Written by Parcsen Loke
“I’m going to be a father!”
This announcement is, without fail, followed by congratulatory slaps on the back, high fives, and drinks all round. But the ecstasy is shortlived because very quickly the father-to-be realises that he has no idea what he needs to do. (Being able to get a girl pregnant might be proof of one’s libido but the litmus test of his manhood is his ability to father the child he begot.) After all, being a father means providing and protecting your children. It means raising your children to be respectable adults by teaching and being actively involved in their lives. A father is a role model and a hero. He is a strong shoulder to cry on and someone to lift you up in your successes.
Traditionally, the father is a breadwinner. He works hard at his job to support his family. By the end of the twentieth century the emphasis on fathering had shifted to one of involvement. The “involved father” was an active, nurturant father. In 2015, the concept of the “relational father,” a father who is devoted to and invested in the development of his offspring was added to the lexicon. So the role of the father has changed over time. “So, does this expanded job description came with benefits?” Fathers will be happy to know the following:
- Some researchers found changes in a father’s sense of self or self-definition as a result of parenting. They also found instances of emotional or psychological growth.
- Hass found that a child tempers a man, making him more loving, giving, patient, more sensitive to others and his own feelings.
- Coltrane believed a man became more complete because fathering encouraged development of emotional expression and caring aspects of his personality.
- Lewis discerned that “contact with a baby exposed the intimate side of a man’s character, allowing the father to be altruistic or expressive.
- And Palkovitz recognised that an increase in empathy correspond to a decrease in egocentricism.
- Fatherhood allowed men a chance to learn the skills that create emotional intimacy and to understand the value of relationship.
If these are the benefits of fathering, why then are they not experienced by all fathers? I know I did not experience them for a large part of fatherhood.
I remember overflowing with pride and joy for the first few weeks after the birth of my first child. It was made even more special because it coincided with a new start in my career. I was excited but not as happy when my second child arrived three years later. By then we were having marriage and money problems. But we managed.
As my children grew, so did my temper. I was a perfectionist, a tyrant. I was angry all the time, and did not understand why. My very perceptive and discerning wife was convinced that it was due to my father issues, that I needed to forgive and reconcile with him. I didn’t see it that way. Today, I can tell you that she was right.
My relationship with my father became very strained when I was ten. It happened when my parents were going through a divorce. Being closer to my mom, I blamed my dad for causing the breakup. This affected me in more ways than one. Unknown to me at that time, it affected that way I fathered my son, in particular. As my wife and I reflected on it later, we saw that I was an OK dad to him during the initial years. But things changed after he had turned ten. I had no idea how to be a father to a ten, eleven, twelve-year old because I did not experience being fathered at those ages.
Finally, I reconciled with my dad. A few years later, my wife and I had our third child. She was truly God-sent to facilitate the healing process in my soul. I learned anew how to play and feel and love, and through that recovered the childhood I had lost (according to a therapist I was seeing).
If you are not experiencing the benefits of fathering, then there likely are blockages in your life. It might be a father wound, trauma, unresolved issues, or Childhood Emotional Neglect. They are all reversible, and it is never too late to do something about it. Help starts here. WhatsApp me and I will help you make an appointment with a Counselor or Coach.
Bergman, S.J. (1991). Men’s psychological development: A relational perspective. Work in Progress, No. 48. Wellesley, MA: Stone Center Working Paper Series.
Biddulph, S. (1995). Manhood: An action plan for changing men’s lives (2 ed.). Sydney: Finch Publishing.
Coltrane, S. (1995). The future of fatherhood: Social, demographic, and economic influences on men’s family involvements. In W. Mars igloo (Ed.), Fatherhood: Contemporary theory, research and social policy (255-274). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Hass, A. (1994). The gift of fatherhood: How men’s lives are transformed by their children. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Palkovitz, R. (2002). Involved fathering and men’s adult development. Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Watson-Phillips, Carol. (2017). Co-identity with son is core component in father’s development: Same-gendered Father/Son relationships foster relational development in fathers.
Webb, Jonice Dr. Running on Empty: Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect (2012)