Your Job Description: Defining What it Means to Be a Dad
Remember when you held your first baby in your arms and asked yourself, “Now what do I do?” You didn’t get an answer, did you?
At work, a job description helps keep you on task for your company. But what about a job description for dads? At no time do we feel the need for a fathering job description more than when we first become fathers.
Our founder, Dr. Ken Canfield, wrote about this in his short book for dads of infants, called Forming a Lifelong Bond—which has recently been updated and made available in e-book form.
His insights are helpful for dads at any age; it’s always good to think through issues, plan a strategy, and begin to put it into place.
The fundamentals of fathering—loving, coaching and modeling—can apply to every dad, but since we’re all unique people and in different family situations, our job descriptions will likely look a little bit different.
Here are Ken’s two main thoughts to keep in mind as you go through this process:
First, deal with expectations. Our culture places both high and low expectations on how we should father. Most likely, your extended family and colleagues at work also communicate expectations that will impact your role. But the most significant expectations you’ll deal with will come from two sources:
- Your past. It’s vital that you recognize and understand your father’s impact on your life, because that’s where you first received messages about what a father does. None of our fathers were perfect, so it’s important for us to understand their shortcomings as well as carry forward their strengths.
- Your children’s mother. She is an essential partner in your fathering and like you, her expectations for you will be influenced by her father. If her dad was absent or abusive, she may find it difficult to trust you with the children. If her father was present but emotionally disconnected, she may not appreciate the unique assets you bring to the parenting team. If she had a close, loving relationship with him, she may have high expectations and you may feel pressure to live up to an unrealistic ideal.
Key thought number two: Define “father” as a verb, not a noun. Unfortunately, some new dads start out on the wrong foot. Maybe their wives handle most of the childcare duties and these dads feel like secondary parents or even “babysitters.” It’s easy for them to get comfortable deferring parenting duties and not being fully engaged.
Please don’t settle for that! I invite you to join the growing movement of effective, involved fathers who change diapers, give baths and bottles, and then later coach sports teams, take kids to doctor’s appointments, attend PTA meetings, and everything in between!
Get involved, dad. Resolve to live out your commitment to your children day by day. It’s the best way to bond with your child, whether he or she is an infant, toddler, ten-year-old or teenager.
Action Points for dads on the journey:
- Actually write a “Dad’s Job Description.” Look at what’s included on your work job description—hours, expectations, specific responsibilities, team members, etc. Those are all good ideas to start.
- Talk with your child’s mother about what she expects of you as a father—and get specific. Talk about daily caretaking duties, the amount of time spent with the kids, discipline, navigating work and family issues, moral and spiritual training, the priority of your marriage, etc.
- Take inventory of your relationship with your dad. List 5 ways you are like him and 5 ways you’re not like him. How do these insights affect your fathering job description?
- Take advantage of any opportunities to “just hang out” with your child. The most meaningful moments often happen when you aren’t expecting them or trying to create them.
- Keep a high motivation to be a dad! Your ongoing commitment can help you overcome other challenges along the fathering journey.
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