What is a rounded dad? And how does that have anything to do with advice for new dads or what makes a good father?
First off, it has nothing to do with dad bod or love handles. Not that those things apply to me in any way, at all – it’s just more of me to hug.
Being a rounded dad means to be able to be able to go out of your comfort zone with regards to what you may have thought you could – or should – be able to do as a parent.
When my wife was pregnant and we found out that we were having a daughter, a lot of thoughts raced through my mind: “Will she have any interest in the things I like?” “Will she think I’m deeply uncool and become a social piranha amongst her friends as soon as I dance?” “At what age can I introduce her to the Aliens movies?”
But one question I’m sure every new or expecting dad will have thought more than once is “What are my jobs going to be?”, simply because for years we’ve been exposed to media showing a clear demarcation between the roles and responsibilities of the parents: Dad gives pocket money, organises road trips and forgets the kids’ birthdays because of the Important Meeting™ at work; Mum wrangles multiple children (often whilst on the phone to Dad just before or after the Important Meeting™) whilst cooking and also getting kids dressed, washed and changed.
It’s a Hollywood stereotype that’s straight out of the fifties yet still gets trotted out today.
And it happens in real life as well. From the stories of when a kid gets taken to daycare on the one day Mum got her ready, resulting in the child looking like they’ve been covered in glue and thrown into a pile of fabric offcuts only to be greeted with “awww, did Daddy dress you today?” to articles defending the right for dads not to get involved in anything from feeding to changing nappies.
One particular article I read a couple of months into parenthood was 14 reasons why dads who refuse to change nappies aren’t deadbeats, with gems such as “baby poop is icky” and “my dad didn’t have to change me” – I’m a fairly easy going fellow but that made my hackles sit up like a hungry seagull smelling fresh chips.
Why bother with getting involved as a dad?
Ah, the key question, just jumping right in there. I could write a lot about the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, but lots of people more qualified than me have written lots about that, but in layman’s terms, if a child sees one parent doing the “traditional” mother’s role of cooking, cleaning and nurturing and the other being financial, aloof or distant then that has a huge impact on growing minds and how they perceive roles later in life. But on a more immediate level, there’s plenty of other reasons why:
- It shares responsibility. Having just one parent responsible for doing a particular suite of things means that they’re not only under a lot of emotional labour but also if that parent isn’t available, it might not get done.
- It’s more efficient. Similar to above, a problem shared is a problem halved, and if one of you is dunking your filth goblin in a dustbin of hand sanitiser (or giving them a bath, whatever way works for you) and the other is prepping the bedtime bottle, nappy and routine then it’s a smooth transition. Easier on the child, more time for you
- It aids relationships. Knowing that the other person is willing to step up and help out is amazingly comforting, especially if you’re feeling stressed. Tagging your partner in to give you a breather and them being able to be self-sufficient enough to not constantly worry about them will really help avoid stresses and friction build into resentment.PS: The traits of a good father usually carry across to being a good partner or spouse too eg: caring and patient
- It’s fun. Seriously, you have this amazing little person who is, as someone once told me, “your heart with arms and legs”, both a miniature version of you and their own human being in their own right. I’m still struck dumb when our daughter does something new and unexpected, like singing a toy monkey to sleep, and if I was too macho to play with her I’d miss it. Even if they’re having a three hour midnight crying marathon, putting the effort in will help you appreciate the good times, as well as being able to compare notes on the most effective triple shot coffees.
How do you do it? What makes a great Dad?
This is actually the simplest of advice.
Don’t hold back.
Think of what they think.
So your child has projectile vomited over your shoulder then gone to sleep in it? It’s pretty nasty, but think how much worse it would be if you were in that position, and one of the people you trusted most in the world pulled a face and passed you to someone else.
Changing nappies starts out kind of nerve-wracking (especially when reaching into an incubator, but that’s another story) but soon becomes just a ten second layer in outfits. And getting them dressed not only shows them that you’re interested in them, but it’s a great excuse to sneak in some cool shirts that otherwise might be vetoed.
If I was to follow the advice for new dads on why dads shouldn’t get involved, my relationship with my daughter (and wife) would be very different. She wouldn’t see me as someone she could come to with a problem; she might grow up thinking that as a young woman she needs to have a particular role rather than carving one out for herself; my wife would be constantly frazzled due to the quite high intensity of our child’s needs.
But more than that, I’d be different: I’d feel less connected, I’d feel like I know her less, and I’d feel like I’d not done the whole job. It would be like going on an all-expenses paid holiday and just staying in your room eating chips.
It doesn’t mean at all that everything needs to be homogenous. Our daughter plays differently depending on who she’s with, being a lot more rough and tumble around me (but always coming to sit on my lap with a book afterwards) and a lot more show and tell with my wife.
But when she gets excited about something, or is upset or otherwise needs us to go to her, we are “mummydaddy” or “daddymummy”, separate but equal in her eyes. And if she considers me to be as good a parent as her mum, then I think I must be doing something right. And I think that is what makes a good father, ultimately.
What’s parenting like in your home? Any advice to share for Dads?
This post was written by That Awesome Dad. Who was going to put “loving Father and Husband” before he realised this is an author bio, not an obituary…. He became a Dad just for access to the joke vault. Travelled across the world for love. Enjoys tv shows about cooking and trying his hand at creative recipes. Flys his light aircraft on weekends and tells fibs in author bios.