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Why Become a Dad?

I am often contacted by men who are thinking about becoming fathers. With a degree of ambivalence and fear they ask me if I can help them sort out whether becoming a father is for them. More than any other decision we make in our lives the choice to have a child will forever shape the future of things to come.

I remember struggling about if I should become a father 33 years ago. I made a list of “pros” and “cons” of becoming a dad. I was very thoughtful and rational about what having a child may mean. I ultimately came to the conclusion that no matter how rational I was…this was decision that I would make from an intuitive and private place. It would challenge me and I had to ask myself what was my deepest desire in living this life. How could I have a meaningful life, what might I contribute to the world? How would this change the relationship with my wife, my friends our families. All complicated relationships.

Most of us go along with the events that unfold and try to make the most out of them. Trying to find the joy and pleasure in the day-to-day and the choices we have. I do this myself most of the time. But the possibility of becoming a dad pressed me to dig deeper inside myself and really attempt to understand what motivated my choice to, or not to become a dad.

In retrospect, at 28, I am not sure how much I really knew about myself, the world or life! Yet, I thought I did….and now looking back, (especially since my son just got married two weeks ago), there were forces greater than I understood influencing my decision to become a dad. In fact I don’t think I actually “made” a decision. As President O’bama said recently…”you didn’t build the roads and bridges” …the infrastructure of my life, my parents, grandparents, and our patterns of families have evolved out of many centuries of development. The influence of the “hard wiring” of what we do as humans may have been playing a part in all this.

As conscious as we could be, my wife and I decided that the greatest adventure we could share together would be to become parents. It truly has been and continues to be now, with our adult children…but trusting in what I couldn’t understand but knew in some deeper and non rational way helped me take the greatest “leap of faith” I could. Over the years I have come to understand things about myself…patience for sure…what it means to care for another person…how to understand the simple pleasures of going on walks and noticing the world at my feet…all made possible because of being a dad and having a little one to look out after…but who was really “teaching” who?

No one knows what is right for another person…you can have a wonderful, full and complete life without becoming a father. Each of us is different in the choices we need to make. Hopefully we find what we need inside ourselves to help guide us in what we may do with this “precious human life.”

Preparing for Father’s Day

Preparing for Father’s Day, (preparing for fatherhood)

What is the consequence of valuing business and financial success above all else? In its worst form it puts profits way ahead of people’s welfare. Examples of this would be the marketing of cigarettes, probably nuclear power plants and certainly the safe use of fossil fuels and chemicals to treat our crops. But what does this have to do with preparing for Father’s day?

In my work and research with expectant and new dads this is what I have found. As men become fathers, and particularly in the early years of parenting, a profound change in perspective occurs. It is really a new way of understanding a man’s role in the “greater good” of life. It is a development where what the expectant or new father does takes on a larger meaning to him. He thinks about what the world will be like for his child. I call this the “community phase” of development. Expectant and new dads report they become aware that they want their child to grow up in a safe, healthy and caring place.

What “awakens” in the man as he becomes a dad is this sense of relationship for participating in the world in a way which will promote the best possible place for his child to live. Not in all men, but in most, it means re-examining some of his habits, choices and consequences of how he is living. In preparing and becoming a father he sees the importance of the community and the environment he is living in…and he wants it to be the best it can be for his child!

This is a new sense of a nurturing masculine. It appears to me it is almost an instinctually driven sense of self that emerges as his child is born. A nurturing masculine is developing. It is this new quality of caring that starts with his own child but radiates out into the world that may have profound effects on the next generation and beyond.

For an interesting take on how one man re-examined his life at this juncture check out David Lauer’s commentary for NPM Marketplace.