Hello there, Huffington Post readers -- I'm Casey Palmer, a new father from Toronto, reconciling parenthood with my previous life -- trying to have my cake and eat it too, so to speak. I constantly discover new things about myself and this lifelong job I've taken on, realizing that there's only so much you can appreciate before your child starts vastly changing your life!
Here's a bit of what I've learned about being a Dad:
I didn't know what to expect when I became a Dad. I didn't lack good fatherly figures -- I just had no clue of what the world expected of me.
The 2015 Father is a conundrum. We hear plenty of stories blaming fathers in absentia for children's bad behaviour, society diagnosing a lack of the firm disciplinarian they so sorely needed to keep them in line -- but people rarely talk about what the value of a good father is.
Some Dads do it right: they stick around, raising their children as positive influences; or are at the park playing with their kids with another parent at home getting sorely needed extra sleep; or even attend ballet recitals and sew Halloween costumes to support their children's dreams. Gender norms are slowly dying, lines are slowly blurring, and the good fathers are unafraid to do whatever it takes to be the Dad their children need, because screw how society thinks a father's supposed to act -- a real father provides for his family, and not just with a regular paycheque.
These fathers may very well be the unsung heroes of parenthood, cast to a background role by society simply due to physiology. Dads might not physically carry their children to term, but does it mean they love their children any less than their mothers? Or feel less responsible for making a difference in their children's lives and raising them right? Or are they just on the bum end of a bad rap, stuck in a world that needs to change the conversation on what being a father is really about?
Fatherhood: It Only Looks Scary.
I see the Toronto I've come from, and I get why many men my age aren't keen to become fathers. To them, fatherhood isn't "cool" -- it isn't "sexy" -- for many of my peers, it's not even on the horizon. Once upon a time, it was expected that you'd go to school, get a job and have a family, carrying on your family name to glorify your lineage, etc. etc. etc... In a few short decades, the world's grown infinitely more complicated, though -- society presents us with so few shining examples of hope for the modern father. You have oafish nuclear power plant workers, chemistry teachers turned meth kingpins, men who train assassins while posing as museum staff -- really, anything but the hardworking every man fathers who strive to keep the family together -- the Cliff Huxtables, Danny Tanners and Philip Bankses of the world.
185,224 fathers in Toronto -- we are the 19 per cent. I remember some of the first things I was told as a new father -- many from people without kids of their own:
[M]ake sure you give [your wife] a break....she did her part, carried him for nine months, now she needs you to step in and take over (at least do the night shifts)
[Your wife] is the hero in this scenario!!!
I said it before -- mothers are hugely important to the picture, but Dads are there, too. Though society deems it uncool for men to show emotion and largely finds us working while the Moms hustle at home on maternity leave, we want to see our children's smiling faces. We too bear the stress of an unbalanced home, suffering through the struggles of sleepless nights and post-partum depression. Just because things don't happen to us, it still affects us.
The Dad isn't dead -- my past decade on Facebook has seen a transition in my Timeline photos from nights out at the club, to beach shots on vacation, to beautiful wedding day portraits, and now, proud parents with their newborn kids. Family's still important, and there're still fathers around interested in seeing their kids grow.
But it's time to stop treating them like secondary figures in their kids' lives and show them they too have a place in the world of parenting. That means down with the memes of "daddies doing it wrong", with moms commiserating over peals of "What did he do this time" and "Why doesn't he get it?!" It's time to stop acting like fathers are parenting invalids, applauding when they're doing what they should be doing, whether it's learning how to knot a French braid or rocking a frightened baby to sleep. it's time to stop putting the spotlight on the fathers choosing not to stay in their children's lives -- no matter how many fathers do it, shirking parental responsibility isn't the norm and we need to stop giving power to the idea.
We need to stop acting like all fathers are destined to fail -- parenthood is hard for mothers and fathers; once we recognize that we're in it together, only then can we start building a parenting model that truly captures all the challenges parents face, instead of trying to choose sides in an unnecessary battle.
So here's to my fellow Dads -- keep up the good work. The world may not understand you, but continue to love your children. It might not happen today, but eventually you'll get a look, a word or a simple a smile, and you'll know that everything was worth it.
Casey Palmer is a Dad Blogger and proud Torontonian, trying to teach his fellow men that fatherhood isn't as scary as they think! You can find him on his website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube!
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