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On Fatherhood and Being Selfish: An Observation

Have you seen the Proctor and Gamble “Thank you, Mom” TV commercial? “The hardest job in the world, is the best job in the world.” Moms. They get all the credit don’t they? You’ll never see a commercial like that for us dads. We don’t get the same credit the moms get, but we quietly do our fair share.

The P&G TV ad shows the sacrifices moms make for their children to realize their dreams and the reward in seeing them accomplish those dreams. Parents (moms and dads) make many sacrifices for their kids. They give up their time, money, and resources all for the kids. In many cases, they put their own careers on hold (sometimes abandoning them completely) and even their dreams. The stuff parents do, yes?

Unfortunately, and unlike in the P&G TV commercial, in many cases those sacrifices don’t pay off. Our kids don't always go on to make the Olympic team and win a gold medal. Sometimes they drop out of school, or they fall victim to drug addiction, or they end up in jail, or pregnant at 16 years old, or they just end up lazy, unmotivated. The promise we once saw in them, the wide-eyed enthusiasm they once possessed, the reason we invested our time, money, and energy...all gone. For all our extraordinary sacrifices, we run the risk of seeing them live a rather ordinary life.

Of course, in other cases, there is great reward in seeing our children succeed because of those little (and not so little) sacrifices we made for them. It makes “the hardest job in the world” that much easier. It makes those dreams and passions we sometimes have to stash away for the sake of our children's dreams and passions seem easier to forget. A parent can only wish their investment in their children's lives will one day be paid back with interest. Ah, but dividends are not always guaranteed. It’s one of the sobering realities of life.

But what about us parents? Our careers? Our dreams? How much do we give up? Heck, how much should we give up?

Father's Day

Sometimes opportunities present themselves to us parents that are too hard to ignore. A huge promotion at our work, a great job opportunity in another state, maybe we realize a great talent we never thought we had, we see an opportunity to pursue a newfound passion, or even start a new business...

Oh, but what about the kids?

That might mean less time to spend with them, less nights reading them a bedtime story, less dinners with the family, less time cheering them on during their soccer games.

Yeah, it might mean all those things. So what are we supposed to do about it?

Of course, the textbook answer is to always put the kids (the family) first. But that can sometimes suck for the person who decides to settle for second (or third, or fourth) place, can’t it? It can suck a whole lot.

And, more often than not, it’s us dads who have to make those decisions.

Life can really suck sometimes – even when great opportunities arise. Sometimes we’re confronted with that awkward moment where we as parents find ourselves thinking about ourselves first. We’re torn between what WE want to do and what’s best for THEM. Unfortunately, life doesn’t slow down for us while we watch our kids grow up and put our own opportunities, passions and dreams on the backburner. Sometimes life wants an answer NOW – not after our kids have grown up and gone to college and made the Olympic team and won a gold medal. Now.

Dividends are not guaranteed.

There’s a reason why so many books are written about “life balance”. It’s so dang easy to read about it but so dang hard to actually do. If only life provided us with a mystical scale, like the magic mirror on the wall that the queen gets in “Snow White”, where we can see just how much of “us” and “them” are in balance.

Father's Day

Perhaps, it’s because men don’t get to carry their kids inside their bellies for nine months; we don’t get to develop that magical bond that mothers make with their children before they’re even born. If we did, perhaps these types of decisions wouldn’t be so damn hard. Unfortunately, we’re left to decide for ourselves…and we go back and forth between what we want and how much we should leave for everyone else.

It’s OK to be selfish every now and then, right? I mean, it’s human nature, isn’t it? Even if you’re a dad? Sure it is. You just gotta be ready to deal with the consequences and try not to kick yourself too hard for not having a crystal ball to see the future. Oh, and try not to celebrate too hard when you get it right.

The English philosopher, Francis Bacon, wrote: “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune, for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.” Mr. Bacon must have been having a really shitty day when he wrote this but he wasn't that far off from the truth.

Fathers don't get the same recognition that mothers get. Period. Yet, we often have to make the really tough decisions; the ones that can make or break a family. So, for all the fathers out there trying to maintain that impossible balance despite being saddled with these great and wonderful hostages to fortune…

Happy Father’s Day.

[Images by xetobyte]

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