By Lome Aseron
Whether you’re expecting your first child or your kids are grown and on their own, being a dad is a new experience. When my wife was pregnant, we decided to have a homebirth. We hired a doula and two midwives. I won’t tell you how much it cost. According to them and other experts, labor was going to last 10-12 hours. My son had other plans. My wife’s labor was so short that the only other person in the room when he was born was – guess who? – me. After nine months of preparing to support my wife in the birth of my first child, there I was, with no medical training, serving as midwife, doula, and doctor. I fought off the strong desire to run out of the room as fast as possible. When I caught Joaquin, I experienced pure exhilaration and love.
After only 2 days into Joaquin’s life, I told my wife, “it’s amazing how something so little can make me feel so inadequate.” For the next few months, I experienced periods of intense anxiety. Realizing that I needed to grow just as Joaquin was growing, I started looking for resources to support me in what was sure to be an emotional journey. To my dismay, I found very little. Sure, there are father’s advocacy groups and organizations dedicated to maintaining the traditional family structure, but as for resources that addressed the personal development of fatherhood – nothing. This was a sharp contrast to the wealth of resources for moms. I found magazines, support groups, books, blogs, and newspaper articles for new and expectant mothers. What I found for dads was mostly re-packaged how-to guides originally directed to mothers.
Even as a new father, I recognized that failure to acknowledge the inner work that must accompany fatherhood could have dire consequences on my personal and family life. This is not, of course, a new idea. In a recent article in Newsweek, a father shared that his wife had to parent him as much as his children, which led to a painful divorce. My own father told my mother that he wasn’t ready to be a father after I was born. If we fail to understand, acknowledge, and do something about the emotional challenges that we experience as fathers, we run the risk of alienating our partners, our children, and, most of all, ourselves. We may end up leaving our loved ones and our emotional well-being behind. The logistical aspects of fatherhood aren’t what tear families apart through neglect and divorce. No father ever abandoned his child because he couldn’t figure out how to change a diaper.
The path of fatherhood has never been more rich or challenging. Provision of shelter and food are no longer acceptable as the standard by which fathers are measured. Our children, our partners, and our own innate intelligence dare us to be more – to be nurturers, companions, guides, and counselors. The dramatic increase in stay at home dads proves that the model of fatherhood is changing rapidly for the better. The fatherhood paradigm shift should not be underestimated. Without recognition that change requires inner work, we run the risk of missing out on all the opportunities that fatherhood provides to become a better man, a better partner, and a better global citizen. A fellow new dad once told me that fatherhood was wonderful because it burns up all of your bad habits. I don’t know if I’ll ever shed all of my negative patterns, but I know that I owe it to myself and my son to be as available as possible both emotionally and physically. If I don’t, I might just give in to the urge to run out of the room the next time he decides to do something wonderfully unexpected.
Lome Aseron was born as a father on the same day as his son was born, Lome helps dads on the journey of fatherhood through workshops and one-on-one coaching. He recognizes that fatherhood is a personal journey for fathers as well as their children and strives to balance the more traditional responsibilities of bread-winner with more recent models of father as care-taker. To learn more about Lome’s work, visit www.newdadforlife.com