Parenting is a sure-fire way to personal growth. BeingDads founder David Willans reflects on why you should step in not tap out.
Too much makes us arrogant and liable to take too much risk. Too little dooms us to never achieve because we never try. Getting the balance right has a huge influence on how our lives pan out, and our satisfaction in life too.
Confidence is how much trust we have in ourselves.
Parenting is a huge challenge to our confidence. We face it with no preparation or training. But, if approached right, parenting is a deep and rich way to build confidence.
The real basics, like nappy changes, we pick up fast. This doesn’t stretch us. It’s the easy stuff. But dealing with a two-year-old’s tantrum, a seven-year-old’s friendship fallouts or a five-year old’s stubbornness challenges us each and every time. It’s through this challenge that we have the opportunity to build our confidence, and lose it too, of course.
But challenge and failure are hard, especially when it’s something we expect we canaccomplish easily enough, like raising our own kids. Especially for dads, when the rest of the world doesn’t expect us to be that involved. Despite lots of progress, schools still call mum first, and high-profile dads never get asked how they balance it all.
So, when a dad loses his cool in the face of repeated tantrums, or forgets what’s needed for the baby bag or the start of a new school term, it’s not surprising most men go with the cultural flow. Letting their partner pick up the parenting. That’s many mistakes in one. For their partner, whose ambitions are no less important than Dad’s. For their children, whose views of men and women’s roles at home and work are shaped by parents. For them too.
Dads that choose to pass on the hard bits of parenting, pass on a lot of it, because a lot of parenting is hard.
When dads stay in the game, three things happen.
1. The more involved you become, the more you stretch your comfort zone and do new things. Sometimes you nail it, others you mess it up, but the bond between you and your children gets stronger each time (provided you apologise for your screw ups and repair any resulting rupture). That’s the first thing. Money can’t buy it.
2. Secondly, that stronger relationship gives you more motivation, which makes achieving the other things in life you want, easier. As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”.
3. Then there’s that third thing. Confidence. Because when you keep stretching yourself to do hard things, and you find yourself doing them more often than not (because you’ve had more practice), your self-confidence grows.
There have been times when work related stress was coming out at home. Times when there was a real risk that the pressure of being the breadwinner would negatively impact my happiness and relationship with my kids long term. It would have been easy to stay in that unhappy place. Many men do. But because my relationship with my children has made me grow in self-confidence, I was motivated to change things at work knowing that things would work out.
Your kids are your motivation. It’s for them that you strive to provide and create a better life, to set an example and to become someone they can be proud of. I’ve noticed that, counter-intuitively, the more I see myself as a father above all else, the more family responsibilities I take on, the more energy I have to give to other things. Not more time, mind, but more energy. Energy I can use to create more time by getting more done. Energy that comes with an extra bit of self-confidence. I guess that’s a fourth thing then.
Written by David Willans. Five years ago, David realised he was an angry dad. To his shame, he let the pressure of an important work meeting and school run get the better of him. In that moment, he set out to understand what it means to be a great dad today. Now he does a proper job four days a week. On the other day, he runs BeingDads, finding out what it means to be a great dad. He also runs workshops for dads and courses for both mums and dads on patience.
Article originally published at BeingDads.