When we were little, this is what our childhood looked like for most of us in a two-parent household: mom was our primary caretaker, while dad was someone we didn’t interact with all that much. Thankfully, times have changed. Raising a child is no longer a woman’s sole responsibility. Quite a few dads today want to be just as involved as moms. Here’s what you need to do to be a dad your child will be proud of:
1. Accept that parenting is an everyday affair
Parenting is a full-time job, one which you can never quit. Even when your child is an adult and has kids of their own, they will need you as a parent. Especially when your kids are little, you cannot be sloppy. You have to show up and play your role daily.
Horror author Neil D’Silva hits the nail on the head:
As a work-from-home dad, I have lots of things to say, but let me just share one quick point. Being a hands-on dad is an everyday thing. You don’t have to go all-in, all guns blazing, but you have to keep up the routine. A lot of my friends are nothing more than Fad Dads. Dads who do “dad” things for a day or two and then give up. In those couple of days, they will overdo the daddiness—take the kids out to the park, whip up an exotic breakfast, take them to that new kiddie movie, and buy them expensive robots or kitchen sets. Oh, but that’s not it!
Being a dad is like being on a job; you don’t do everything the first day itself. Then there’s nothing to do the next day! Instead, do the simple things that the kids need more—helping them with their baths, combing their hair, preparing them for school and dropping them there, helping them with their lessons, etc. These are the things that have to be done for the kids, and on a regular clockwork basis.
This is what I do. I even braid my daughter’s hair. And I give them little surprises along the way—like perhaps suddenly get them an ice-cream cone or a toy on the way to school. Or fool around with them at home. It helps me bond with them better, and when you are better bonded with your kids, there’s nothing more beautiful than that.
2. Understand that being a father is a privilege, not a rite of passage
Isn’t it strange how just about anyone can become a parent? We need to jump through so many hoops for just about anything that requires responsibility, like say we need a license to drive, travel, drink, etc. Maybe there ought to be a parenting license so people–both parents and non-parents–truly value it. Indians in particular use parenting as a way to fulfill their dreams and force their ideologies on their children. Sometimes, they even do it subconsciously. Seasoned dad and entrepreneur Sanjay Sabnani has a message for us all:
Understand the purpose of parenting. It is not about using your child to fulfill your lame fantasies of success. Child raising is the process whereby a young person learns how to live independently as an adult. Teach your child everything while you are doing it and they will benefit tremendously. A parent is the most important teacher in a child’s life. Do not limit your child with your mistaken gender and sexual identity stereotypes. Let your child be and enjoy the process of watching them turn into an amazing human. Teach your daughter about honor and chivalry towards the old and infirm while making sure your son knows how to feed himself and stitch on a button if needed. Respect the privilege and put your whole heart, mind, and body into your efforts.
3. Be prepared for birth defects or health issues
Ever so often, life throws a curveball your way. There’s always a chance that your child might have some sort of disability. And when that happens, you need to be mentally prepared. Software engineer Aditya Tiwari, adoptive father to a child with Down’s Syndrome gives some solid advice: The first thing you need to do is accept the child. Until you don’t do so, things will be very difficult for you and your family. Don’t go comparing your child with another child or worry about what other people think. Find out what interests your child and do just that.
At the end of the day, normal or special needs, a child is a child. No child is perfect, each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. If you truly accept this and want to adopt a special child, just go for it. Adopting a child today is very simple…it’s all online and you can do it even if you are single. When I adopted Avnish, I was a single 28-year-old. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to give a special needs child any more time than a normal child. They are not very different from each other in that regard.”
Although being a mother is hard, fatherhood is daunting as well. There will be times when you will find yourself lost and confused. Ask for help when you need it, respect, and love yourself and your partner. Then do the same for your children and you will be just fine.