Being a dad is amazing, hard work, confusing and a little unnerving.
All that responsibility, decision making, conflict resolution, boundary setting, playfulness, fun and don’t get me started on those feelings I never thought I would have!
I have many conversations with men about fathering. Recently I enjoyed delivering my Good Blokes, Great Dads workshop at the Melbourne Pregnancy, Babies and Children’s Expo.
Amongst other things, I invited the men to discuss their hopes and dreams as a father and in particular to define what kind of father they want to be.
It was a great discussion and it made me wonder about where we get these ideas of fatherhood?
The Gifts of Fatherhood – values, behaviours and personality
How did your father influence your values, behaviours and personality?
In this context consider values as being the principles that shape the way you live and work.
They determine your priorities and, deep down, they’re the measures you use to determine if your life is turning out the way you want it to.
Your personality incorporates these values, patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours, making you the unique person you are. They will have originated, to some extent, from your upbringing, from your own father and/or mother or other guiding mentors in your life.
For many blokes thinking about their father evokes memories of an emotionally absent if not physically distant man. There are many men who have grown up with abusive, angry and violent fathers. Other guys may remember their dad as very actively engaged physically and emotionally in the family.
The wisdom passed down
I believe that recognising helpful and unhelpful aspects of our own father’s values, behaviours and personality provides a certain wisdom from which we choose to do things the same or differently in our own fathering.
Think about your own father.
If your father was not available to you or your relationship with him creates too many painful memories please focus instead on your mother or other significant adult that has shaped who you are today.
Take some time to reflect on these questions.
What helpful aspects of your father’s personality remain useful to you today?
What unhelpful aspects of your father’s personality do you want to discard?
Here is a list of the Helpful and Unhelpful aspects of men’s fathers captured from some of the discussions in my workshops.
- The special activities with dad. Trips to the forest, family holidays.
- Observing dads sense of intrigue with little kids.
- The hobbies, e.g. Sailing.
- The resource role, being the material provider for the family.
- Value system, a sense of right and wrong.
- Sensitivity to the needs of others and accepting difference.
- Pocket money/savings, teaching anticipation as a good reward, sense of strong work ethic.
- Relating well to others.
- Values of sportsmanship.
- Sense of family and responsibility.
- Kindness and loving towards women.
- Respect for parental relationship, sense of a team with a balance of power.
- Understanding difference.
- A life expert.
- Early family holidays and treasured expeditions.
- Always there.
- Holiday memories, jewels of childhood.
- Good solid relationship with mum, demonstrated affection.
- Encouraged generosity.
- Provider of stability.
- Emotionally open.
- Other father figures including primary schoolteacher, teaching fly-fishing.
- Heavily career minded with increased work demands, often late home.
- Just the provider of educational and material things.
- Restrained regarding intimacy, women and physical affection.
- No physical contact.
- No sense of spirituality, academia, or physicality in relationship. Shaking hands was the norm.
- Not relaxed, very gruff.
- Intimidating and overbearing.
- Highly strung, anger issues, sometimes lashing out.
- Not verbal enough, bottled things up.
- Cold and unable to communicate feelings.
- Hard to see softness, closed off.
- Distant, not sporty, very few friends.
- Very shy, threatened by others, verbally abusive.
Which aspects on the lists do you relate to?
Being a dad is a great opportunity to consider how you adopt the same or different style of parenting from your own parents.
I encourage you to celebrate the helpful aspects, let go of any unhelpful ones and focus your attention on what’s important to you now.
Do your memories and reflections of your father help you to recognise your own strengths?
Or, do they create more obstacles to overcome?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.