involved by making banners, special cheers and color coded snacks. Your daughter could even have a tutu in team colors and make up a dance or special high five to be done when points are scored. A team mascot could get dressed up, tell your child you need the extra luck.
- Get physical: What better way to teach your child about staying physically and emotionally healthy than by showing them the importance of moving their bodies. Babies and toddlers can be included in interests like hiking, running or cycling with the right carriers, strollers or safety seats. Play baseball, soccer or another team sport and coach their team if it’s something you love. Go fishing, play minigolf or tennis at their level. If you love water, go swimming at a pool, beach or a water park. Research shows that Dads encourage risk taking, teaching their children to confidently go out into the world. These activities provide the perfect platform for that.
- Educate your children and yourself: The gift of curiosity is one of the best things you can give your children. Encourage them to ask questions and think critically. Explore different scenarios, ask for their opinions and share your own. You will learn so much about each other and have so much fun doing it. You will get to stretch your ‘dad brain’ too.
- Teach them new skills: Cook, bake or barbecue together, DIY together, build a tree house or kennel, if you can draw or code teach them those skills. Remember to keep it at their level, we all started drawing from stick figures! Again, share your interests and talents.
- Play together: Revisit games of your childhood. Teach them to play cards, your favorite board games, or even better try learning a new game together. If you had fun with monopoly or other classic games when you were a child, there are so many newer remakes that make it completely fresh. This makes for great nostalgic fun while learning something new together with family.
- Don’t forget your spouse: We can stress this enough. Your relationship is the foundation of the family, and what better way to bond than when the rest of the family is all having fun!
This Father’s Day as your spouse and children spoil you and show their appreciation, take the time to think about what kind of dad you want to be. Rekindling your hobbies does not have to a selfish endeavor, if you include your family where possible. Sometimes including them may not be possible, but that’s not a bad thing either. You will be teaching your children a valuable lesson in finding balance, having healthy interests and self care. Happy Father’s Day to all the hard working Dads out there!