I have no children, and my wife isn’t even pregnant yet. But we will start trying in 2020. And it’s interesting how this theoretical fatherhood is already having a big effect on my life.
I don’t mean in terms of shopping for baby clothes. I mean in terms of my own identity and concerns. It’s changing the way I look at the world and myself.
Fatherhood is an enormous and sacred responsibility, equal only to husbandhood (is that a word?). Suddenly what was my own personal development and outlook is taking on a whole new dimension. I have always been very active and fit, but now I want to be healthy not only for myself, but for my children. Being healthy will help me be there for them, and it will help me set a good example, and give me the knowledge to teach them how to follow it. That aspect – teaching them and setting a good example – is on my mind in all sorts of ways.
It’s making me think through what I my identity and responsibilities are. How can I be a better man? A better father, husband, citizen, and friend? This is the big and small stuff. It’s in the little everyday politenesses that I want to make sure are a habit by the time the kids are here. It’s in how you treat your close friends and the people who rely on you when they need you. I need to know not just how to do these things, but to think about why a certain way of acting is more polite. I want to show by example but also to be able to explain to the tiny humans why their dad does what he does.
It will be in how I treat their mother, and how I work with her. How do I make her feel respected and loved so they can see that? We will need to perform some areas of parenthood together, and I will need to be ready to fulfill the unique responsibilities of fatherhood. I will also have to not be jealous of their unique relationship with their mother – and to help her with the same problem in my direction.
I am also looking at the wider world more intently. What do I like and not like about the way society is now? Everyone has opinions, but as healthy adults it’s easy to navigate around the parts we don’t like. As a parent I have more responsibility for action. I’ll need to teach my children what I think about how the world is, and why it is; and I’ll need to explain to them how to survive in it. That means I need to try to understand what I like and don’t like, and of the latter, what is worth fighting to change versus living with. My children will be looking to me to understand how to do both and how to know the difference.
Maybe what all of this has in common is more engagement. I’ll no longer just be finding my own place in the world. I’ll be teaching my children to find theirs, and fighting to make one for them.