How men in demanding jobs ensure they are good fathers is the question that Dr Bruce Robinson has tried to answer in his new book called “Fathering from the Fast Lane”. Dr Robinson has some experience in this area; he is a father of three, as well as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Western Australia, a practicing lung specialist, and a cancer researcher. In this book, he has interviewed over 75 dads in busy jobs from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, to test cricketers, to pig farmers and plumbers. One of the surprising things discovered when interviewing was that it is possible to have a busy demanding job and be a good father. Initially, it was thought that the most successful people were going to tell how much they had to sacrifice in terms of their fathering just to be successful. It worked out that they were better fathers if they were more successful.
The focus is on fathers rather than working mothers because the mothers do a good job. It is fathers that in general – not always – are letting the team down. When mothers get together, they talk about mothering. Fathers rarely talk about fathering. They tend to talk about sports, work and that sort of thing. Mothers have a tendency to share their wisdom, but men don’t. This book attempts to help men share their wisdom.
What prompted Dr Robinson to write the book was his years as a lung specialist, where dying men spoke of their regret at not spending enough time with their kids. When a man is dying, he evaluates what his life could have been like. The commonest regret, without a doubt, is the regret that they had not spent enough time with their children. Many said “I wish somebody had told me, as a young dad when work seemed so important, that it isn’t really that important, but being a good dad is more important. That it’s important for the father and for the children.” The intent for the book was to have some fathering tips for young dads to encourage them with their fathering. The reality that it has become a best seller has been very encouraging and worthwhile.
As he interviewed dads and their children for his book, it became clear to Dr Robinson that there was no one way to be a good dad. Every dad is different and every child is different. So the book presents instead a range of tips and hints for dads to try. One common theme, however, was the critical need to spend time with your children.The response to the book was overwhelming. For example, there were many instances of men reading the chapter about taking their children on conference trips, and then actually doing so in real life. They went through with it and said that it has been the best thing they have ever done in their lives. One lady said her husband and two friends had been reading a chapter each week and their lives have been transformed by it. When Dr Robinson wrote this book, he figured if one person benefited from it he would be happy. But because so many people have benefited, it has become very meaningful for him.