We all want and need better fatherhood in our lives; whether it comes from our own fathers, our husbands, our parents, or from society in general. Responsible fatherhood is not a destination, but rather a personal dedication to a lifelong journey. On this voyage fathers need all of the help they can get, and who better to offer that help than other fathers whom they meet along the way.
Fatherhood was always an aspect of life that I knew I must explore. In the years leading up to my own fatherhood experiences, I had an increasing belief that fatherhood was an essential ingredient in the character that I hoped to build for myself. Of course, I additionally felt the urge to pass along my knowledge, genes, morals, ethics, and philosophy to someone who I knew would become the most fascinating person I would ever know.
In early 2006, what was beginning to seem unlikely became very likely; my wife became pregnant. Once this news arrived I found myself looking for guidance. I wanted to learn more about pregnancy, delivery, and fatherhood. I wanted to be a better father for my son than my father was to me.
I began my research immediately. I brought home at least 15 different books on pregnancy and early parenthood. I also subscribed to a few parenting magazines. As I started sorting through all of these resources and I quickly lost my steam. Somehow, after 100 pages it all seemed the same to me. I started to feel as though my research was complete. Just as I was about to return to my usual non-baby and non-parenting readings I discovered an article written by a father hidden in the back of one of those baby magazines.
I was immediately pulled in to the article. Not only was the article written by a real father, but it was written about true fatherhood. This was not the textbook definition of fatherhood, but the realities of fatherhood, the struggles, the successes, and the fulfillment. I searched through the back issues and discovered that this was a regularly occurring column. I devoured each article and was left wanting more.
I’ve never been big into male-bonding, in fact, most of my friends have always been women; however, through those articles, I discovered that fellow fathers could offer me something that no one else could. As I survived my first year of fatherhood I found my appetite for learning about other father’s experiences and hearing their advice was never completely satiated.
As the surge of new fatherhood energy has long been spent and the challenges of true fatherhood have set deeply in, I’ve found myself unconsciously seeking out true fatherhood experiences wherever they may be found. Professional conversations with fathers inevitably turned towards the topic of fatherhood. In fact, almost every conversation with a father would turn to this same topic. I even began analyzing the fatherly point of view of characters in the few television programs that I follow.
At the core of each of these experiences, I wanted and I still want now to learn more about how other fathers are fairing in their pursuit of responsible fatherhood. I want validation for my own efforts and shortcomings as a father. I want to learn more about the reality of fathering in the context of the already fine balance between work, love, personal interests, health, and spirituality.
There is rightfully a flood of written and multi-media support material for mothers. Mothers know the value of receiving support from other mothers. Online websites, forums, chat rooms, etcetera abound in the support of motherhood and I couldn’t be more pleased with this. However, I’ve found that similar support for fathers is severely lacking. I don’t mean to say that there is not already some great fatherhood support out there, but it certainly pales in comparison with that which is made available in support of motherhood.
In the same way that I have gained insights into motherhood through reading mother-oriented content, I feel that mothers might gain similar insights into fatherhood with the availability of more readily available online fatherhood content. This understanding might empower mothers by enabling them to provide more effective encouragement and support to fathers.
Nevertheless, children would be the biggest benefactors of an increase in resources that support responsible and true fatherhood. The quality and quantity of a child’s interactions with their father would likely increase if that father were to receive greater support from a community of fathers who are facing the same struggles. This has certainly been my own experience. Additionally, fathers with such support might also take a more active role in the indirect, behind-the-scenes care and planning of their child’s intellectual, social, psychological, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
The sparse articles, advice, and experiences on responsible fatherhood which are currently available have helped me to “raise the bar” of my own responsible fatherhood initiative. They have helped me “step up” to the challenge of fatherhood in the way that I had originally expected and sought after. These resources, along with my interactions with other fathers facing similar ambitions, struggles, and limitations have helped me to extend myself, to become a better father, and to improve my character, or so I’d like to believe. If this experience might hold true for other fathers then I invite fathers to seek out and build up online fatherhood content, to share and discuss tips and advice for fathers, and to exchange true fatherhood experiences in the pursuit of responsible fatherhood.