As a thirty-five-year-old man, I often wonder if I missed a crucial life experience by not having children. I see both my brothers flourishing in their roles. There are a handful of fathers whom I greatly respect. I don’t wonder what it would be like or even day dream about it. It’s not a life goal. The truth is that fatherhood is scary to me. Here are some reasons why.
There’s a deep intrinsic vulnerability to fatherhood.A good father, like mine, invests his heart in his children. I can remember my calm, rational, and always taking the high road father, losing his patience with some of the meaner teachers of my youth. There’s a powerlessness to fatherhood. Men are supposed to be protectors. It’s hard to do that when their children are away from them forty hours a week. It’s hard to not take on their children’s pains. While moms suffer this as well, they are allowed to have this vulnerability, men are not. Culturally, men are told to be Supermen, able to take any slander, or beating, or loss, with a strong emotional prowess. It turns out that men are just as emotional. In fact, a healthy relationship with their children can decrease depression and increase self-image. Read it here.
Fathers need a secure base.I’m at the age where people ask about my desire to have kids as if it is something I could feasibly invest in under my own volition. They’re not. I can’t just pop a child out of thin air. Men need women for this. My answer is usually, “I haven’t met a woman I trust enough to have kids with.” I don’t know if this is a negative statement about myself, but the point is that men require a healthy relationship with their significant other to be a good dad. I’ve seen more than one good intentioned father pushed out by a self-centered woman. While I hope this is an exception, the point is that they really had very little legal say about their children. They trusted a woman to be with them, honor them, and cooperatively raise their children together, and that base crumbled. My parents have always stayed true to each other. They’ve worked hard to make things work. My mother has been a secure base for my dad to be a good father.
Fatherhood is needed.There is a rising crisis in our culture where homes are increasingly fatherless. While we can attack laws, social issues, and all sorts of reasons why this is, the point is that a good father is becoming increasingly hard to find. I don’t know what the answer is and maybe I’m naïve. I wonder if we spent more time recognizing the beauty of fatherhood, would more men eagerly become one? If we spent time protecting, honoring, and cherishing it, would there be more of them? Fatherhood is every bit as beautiful as motherhood, but it seems that our culture wants to glorify one over the other.
Again, I don’t know what the answer looks like. I do know that my father and I are best friends because he did a pretty good job as a dad. Sure, we had our bad days. In the end he was vulnerable, supportive, and consistent. He’s a good father that had the support of a loving wife. They were a unit that facilitated our unit as a family. I’m glad my brother’s and their families are carrying on this respect for fatherhood.
Aaron Daniel Behr
Mount Vernon, Ohio
June 18, 2017