What Else Can Dad Do?
A post for both fathers and mothers
So earlier this week, after reading one of my blog posts on parenting (https://www.justasiam.ng/post/please-don-t-judge-me), a male friend asked, “What can we the second papas do to help, in addition to paying for school fees, laptops, iPad and Wi-Fi?” He asked this question in the context of me referring to God as the first Papa in the post. It is important to highlight this fact upfront - Not everyone has a natural father in their life but each and everyone of us is fortunate to be in the position to have a Father in heaven who loves us dearly. We simply need to believe this truth and let it seep deep into our hearts.
But, back to earthly fathers…. What started out as a simple response to a very good question ended up as a blogpost. This blogpost. 😊
Here’s my humble opinion on the topic.
I have learnt over time that in addition to having the primary responsibility for making material provision for their children, fathers (knowingly or unknowingly) also provide their children with a sense of identity and security (or lack thereof). By identity I mean that sense of self, the sense of being of importance, of value; a sense of belonging and acceptance. Though this could include cultural and/or tribal identity, that's just a small part of it.
Regarding fathers providing security, it’s about giving their children that sense of being protected, that someone bigger and "badder” has their back, that they need not be afraid.
So, in response to the question, I believe fathers can:
(1) Consciously imbue a strong sense of identity and security in their children
(2) Look at all the things Mama does and ask themselves, “Which of these activities can I take on, either periodically or regularly?”
So many of the roles mothers play are non-gender specific and they would love for the fathers to share in the responsibilities.
It’s quite common for fathers, especially in African families, to feel isolated in their homes. It feels like he is on one side and the wife and children are on the other side; enjoying a bond that he is not part of. It need not be so, and it breaks everyone’s heart from their side of the “Great Divide”.
The bridge between the two sides is more accessible than we often realise. Fathers need to simply “get stuck in” and mothers (and sometimes children) need to make space for him to do so. The bond typically seen between a mother and her child(ren) is usually formed as she does things for and with them - spending quality time, answering a million and one questions, supervising homework, ferrying them back and forth, turning up to countless school and extra-curricular events, and the list goes on.
I know us mothers could do a lot better at (1) creating space for dad to be more involved, and (2) encouraging dad to be more involved. We mothers need to keep reminding ourselves that (1) parenting is not a competition for the affection of our children, and (2) despite what we have allowed ourselves to believe, we are not superwomen! We were never meant to be that.
By trying to be superwoman, us mothers put undue pressure on ourselves, running ourselves ragged until we are no use to anybody – not ourselves, not our husbands, not our children, not our bosses, not our employees, nobody. We are stressed, tired and cranky a lot of the time, making needless mistakes at work and shouting at or freezing out loved ones at home. Then of course, there is that internal struggle with resentment, self-pity and/or anxiety. A big generalisation; I know! But you get the picture. 😊 The point is, if we do not manage the burden of responsibility we take on then we are in danger of falling ill - if not physically then mentally or emotionally.
You see, I concluded a few years ago that this family structure wherein we limit the father’s role to simply making material provision whilst everything else relating to the raising of the children is left to the mother is from the pit of hell! Plain and simple! If you think about it, if we all live from the place of our identity (this article https://www.justasiam.ng/post/who-s-got-your-power touches on this point) and we get our sense of identity from dad, then a father’s failure to imbue a strong sense of identity in a child negatively impacts how they go on to see themselves in adulthood and consequently the quality of life they go on to live.
If a child doesn’t have a strong sense of security, then they grow up to be…. You guessed it! Fearful and/or insecure adults! And fearful and insecure adults do as they are. These negative feelings based on faulty belief sets flow into every aspect of our lives. Remember that our minds and emotions go on to affect our wills (https://www.justasiam.ng/post/the-body-soul-and-spirit-of-a-nation) - the choices and decisions we make. In short, our entire lives!
Fear is the root of other emotions such as worry and anxiety. Also, fear impedes our ability to take risks, a key ingredient of living a truly successful life. On the other hand, insecurity wreaks particularly havoc in the area of relationships, often resulting in even more negative thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, without being addressed, a vicious cycle is created.
Here’s the good news for everyone. Though we absolutely want fathers to play their role in imbuing that strong sense of identity, security and provision in their children, we all recognize that no one is perfect, and life is even less perfect. Thankfully God, our First Papa, knew that. Therefore, He is there, constantly wooing us to come to Him to receive an unshakeable and immovable sense of identity and security. He is also the Father who time and time again reassures us that He is more than willing and able to provide for our every need – physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc. Everything!
Having said that, dad also needs to stretch his hand towards mum, mum should extend her hand to take his, both link their hands together, and work in partnership to help their children to be the best they were created to be. Simple to write and hard to live; I know! 😊 Life!!!
To what extent do you feel your earthly father provided for you materially?
If necessary, forgive him for the areas you feel he fell short.
Ask God to show you the ways in which He will provide for you.
To what extent do you feel your earthly father gave you a strong sense of identity (as described above)?
If necessary, forgive him for the areas you feel he could have done more.
Ask God to show you how He sees you.
Were there instances, as you were growing up, where you feel your father did not protect you as required?
If so, do forgive Him
Ask God to show you the way He protects you.
What could you do proactively to:
Reassure your child(ren) that you are providing for them to the best of your ability?
Give your child(ren) a greater sense of importance and value; of belonging and acceptance?
Provide your child(ren) with a greater sense of security?
What roles and activities relating to the children could you take over from mum (or even the nanny) ?
What else could you do to strengthen the bond(s) between your child(ren) and yourself?
What roles and activities could you effectively delegate?
What roles and activities could dad happily do?
In what ways, conscious or unconscious, are you impeding dad’s ability to bond with his child(ren)?
How could you foster a closer relationship between the child(ren) and their dad?
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