There are plenty of resources out there to help you understand how to give your kid a bath, picking out the best furniture for babies, and when to start feeding him or her solids, but do you know how to make the most out of BEING a dad? Whether you’re expecting a baby in your life soon or have kids that are all grown up, fatherhood brings new challenges and rewards every day. Here are my five steps to making the most of the best job you’ll ever have.
Step 1: Acknowledge that fatherhood is about your personal development. If all we got from being a father was having a little someone to play catch with and an extra mouth to feed, it would be a pretty raw deal. Fatherhood is all about changes and how we handle those changes. You’re going to grow as much (if not more) than your child will – in a good way. Developing as a person is an important and too often overlooked part of being a dad.
Step 2: Clean up your relationship with your partner. John Wooden said “the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” You can’t be a successful parent if you have an unhealthy relationship with your spouse or partner. Constantly being at odds with your child’s other parent will interfere with your ability to enjoy parenting. You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship, but you do have to figure out how to make peace with the other most important person in your child’s life.
Step 3: Reconcile your relationship with your own father. It’s hard enough being a father without having to fight through the emotional baggage of an unresolved relationship with your own dad. Reconciling your relationship with your own father doesn’t necessarily require drastic measures, just a commitment to finding emotional peace around whatever pain you might feel. And we all feel some kind of pain around our parents. Someone once told me that we can only grow up to the extent we forgive our parents. Forgiving your father doesn’t mean you condone his behavior, it just allows you to let go of any resentment that might be getting in the way of making the most of being a dad.
Step 4: Forgive yourself. Even if you’re only a few days into fatherhood, you’ve probably already made your first mistake. If you haven’t, you’re not paying close enough attention. I don’t mean an I-put-the-diaper-on-backwards type of mistake. I’m talking about losing your cool, making a decision about your child that didn’t quite turn out the way you intended it to. I used to resent my oldest son when he woke up in the middle of the night, not so much because I was losing rest, but because it reminded me of how much my life had changed. As soon as I forgave myself for feeling that way, I stopped resisting the interruption of his night wakings. I didn’t necessarily enjoy them, but they didn’t upset me as much. Hey, you’re going to be a father for a while, so give yourself a break.
Step 5: Take 100% responsibility for the choices you make. This may seem antithetical to Step 4, but it’s not about blame, it’s about responsibility. If I was forced to choose the greatest gift of fatherhood, I’d say that it causes us to stop off-loading our life choices to other people in our lives. When it comes down to it, your child will only have one YOU in their life, so there’s no escaping the fact that YOU are IT when it comes to their male role model. Your son or daughter will (hopefully) have more than one male influence, but they will all take a back seat to you. You will be the standard by which men in his or her life will be measured for a long time. You’ve got the responsibility, so you might as well own it 100%. Taking responsibility will lead to a more fulfilling experience as a father and human being.
Lome A. Aseron is a proud husband and father of two boys. He blogs about the spiritual journey of fatherhood at www.newdadforlife.com.
Copyright © 2011 Lome A. AseronTweet