Our generation has seen a definite shift in expectations of the man of the house. It’s not uncommon for dads to be much more involved with their children than our fathers before us. In addition to being the main bread winner for the family, modern dads are accustomed to playing more of a part in the household duties and bucking the stereotypical trends of yesteryear.
It’s a far cry from my upbringing.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a sob story. My upbringing was fantastic albeit tumultuous at times with respect to the old boy. Admittedly, I was a very sensitive and highly anxious child and Dad’s parenting style involved strict adherence to the old-school views of masculinity (a direct result of his own upbringing) which didn’t lend itself to my sensitive nature.
“Harden up. Stop being such a pussy“.
I didn’t connect well with my dad during my formative years. He did shift work at a coal mine so I didn’t see him much. I know that memories can be easily screwed but I don’t often remember him being involved with my sport or school life. I can’t remember him cooking or cleaning much and I had to battle to spend time with him. When we did spend time together I often felt myself trying to prove my masculinity to him, and failing dismally. Having grown up and experiencing what it means to work and provide for my own family, I now understand a little better that he would have only been working hard to do just that. He was probably just exhausted all the time but that’s not what a child sees.
However, at times I absolutely needed a firm hand to help force me out of my comfort zone. A good example is when I was too afraid to swim in the local public pool because I genuinely believed it was shark infested after seeing the swimming club logo of a shark on a sign next to the pool, which my young mind considered a warning sign. This was a problem because I was supposed to be competing in club night and it would have caused mayhem amongst my peers had I warned them of our supposed impending doom.
Dad’s solution was to simply hurl my tiny, frightened body directly into the (non) shark infested pool.
In what can only be described as a manic frenzy, I worked my way to the edge of the pool completely unencumbered by any form of marine life (emotional scars, on the other hand, were inflicted). It seems cruel but it is exactly what I needed at that time and I spent the proceeding years winning numerous swimming competitions. Dad’s action was the catalyst for lessons I learnt in the importance of hard work and discipline. Whenever I needed an extra boost whilst competing, I would imagine I was being chased by my Dad.. riding a fucking great white.
In stark contrast, let me introduce you to the Modern Dad. He works full time, cooks dinner, changes nappies, washes clothes, plays with the kids, gets involved with their learning and also tries hard to be a good husband. He’s a top bloke and family is his number one priority. He’s also exhausted and under an immense amount of pressure to perform in the mantle of a ‘Modern Dad’. Sound familiar?
Then, we have the Modern Influencer Dad. This guy can be seen publicly performing household duties whilst brandishing a child attached to his body with an overpriced human carrier, via his social media page. He posts lovely blurbs about how amazing his wife and kids are, everything is perfect, he has heaps of money and well-known brands like to provide him with complementary products to prove that he is a fantastic dad, and you could be too. His name is Steve.
Whilst he’s a top bloke and loves his family, Steve’s a bit of a problem for the average Modern Dad.
I have personally struggled with the expectations of the Modern Dad. It’s tough because obviously I want what is best for my family but I also don’t want to completely lose myself in the process. It’s difficult to find that balance. For instance, it is difficult for me not to feel guilty when partaking in my hobbies because I should be doing something that benefits the whole family. A quick scroll on social media has left me feeling deflated because other dads appear to be better fathers to their children or husbands for their wives. Ultimately this just leads to a nasty cycle of feeling inadequate or a little lost.
Our kids are watching and learning from our every move. Whilst it’s important to exhibit the desirable characteristics of the Modern Dad, we need to make sure we are also taking care of our own wellbeing. Importantly, our kids will learn from that too.
No dad is perfect. The best thing we can do as fathers is be present, learn from our mistakes (we will make many)and look after ourselves in the process.