Remember when you held your first baby in your arms and—probably not out loud—asked yourself, “Now what do I do?” You didn’t get an answer, did you?
Well, dad, I’m glad you’re seeking new insights and information to be the best dad you can be.
At work, a job description helps keep you on task for your company. But what about a “job description for dads”? It’s important for dads—of all ages—to think through issues, plan our strategy, and begin to put it into place.
Your job description for fatherhood probably should begin with expectations. You may sense certain expectations from our culture, from co-workers, from your parents or your in-laws. But a good place to start is with the expectations carried by you and your wife.
First, it’s vital that you recognize and understand your father’s impact on your life, because that’s where you first received messages about what a father does. None of our fathers were perfect, so it’s important for us to understand their shortcomings as well as carry forward their strengths.
Then, talk intentionally with your wife. She is an essential parenting partner, and like you, her expectations for you will be influenced by her father. If her dad was absent or abusive, she may find it difficult to trust you with the children. If her father was present but emotionally disconnected, she may not appreciate the unique assets you bring to the parenting team. If she had a close, loving relationship with him, she may have high expectations and you may feel pressure to live up to an unrealistic ideal.
Discuss all of those issues. Help her understand your ideas about fathering, and listen closely to her perspective. Ask her what she expects of you as a father. Get specific. Talk about daily caretaking duties, the amount of time spent with the kids, discipline, navigating work and family issues, moral and spiritual training, the priority of your marriage, and other values related to childrearing.
Once you’ve defined what is realistic to expect from yourself as a dad, I suggest verbalizing your commitment to that role. Define “father” as a verb, not a noun. Resolve to live out your commitment to your children day by day.