How to be a better man – A Dad Lesson

In this series of posts I write about how to be a better man. Not every man will or is a dad and that’s fine. Many of you are or will be and there are a couple of hard realities that you have to accept when you become a dad. The first one is there is a new metric by which you are measured, the dad metric. Now everyone in your life has a father, and as a new father you are going to be measured against their father experience.

It’s an unrealistic unfair measure but its reality you are going to have to deal with it. The hardest thing to do? Is not let it flavor how you parent. You are a sum of your experiences. Parenting is a learned skill that millions (billion) before you have gotten through and there is no perfect path. Put down the parenting books, stop listening to “how hard” it is talks you get from other parents and let go of what other men are doing as a reflection on you.

Just show up and be present.

No matter how hard, how easy, how bad you do or how well you do just keep showing up. Being present means putting the phone away, keeping distractions at a minimum, keeping work at work. No matter what you do someone will be there to critique you and often it will be your spouse who takes shots at you that cut deep. While those can hurt, you have to move past that as well. Quick aside, many relationships become toxic once a child is born because expectations change. Have many conversations on your values first before ever bringing a child into the world.

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10 years goes by fast, before you know it 20 have gone. What you are doing now when the child is 2, 6, 13 is critical because this is how they bond with you personally but also how they shape their view of fathers as they enter adult life. Even if you screwed everything up, you were always present you were trying. Believe me they will know this. The value of being there for children is immense. They are going to find their way in life, you did.

The key here is don’t get to absorbed into the expectations of others. The judgement of others or comparisons and yes that includes your spouse and immediate close family. Just keep showing up and being present and if you are still getting critiqued it generally means they have an issue with you not necessarily your parenting style. Now to be clear this is a license to be an A-Hole. Do the right thing, be a good person, be kind. No one should have to spell that out for you but one of the things dads don’t here often is “Thank you for always being there”.

Don’t miss recitals, don’t miss games, don’t miss family events, don’t work late constantly, don’t spend a lot of time away from home. Be present in that child’s life as much as you can, before you know it they will be old enough not to need you as much and you will have plenty of time to do your own thing.

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