Dads play so many roles in their families. They’re providers, protectors, leaders, teachers, helpers, and encouragers. They love unconditionally and support their children no matter what. They help them build their dreams and reach for their goals. They put bandages on their boo-boos and take them to the emergency room when they get hurt. They send their kids off to school and camp and sleepovers even though they practically kill them with anxiety. And they’re always there for those 4am feedings when their little ones are hungry and need someone to rock them back to sleep.
Sadly, there are also myths about fatherhood that can be harmful. One of the most common is the idea that a father is dispensable. Conjured up in glowing profiles of women who have chosen single motherhood, this myth fails to acknowledge the enormous body of social scientific research that shows that children tend to do better when raised by their intact, married mothers and their fathers.
It’s important for new fathers to understand what role they play and to realize that there is no right or wrong way to parent. But the best way to be a good father is to be true to yourself and to your partner. Don’t try to be the “perfect” dad or compare yourself to the idealized versions of your own fathers that you have in your mind. Your own kids are unique and will have their own interests and personalities. They may not be as into baseball or as into the same board games and pop culture benchmarks that you were. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be the father they need, especially if you make a conscious effort to love them as much as you love yourself and to be there for them even when they are disappointing you.
Finally, remember that being a father isn’t just about the big moments, it’s about all of the thousands of middle moments in between. The small things, like checking under the bed for monsters or rocking them to sleep or talking to them about their day – these are the real moments of fatherhood that will leave a lasting impact on your children and will set you apart as a loving and caring father.
The NRFC Virtual Collaborative Community is an online platform for fatherhood practitioners to share information and resources. Learn more and join today.
This is a guest post by Joanne Lewsley, who writes for the evidence-based parenting and health website Sense About Science. She is a freelance copywriter and editor who specialises in creating evidence-based parenting, health and lifestyle web content. You can find her on Twitter @joannelewsley.
This article is published in partnership with The National Resource Center on Responsible Fatherhood.
The National Resource Center on Responsible Fatherhood is a nonprofit organization that works to improve family stability and child outcomes by supporting and strengthening fatherhood practices, programs, and policies. The Center is based in Washington, DC.