The other day I was on the phone with a very well-known brand, one that I have worked with in the past. They were wanting to dig into my life as a father, how I felt when it all started for me, and how I’ve grown as a dad. I was prepared for most of the questions, even though it felt like I stumbled around searching for answers to many of them.
But there was one question that I was completely unprepared for. Looking back, I should have known that the question was coming. I should have had my answer ready, and when it came down to it, I should have been able to answer the question without hesitation because I live the answer.
In your eyes, what is an involved father?
I was at a loss. I stood there, looking out the window searching for an answer. I can’t tell you how many times that I said, “what is an involved father? That is a good question!” with a few seconds pause between the three or four times I said that.
You would have thought that the answer would have come rather easily to me. But for some reason, it didn’t. Maybe it was because I wanted to say something better than, help with the laundry, dishes, diaper changes, and baths. Maybe it was because I wanted to say something that would come across more intelligent than that.
I couldn’t tell you want I wanted to say, and I still can’t as I write this. It wasn’t until they rephrased the question that I came up with an answer that felt pseudo acceptable.
If we were to ask your wife, what would she say is an involved father?
It was in that moment that I said, “come to our house anytime after work and you will see an involved father. You will see a dad who picks the kids up from work, who cooks, cleans, reads and helps with homework. You will see a dad who sits down to play with his kids and actively WANTS to spend time with them and be present with them.”
Please understand that I didn’t say that verbatim, I did take some creative liberties but for the most part it is spot on with the answer that I gave. But the question that is still haunting me is, why couldn’t I provide an answer when they asked what I thought an involved father was?
Is it because I live being an involved father on a daily basis? Is it because I don’t want to brag about being the dad that many dads strive to be? Really, I’m not and there are other fathers out there that I wish I could be close to the dad that they are.
The Answer Isn’t Always That Clear
I’ve answered this before though. I’ve even explained who the modern dad is. But for some reason, in that moment, the answer didn’t come to me. Part of it is because I’ve surrounded myself with a community of dads who have the same belief as me and who are out to improve the image of dads around the world.
Even with the dads that I talk to understand that not all dads are the involved dad that I imagine them to be. There are still dads out there who hold on to an archaic belief that they are only to be the disciplinarian and an authority figure within the family. They are still the husband who comes home, cracks open a beer and turns on Thursday Night Football ignoring their family all evening.
Maybe I am being a bit naïve when it comes to this. Maybe there are more uninvolved fathers out there than I’d like to think. Maybe there is more than one child out there who is reaching up to his father who is sleeping in the recliner wanting to feel like they are loved by their dad. And maybe there are more kids out there who hear, “not right now son.” more often than not from their dad when they are asked if they can go out the backyard and play catch.
I’d like to think differently though. I’d like to think that the dads you see portrayed on TV are not what it is like if you were to walk into any home. I’d like to think that, much like many of the dads I talk to, they want to be part of their kid’s life. I’d like to think that many of the fathers out there, want to be able to help around the house more than just cutting the grass and yelling at kids to get off their lawn.
Despite being called Mr. Mom by many people when I am out and about with the kids, giving my wife a much-needed break, it feels as though I’ve become numb to what it means to be a dad in today’s day in age. That could be why I’m still shocked when I see a father being portrayed positively in the media or in an advertisement. And it might sound conceited when I say this, but that shock drives me to continually improve the image of fathers. Not just through my blog, but through being involved outside of the home. Being involved so that other parents see what it means to be an involved father. And maybe, someday when they are asked, “what does it mean to be an involved father?” they will be able to provide an answer that was better than mine when I was asked the same question.
So what does it mean to be an involved father?