7 Things That Fatherhood Is NOT

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Becoming a father for the first time involves a lot of amazing lifestyle changes and also a lot of foreign challenges. New fathers will receive a whirlwind of advice and it can be difficult to sift through it all. As I’m preparing to have my third child, I thought I’d reflect back on a few things that seem great in theory but in reality have no place in fatherhood. The sooner you can accept these facts, the better off you’ll be!

Fatherhood Is Not Masculine

That might seem sensationalist, but I mean that fatherhood is not masculine in the traditional sense. Masculinity sometimes evokes an image of huge biceps, feats of brute strength, or a dominant attitude of “laying down the law.” But, becoming a father can redefine your concept of being “manly.” Restraint and control is the true display of strength for a father. Restraint is something I haven’t mastered and am constantly working towards. In my experience, attempting to establish dominance always backfires and undermines my parenting goals.

Fatherhood Is Not Prideful

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” -Billy Graham

Kiss your pride goodbye. I struggle with this one, because I feed off of words of affirmation. But, nobody should enter fatherhood expecting a lot of recognition nor stroking of the ol’ ego. Trying to satisfy your pride as a father is difficult, like going against the grain; It will likely just lead to frustration. Also, fatherhood is NOT prideful because you often need to set aside your own priorities. Of course, you should occasionally arrange time for yourself (and for your spouse). But, at the end of a hard day your family is more important than anything you might have had your heart set on. So, learn to conquer your pride.

Fatherhood Is Not A Puppet Show

This is a weird paradox and a particularly challenging part of being a father. On one hand, we (fathers) will inevitably influence our children’s development – for better or worse; there is no avoiding our impact. In fact, running away from that influence will just do more harm. But, on the other hand, as much as we’d like our children to be malleable lumps of clay, our children cannot be molded to our liking. They’re not puppets that we can control through sheer will. They have unique and unavoidable personalities and tendencies that we have to consider – even embrace. I’m just beginning my own fatherhood journey, but I know at times it will be challenging to let my kids flourish in a way that might not suit my preferences.

fatherhood photo
Photo by aclark71

Fatherhood Is Not A Puzzle To Figure Out

Oh, if only children were a puzzle to be figured out! Most likely, you won’t be able to “solve” your kids. And, even if you find various techniques or strategies that are effective with them, those strategies are almost certainly going to stop working at some point. You think you’ve got some things figured out? Surprise! Not anymore. Fatherhood is ever-changing. This aspect of fatherhood is tough for me because I love finding solutions. But, now I have to stay on my toes. All. The. Time. There is no room to rest on your laurels as a father.



Fatherhood Is Not Quantifiable

Don’t try to think about fatherhood in terms of numbers – dollars, hours, wrinkles, lost hairs; It will just give you a headache. But, not only a headache; Thinking about all things quantifiable might actually make you a worse and less-patient father. Yes, kids are extremely expensive and they’ll rob you of your sleep and maybe your hair. No, they probably won’t appreciate everything you do. And yet, here we are, not wanting to trade them for anything in the whole world. I wish I had more money and sleep, but I wouldn’t rather have those things. Let’s try not to think about what could be. Fatherhood defies quantitative measures. Just bask in it and try not to be too analytical.

Fatherhood Is Not Isolated

“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating… Too often fathers neglect it because they get caught up in making a living and they forget to make a life.” -John Wooden

I’ve got two thoughts about isolation. First, to expand upon the Wooden quote, fathers shouldn’t isolate themselves from their children’s lives. Showing up for major events is not enough. The minutiae of everyday life is when the best memories are made! Witnessing and participating in their development goes hand in hand, and requires a quantity of time that can’t be replaced or condensed.

Second, you might think fatherhood will forever separate you from friends and fun times. The first year is intense, but that feeling won’t last long. The identity you might have lost in the eyes of your single friends, will soon be offset by your new identity as a hero to your children. Take that role seriously, but also enjoy it. Furthermore, it’s important that fathers are not isolated from each other. We need the support of other fathers. I’m not saying you should only hang out with other fathers, but it’s critical to our mental health that we openly and genuinely discuss fatherhood beyond surface-level cliche’s, anecdotes and sarcasm.

Fatherhood Is Not Relaxing

“There should be a children’s song, ‘If you’re happy and you know it, keep it to yourself and let your dad sleep.'” -Jim Gaffigan

I know it’s obvious; Fatherhood is hard work. Rarely do good attentive fathers get a chance to truly relax – especially if you have multiple young kids. But, at some point we’ll be better off embracing the fact that fatherhood is NOT relaxing. Here’s the part I’m working on: Don’t let the lack of relaxation make you grumpy and irritable! Sometimes I catch myself being a stick in the mud, and using tiredness as an excuse. After a long day, it’s easy to make excuses for NOT playing with the kids as hard as they want me to play. But, when I use tiredness as an excuse, I usually regret it soon afterwards. Suck it up fellas! It’s not worth missing out on all those fun memories!

Thanks for reading! Comment below with other things you’ve observed about fatherhood or things that aren’t exactly what you expected.

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3 thoughts on “7 Things That Fatherhood Is NOT

  1. We recently had our third child and I’m definitely having trouble adjusting the new stress and responsibilities. You’ve captured everything I’ve experienced pretty well. I would say that I’m having the most trouble with the “Fatherhood is not a puzzle” and “Fatherhood is not isolated” ones. I also have to keep reminding myself that “Fatherhood is not to be missed”… I find myself distracted with life and the recent birth has reminded me how quickly all of the stages in their lives go by. It has also got me questioning a lot of my priorities and where I’m investing my time. Thankfully, my kids are loving the time playing games with me. Thanks for the board game recommendations.

    • Great comment, Sean. I certainly struggle at times too. But, the good times outshine the struggles, and it gets easier after the first year or two. You’re absolutely right about life’s distractions!

  2. This is a very reassuring article on Fatherhood. Fatherhood really is hard work, especially when involved in a family business. Sometimes the line between business and family gets blurred and challenges arise. This article is very humbling and reminds me to “suck it up” to stay on track with building new memories. Thanks for sharing.

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