Thursday, October 15, 2009
Providing...it's not just for breadwinners anymore!
If the misperceptions about being an at home dad can be boiled down to one over simplified generalization, it’s this: at home dads are men who’ve lost their job and who are now expected to look after the kids while mom goes back to work. In other words, men, due to economic circumstance, have been forced into parent duty.
Certainly, in the current economic climate, some men do find themselves in that position. Some will find a job and get back into the work force. Others will come to realize that getting out of the rat race was the best thing they could have done, and will fall in love with being a full time care giver.
The men I met at the conference are at home dads by choice. With their spouse, they’ve agreed that having one parent at home is the best decision for the whole family. In their cases, obviously, it’s the dad that stay at home.
Numerous studies about at home dads and involved fathers point to the obvious: their children will do better at school, have fewer social problems and be less likely to get involved with crime and drugs. The bottom line is involved dads make for healthier children. As far as I can tell, however, no one has ever attempted to measure what being an at home dad means to men.
Here is my humble observation on that last point: none of these men have lost their penis.
What these men have is an amazing sense of balance. Our workshops on quick and easy hair styling, or coping with ADHD were punctuated with drinking beer and football games. These men reveled in what it is to be a man, yet they are all loving, caring fathers who have grown immeasurably as a result of day to day contact with their children. Hardly a masters thesis there, but I’d still wager it is true.
At one point, a father named Charles was recounting how he would sometimes worry if he was doing a good job raising his daughter. He liked to roughhouse and wrestle with her and he questioned if he was somehow warping her with his male version of parenting skills. Then he told how one day, while at the park, another little girl fell down and tumbled down a hill. Charles’ daughter promptly went over to the fallen girl, helped her up and asked her if she was alright.
“At that moment,” Charles said, “I knew I was doing a good job.”
We all question our parenting skills. As men, we sometimes face the added pressure that we can’t do the nurturing as well as the women. My message to you is, “trust yourself.” Society likes to suggest that women are born with the parenting instincts and we are just the providers. Well, guess what? All those at home dads are providers; they just aren’t providing the money.
If you are struggling a little bit with parenting your child, trust that you can do more than just be the disciplinarian or the hero that swoops in and whisks the family to Disneyland. Trust that you know how to nurture and “provide” for your child beyond being the breadwinner.
For one of the breakout sessions at the conference, we were asked to begin by giving one example of how we are a good dad. I’m going to steal from that wise man. If ever you are struggling, start all over again with that question: “What is one way that I am a really great dad?”
Give yourself some credit, and move forward from there.