Are You Dad Enough?



Julian Coutts, Hypnobirthing client and father extraordinare to 13 month old Tycho!

Are you mom enoughOk, so we are well aware that a picture of a dad wearing his baby in a sling is not nearly as risky as a mom breastfeeding her 3 year old while he stands on a wooden chair, but for some men, wearing a sling would be the equivalent of wearing a 3 layered tutu. In fact, in 1980 a picture like this may have sparked the same controversy as the cover of TIME magazine did in 2012, especially if it came with the tag line ‘Are You Dad Enough?’

So, ARE you dad enough?

What is the mark of a good dad? Is it a man who happily slings his child to his back to let his baby mama get some rest? Is it a man who ‘brings home the bacon’ or takes the kids to soccer practice on the weekends? Is it a man who chose the career path of stay-at-home dad (SAHD) or a single father?

It is nearly impossible to dictate what makes a good dad, as each family dynamic is unique and ever changing. What is clear is the fact that the stakes of parenting have become dramatically higher over the last few decades. There is more demand for double incomes, childcare cost is astronomical and many couples become parents with little or no support from family. The idea of ‘it takes a village’ has all but completely disappeared.

The way we see it, there are 3 jobs that need to be done once baby arrives: parenting, earning money, and cooking/cleaning. That’s right, three major FULL TIME jobs and only two people to do them. With only two parents (in most cases), it is hard to find enough time in the day to fulfill each job requirement, so quite often, something’s got to give! Four feet trying to fill six shoes usually results in a messy-ish house, anoverwhelmed parent, or a child craving attention. This dynamic can also cause one (or both) parents to become resentful if they feel they have no time for themselves. In this day and age, families function most effectively when parents are equal in taking time away from home, work, chores and raising their child(ren).

This is where the TIME magazine article really irked us. The author swayed between the benefits (long term emotional health and well being) and downfalls (huge dedication and sacrifice on the mother’s part) of attachment parenting. The article never once mentioned the importance of fathers (or partners) except in a side bar article titled, ‘The Detached Dad’s Manifesto’ which encourages dads to take a step back because, “children can – and often do – get by without a father in their lives at all.” This point is so irksome because we feel as though it is a step BACKWARDS when we need to be two steps forward in this increasingly demanding society of modern parenthood.

Well, we know at least one dad (and I’m sure there are several million others) who believe their role in a child’s life is integral, and not to be taken lightly. Brian Russell, member of Dad Central and president of local fathering program Dads Today states, “Dads are doing more these days. Though it may not be equal with moms, in general, they are sharing more of the responsibility, caring for the kids more, shopping, bath time, reading, homework etc.”

Brian, whose email footnote is ‘fathers leave their footprints across the hearts of their children’, also admits there are challenges to the increased interest in parenting. “It’s a balancing act. Fathers are very busy these days with work, home life and community involvement”. His personal challenge is being away at work knowing he is missing out on special moments that happen at home. He makes up for this by being fully present when he is home. “I love being engaged in their lives. When I am home, I make my wife and daughters my priority”.

Julian Coutts (featured above) was ready for a child in his life, but admits that when it comes to doing things directly for his child, his wife Rebecca does more. “We never really divvied up the responsibilities. We just deal with them as they come up, plus my wife makes it really easy for me.” He states, “I am the bread winner of the family. We have things we each do more of but we have both done all of the responsibilities solo at one time or another and could do them anytime if needed or when requested by the other”.

When Kevin and Sarah came to bebo mia looking for doula support, they seemed to have it all together. Sarah had hired midwives and was nearly finished her birth plan, while Kevin was arming himself with as much knowledge as possible. He read the standard “What to Expect” books, attended prenatal classes and sat at the receiving end of many cautionary tales from other parents. He was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Now father to 1 year old Brooklyn, Kevin has this to say about the experience:

“Although nothing could completely prepare me for the actual experience, once Brooklyn arrived I was overjoyed to find  it was less challenging than my prenatal research had led me to believe.  All of the disjointed pieces of information that I’d gathered were cobbled together with a ton of flying-by-the-seat-of-my pants moments to create some sort of semi-competent father.  Of course, it hasn’t always been easy but it has always been awesome.  In short, I can remember that being Brooklyn’s father felt natural to me from the first time I held her in the hospital.  I’ve been unwaveringly captivated by her ever since.”

Brooklyn, who was born with the Houdini-esque ability to escape from every swaddler known to man, has always been the light of her parents’ eyes – but like Kevin said, it has not always been easy for the pair. In the early months, Sarah was diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was during this time that Kevin stepped in and took on more responsibilities as far as caring for Brooklyn. They would even co-sleep on the nights when Brooklyn was teething or sick. Now, months later, they have found a way to share the responsibilities equally and Kevin shares how he and Sarah have even found ways to make time for themselves:

“Now that we have our parenting legs underneath us, we are focusing on supporting each other as spouses, and not just as Brooklyn’s parents. We also give each other the gift of time.  Saturday mornings are for Mama to do what she wishes (sleep in, gym, etc) and Sundays are for me. We even decided to shell out for a biweekly housekeeper and that has been a lifesaver.”

Dad and sonSo, there you have it. Testimonials by three totally amazing, yet very different fathers who are leaving their footprints across the hearts of their children (take that, TIME magazine!). Some of you may be fabulous in different ways from the above examples but you should never question whether or not you are “dad enough” to your little ones. Rest assured that if you made it all the way down here to the bottom of this article searching for ways to be dad enough, then you ARE dad enough!

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