Dad Expectations

A few months into Joni’s life, my mum and I were having a conversation about being parents, and she said something that at the time made me feel pretty good. She said that she was “impressed that I was being so involved with Joni” and that “it was great to see”. I felt good about hearing that, because it was nice to hear someone tell me what I was hoping that I putting across – that I want to be as involved as anyone else in my daughter’s life and Connie and I believe entirely in equal-parenting. It’s a strong, core tenant of our relationship and our life as parents. I thought about this a little here and there over time, most commonly when confronted with other fathers who bemoaned the loss of “their time”, sending signals that suggested that they saw their children as an inconvenience to their life rather than enriching it.

I know that this can sometimes be put down to simply “locker room talk”. The number of times I’ve heard men talk about their wives in disparaging ways but then bend over backwards to make them happy is just astonishing – they are either massive hypocrites, or they are lying. I pointed this out to a friend once, who was bemoaning their partner extensively for a minor, almost ridiculous, infraction (if you could even call it that) and they admitted they were being harsh in an almost intentionally hyperbolic way.  I find almost nothing more annoying in the workplace than when someone comes into the office with baggage and unloads entirely onto everyone else, without filter, and certainly without remorse for what they are saying about their wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend, and the same goes for parents.

 When Joni was first born many people joked that going back to work would be a “holiday”. Indeed, it is a break from the home life that is overwhelming. But I don’t want to be at work “on holiday” when that means being away from the three people that make my life worth it. It just seems so backwards to want to be away from the people that you consider the very people that make your life worth living. Yes, people need space and yes, healthy families come from families that are more outward looking than entirely inward looking, and Connie and I both appreciate that, but it’s just insane for me to pretend that I’d rather be doing anything other than being with my girls. I love seeing my pals, but we all need to be mature enough to know that seeing each other once a year should be enough knowing what stage our lives are at.

Connie and I spoke a bit about this recently with respect to what my mum said about my parenting – and after a quick discussion, I realised that I entirely agreed with her. Connie made a strong case that suggested that what my mum said was nice, and that it was good for me to hear, but the fact that she didn’t expect that I would be like this was something that is cultural. Not to say my mum was surprised, but the fact that it needing saying at all was a good point – very few times do you hear a mother being told “oh, you’re doing really great there with the whole mother thing” – it is just expected.

I am all in. I want to be 100% the kind of father that is always there doing things that, traditionally maybe, dads don’t do. I want my daughters to feel as comfortable with me as they do with Connie, especially when it comes to growing up. I want to be there for them in a way that I feel they might need me there, as an equal partner. It is a distinct possibility that they are both going to grow up with myself and Frank being the only male members of their close family, which heaps loads of pressure on me (not to mention that Connie has the toughest job of all, being their female role model in a world severely lacking strong relatable ones).

It occurred to me that my parents and the way they raised me obviously made me the way I am today and the father that I want to be to my daughters. Also with fingerprints all over that is Connie who knows what type of dad she wants for her daughters too. We have been watching the critically acclaimed TV show This Is Us, which is all about family, and a recent episode had the main male character and father of the three children taken away from his wife (who was heavily pregnant) by his friends to introduce him to golf, an activity that is perfect (and that is stated that none of them actually enjoys) because it takes 5 hours and gives you a set amount of alone time. He laughs and responds “I don’t want time away from them” and “I want to freeze every moment instead”. I absolutely and utterly agree, and find it hard to believe that fathers and mothers wish their time away from their kids.

I know, other people are different and that’s what makes life interesting, but for me it’s just so built into the reason I love being a dad that I’m happy to sacrifice pretty much everything, from drinking to hanging with friends to doing a podcast to actually having a spare moment to write blogposts, and instead just been fully involved with everything that my kids are doing. I know I’ve lost close friendships because of this, because people just don’t understand if they don’t have kids, but that’s the way I am, and I don’t believe that my daughters should have to expect anything less.