If we are a father, then the generation in which we were raised will influence our expectations of our role.
For older generations, there is a focus on producing a boy child. This is about heritage and lineage. We experience immortality by producing a son. It is about keeping the family name going. It is about creating an image of ourselves into the future.
For the young man growing up, we also look forward to having a son because we want to do, what our fathers have done for us, with our own son. We realise that by the time we are fathers, we may not care about the gender of our children, but only that they are healthy.
The bond between men is a strong influence on our life choices. Men need to belong to something of themselves, but also, greater than themselves. For some of us, who thought that the bond of men was paramount, and have become a father of only daughters, have discovered that we can do everything with our daughters that we hoped to do with our sons. Gender is only a limit, if we let it be.
We see our role as father, as being about instilling the right values in our children. We want our children to think well of us, while we are here and after we have gone. We also want people to think well of our children.
It is our job to prepare children for life; the real world. We must find the balance between the parent who guides and teaches the child, and the parent who ends up as their friend when they are adults.
Because we know, the time will come when we will not be here for our children to turn to, it is our responsibility to equip them, not just financially, but morally, spiritually, emotionally and mentally, for the realities of the real world. We know how nasty the world is. We have to guide them to get the best out of life and find enjoyment, love, happiness and passion in all they do.
It is our job to role model to our sons how to treat women, and for our daughters, how they should be treated by men.
We place a lot of emphasis on our role in relation to our sons, but we are just as significant to our daughters. Our daughters seek our approval and attention, as part of them defining their worth in the world of men. If we make it too hard for them, they will always feel unworthy, and therefore, allow men to treat them poorly. But spoiling them doesn’t mean they will find happiness either. We need to be loving but strong with our daughters, just as we do with our sons.
If we expect our children to do well, and be their best, they can be anything they dream to be. But they will also have the self-confidence and self-respect to push the boundaries of their defined gender role, if we do it with love, rather than judgement.
It is a special relationship when we are close to our daughters. But for many of us, we were raised not to relate to our daughter, but to leave that to their mothers. We feel the loss of this separation, but never find the way to bridge the gap. Some of us, never want to because we have accepted it, as how things are, between fathers and daughters.
Because we approach parenthood with a masculine focus, we provide opportunities for our children to learn and grow differently, than their mothers support them to. We know, that we learnt, by mistakes and so will our children. We see our role, as one to assist them through the transition to independence, rather than protecting them from the harsher reality of the world.
One example, of how we may do this, is that after they have turned 12, we may not directly say no to their requests, but where necessary, we will ask them, ‘what do you think and why do you think it’. By getting them to think through what they want to do, they develop the skills of life, that we see as our responsibility to instil in them. Of course, this is the time, when as Dad’s, we are seen as more relaxed and easy going than Mum’s. But we have reasons for what we are doing. We see that we can protect our children, only by developing the skills they need to control their lives, and so protect or avoid some of the pitfalls of life themselves.
The pressure on us to provide sufficient financial resources to support our family continues to be a key role for men as fathers. Yet being the breadwinner, isn’t about being a father. It is about our work life.
For generations, we were excluded physically from nurturing and connecting to our children. We were not present at our children’s birth. We were unable to feed our children when they were breastfed. And we usually left for work before they were awake, and home only moments before they were going to bed at night.
To provide money, meant we lost a deep bond to our children. For many of us, this is a great regret. We may get along with our children, but we don’t share the depth of connection with them, like they do, with their mothers. We know that our children suffered psychologically, from our lack of presence in their lives, while they were growing up. Today’s generation of men, are expected to provide the financial resources, and create that deeper bond with their children, simultaneously. It has its own pressure and its own consequences.
As a new generation of fathers, or father figure’s, in children’s lives, has been allowed, and in fact, expected, we have taken to our role with great commitment and passion. We are very conscious of our responsibility in being role models or acting as mentors. We wish to bestow virtues of generosity, love, wisdom, capability, resourcefulness and intuition within both genders. This is our masculine nurturing.
It is critical to know our son or daughter, because we will find ourselves within their lessons. By teaching them life skills, we can guide them to grow beyond our limitations. We hope for our children to become more than we are; to not make our mistakes or repeat our patterns. We can be a constant source of support, guidance and acceptance to them as they grow. But to do this successfully, we have to grow and mature through our parenting. If we don’t, our egos will battle with our children’s dreams to be more than we are.
Being a father, or father figure, teaches us to become more adaptable. Like their mothers for generations have learnt, there is an ever changing need in the evolving young person that is exciting and challenging, to our sense of stability.
Being a parent helps some of us mature and become more considerate of others. We recognise that it is imperative that we share in the parenting, and the nurturing of our offspring, with our partner. It is no longer one person’s job, but a shared responsibility. It took two people to bring this child into the world, and it takes at least two people, to raise it.
If it is the woman, who represents the nurturer in families, then it is the man, who represents the protector. We are very aware of our role as protector, especially of those more vulnerable than ourselves. The strange twist is, that we are often protecting women and children from other men. As protectors we act to create safe environments for others.
Being able to physically fight, is part of the protector archetype. It’s what makes us heroes, when we save the day. Sometimes a man will only listen to another man, or only feel threatened to stop his abusive behaviour, by other men. Although it would be nice, if a woman could say no or defend herself and have the abusive man listen, we know that too often it doesn’t work like that.
As men, we have to control the bad behaviour of other men. It is in our roles as fathers and husbands or partners and friends that we are most frequently called to take these stances. In some environments, we remain silent to our peer’s poor behaviour and laugh it off. This is especially the case in group sporting arenas. But, we know our shame when we fail to protect those we should.
I know I had a father with a strong masculine nurturing quality and I loved it. What experiences have you had of men accepting, owning and displaying their nurturer archetype?