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There are quite a few people who think that the raising of children is a woman’s job. Who think that the role of parenting belongs to the wife.

I never understood that view.

If a woman is supposed to bring up the kids, then how is the kid supposed to learn about what it means to be a man?

Children need role models. Both male and female.

As fathers it is our responsibility to teach the “male curriculum”.

To teach our sons how to be a man.

And to teach our daugthers what to expect from a man.

If we do not take the time to teach them that, then we put this very important subject into the hands of others.

I do not see how any man would like to outsource the teaching of “being a man” to someone else.

But as fathers we should teach much more than just the “man-lessons”.

If we want our children to be great students of life then we have to be our children’s best teachers.

And, as any teachers will tell you, the key to being a great teacher is not knowledge – it’s compassion, connection and presence. It is to have the ability to be there for the student to help, inspire, motivate and, yes, to teach.

The key words being: “be there”.

So it comes down to this:

1) Children need role models to learn.

2) To learn about what it means to be a good man, our children need good, male role models.

3) As fathers, that is our most fundamental role – and we should not surrender that task to anyone else.

4) But to be great teachers of manhood, we need to be great teachers.

5) And great teachers prioritise their students.

So: As fathers we need to be there for our kids.

 

Children learn about the world from the world that they are in.

So, the more you are in your children’s life the bigger affect you will have on the world view they get.

Especially around what it means to be a man.

But the opposite is also true: The less the father is in the picture, the less control or influence he will have on how his child ends up looking at the world.

It is true that many men choose not to be in the picture.

And sure, if you think that your children should learn about what it means to be a man from women, or from strangers – then go ahead and let the women and strangers do the child raising …

Personally I think the job of teaching our children about being a man is a man’s job.

So be a man.

Be that man.

 

 

ps. Watch this ad (from a mobile operator in the Philippines) about the need for fathers to be the teachers in our children’s life.

(Side note: This ad is another example of a company in an Asian country using their advertising budget to promote the idea of fathers taking a bigger responsibility in parenting. (See my previous posts for other examples. Something is definitely happening in the attitudes towards men and parenting in Asia right now.)

 

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There seems to be two fundamental meanings to the word (both when you look in the dictionary and when you do a search on Google.)
1) The first is that “fathering” means “bring into being, bring into the world, give life to”.

In essence it boils down to a man donating his sperm to help create a new life.

2) The second meaning of the world “fathering” is “to be the father of…” as in “treat with the protective care associated with a father.”.

In essence to be an active, and caring parent.

It is the same with the word “Paternity”.

The definition of the word “paternity” is: “(especially in legal contexts) the state of being someone’s father.”.

Now that can mean two totally different things.

1) Your genes where used to create a new human so you are the child’s father.

Google the term “paternity” and ads for paternity testing comes up…

(Again, the idea of donating a sperm.)

or

2) The idea of taking full responsibility as one of two parents in regards to fostering a child.

The idea of being a dad.

As a father you have to make up your mind about what the word “fathering” means to you.
Do you want to give life to a child, or do you want to give a life to a child?

That one letter “a” makes a huge difference in how you look at the concept of fathering a child.
The first view is that a father helps create a child, the other view is that a father is present to raise a child.
But to be present you need to be there.
It’s a decision – and a commitment – that you, as a father, have to make: to physically and mentally be there as much as you can and as much as the child needs it while your child is growing up.

Are you?

To help bring a child to this world is the easy part.
To help raise it is the rewarding part.

Be more than a sperm. Be a dad.

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Imagine a child who gets the one gift that he has always wished for – and then forgets to play with it only to find out that his parents gave it away since he did not play with it.

Picture the couple who never used the “fine China” because they saved it for a “Special Occasion” that never came.

Think of all the people who never approached that girl/boy because they were waiting for the perfect timing – only to see that very same person get involved with someone else because they never knew.

Sad?

Yes.

Sad, because they all had it there all along but let it slip between their fingers.

Now ask yourself this: What is the biggest gift in life? The biggest gift a human being can receive?

It is arguably the gift of becoming a parent.

No love is greater.

No gift last longer or is more rewarding.

No gift gives so much back.

And yet:

So very often do you hear parents say: “What happened to my little child?”, “How did she grow up so quickly?!”, “Why did I not spend more time with kids when I had the chance?”

The answer is simple: They prioritised something else.

They decided that doing something else was more important than spending time with their children.

Probably not because they thought this other things was more valuable – but because they thought they would have plenty of time to play with their kids later.

The sad truth is that we don’t.

Before you know it the kids will be out of the house, living their own lives, and you will be sitting in that very same (now quiet) house asking yourself “What just happened?”

They say time flies.

Well, so does parenthood.

Take full advantage of every day, minute and second of parenting that you can get your hands on and you will leave this life feeling that you lived a life worth living.

Take the approach of thinking you will take the time off “later” and there will always be that risk that you don’t.

That would be sad.

So go for the alternative to sad: Be a dad. Now.

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I once heard a story that went like this:

Foreign woman: “You are from Sweden? I love Sweden! Especially all those gay Swedish nannies!”

Swedish woman: “??? … Oh, you mean the dads…!”

Turns out that the non-Swedish woman had mistaken all the Swedish paternity dads taking care of their kids as being hired nannies. And she could not imagine a straight man working with kids, she had assumed that all the “nannies” where gay…

 

Fathers spending a lot of time off with their children might be exotic outside Sweden still, and in many ways Sweden (and other Nordic countries) are leading the way for society where children grow up with a more equal amount of male and female role models.

In Sweden parents get 480 days paid paternity leave.

90 of those days are exclusively for the father (so if the father doesn’t use them the mother can not use them)

About 12% of Swedish couples have a setup where the mother and father split the days 50/50.

Gender equality is important in Sweden, and according to Wikipedia and the official website Sweden.se Sweden is in the forefront on this issues.

In 2006, the World Economic Forum introduced its annual Global Gender Gap Report, which measures equality in the areas of economics, politics, education and health. Since the report’s inception, Sweden has never finished lower than fourth in the Gender Gap rankings.

That does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that Sweden is a truly gender equal society. Far from it. Or that Swedish dads do as much of the work at home as the mothers do. They do not.

Mothers just work more than dads if you add up paid work and domestic work. But at least in Sweden the difference is much smaller than in other countries where the mothers work.

What it does mean is that Sweden there is a strong movement of dads stepping up and saying “I want to take a bigger responsibility in brining up my children too.”

 

Today the notion of a father staying home to take care of the kids may seem odd, strange, exotic – or even unmanly – in many parts of the world.

But times change.

Women get more and more role models showing how they can step up and be equal to men in the workforce (Latest example: the national airline of Ethiopia announcing a flight with an all-female crew.)

And the more examples fathers get of other men choosing to stay home and raise their kids the bigger the chance that they too will see the opportunities and advantages that it could bring to have the father stay home.

I guess the conclusion is: The more we raise the awareness of fathers raising their kids the higher the chance that the percentage of fathers taking paternity leave will raise. 

And that is why I am writing this blog.

 

The pictures in this post is from the book “Swedish Dads” by Johan Bävman who followed a number of Swedish dads on paternity leave. Another amazing project to raise awareness of  paternity leave. Read more about the book and get your own copy here.

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