PERS PEC T IVE
By Jeff Sabo
Finding out that you’re going to be a father is a very crystallizing and defining moment in a man’s life. Some men run from it, others embrace it, and still
more are, frankly, puzzled by it—and some fears and
uncertainties, once believed to have been overcome, can
come flooding out again:
Will I be a good father?
Will my children love me?
Can I escape my own upbringing, and do better?
Can I parent with my heart, more than with my head?
Will my partner still love me if I’m not a good father?
Would she even tell me if I were doing poorly?
Will I ever learn enough, know enough and contribute
enough to our parenting relationship?
How will I respond if the kids get sick? How will I respond
if one of them dies?
How can I keep them safe, provide for them, provide for
my partner and stay happy at the same time?
It can be completely overwhelming under the best of
circumstances. We experience a sudden sense of being
responsible for someone else, of having to provide for
them and our partner. And we may still be grappling
with the other uncertainties and inadequacies that we
have carried around with us for years.
There is an immediacy to being a new parent which
requires us to handle stressful situations in a calm,
thoughtful manner. But if we have not been willing or
able to reconcile our fears and uncertainties, “calm” and
“thoughtfulness” are states of being that are difficult to
attain, and even more difficult to maintain. I think that,
under stress, we are prone to default to our most basic
personalities, to use whatever familiar coping mechanisms we’ve used in the past. Sometimes, the only way
to really work through this effectively is to latch on to
something familiar that helps ground us a bit, so we can
deal effectively with the swirling emotions and seismic
shifts in…well, just about everything, that come with
being a new parent.
In order to grasp my new life, I had to rely on my old
paradigms of what a parent “should” be for guidance.
In my head, I had mapped out exactly what it takes to
raise a child, be a husband, have a productive household
and be an accepted member of society. For me, it was
pretty simple, really. Dad works, mom works; breakfast
as a family with a healthy meal; lunches and book bags
all packed the night before; kids on the bus and doing
well at school; work being hard but rewarding; home by
6:00, kids all there; dinner together, then chores; some
time to play, then homework; then time to brush your
teeth and put on your PJs, and off to bed by 9: 30 or so.
Of course, the kids would play sports, I’d be a member of
the Jaycees, mom would be on the Chamber of Commerce, etc., etc., etc. We might even go to church on
Sundays and sing in the choir. It’s important to note that
these “expectations” of what my life would be like were
not some mere abstract, or some societal norm that I
simply bought into. These were things I wanted. They
were what mattered; they were the way it was done. If we