What does it mean to be a Father?

During a recent supermarket visit, I idly started looking through the selection of Father’s Day cards on offer.

According to the themes reflected in these cards, Dads drink beer, watch sport and spend too long at work. They’re loud and funny and often inappropriate.

But as I flicked through card after card, it became a little disheartening to see how flippant so many of them were, how so few of them mentioned love, care and support.

Is this really the way we see fatherhood?

Just a few decades ago, being a good Dad meant just turning up. Their main responsibilities were providing for the family and stepping in when the punishment was being doled out.

But the world, and our families, have changed. Overwhelmingly women have ridden the wave of these changes, adapting and evolving their role to juggle care and career. Many Fathers are still stuck in the whitewash, struggling to redefine their role within their families but more broadly, within society.

In fact, we’ve placed the role of Dad in a confusing and sometimes difficult position. We expect them to be breadwinners but still be present for their children. We want them to be tough, but also warm and loving. We expect them to be solid in a crisis, without acknowledging that many are struggling with their own mental health.

Our research shows men today want to be a more engaged and loving parent. It’s clearly time for us all to shake off the old ways and redefine what it means to be a good Dad.

So, this is a call to action for all the Fathers out there. Embrace everything that parenthood has to offer, from night feeds, to school assemblies, to leading discussions about respectful relationships. Show your emotions and spend quality time talking. Connect with other Dads and look up resources to help you learn new strategies for discipline or play.

Make being a Father an integral part of your identity. It is where you can make the most difference in your life.

Advocating for Fathers is not about diminishing Mothers. It’s about recognising and celebrating the contribution of our fathers and those who play a fathering role in a child’s life.

So when you’re looking for the perfect Father’s Day card this year, maybe think about creating your own. Write down all the ways your father or father figure has made your life better, the special place they have in your life and celebrate the individual strengths (and quirks!) that make your Dad a special part of your life. 

Celebrate the Dads in your life because they truly are an essential part of our story.

Káti Jahromi Gapaillard

CEO, The Fathering Project

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