Aidan, Founder of TMFC
The truth about Modern Fatherhood: It’s relentless. It teaches you about who you really are, and it tests the very fibres that hold you together. It leaves you questioning your sanity, ability, skills, experience, and life choices. Mentally, it’s draining. There are moments of absolute clarity pockmarked with moments of despair. It’s the first and last thing you think about; it’s truly all-consuming. It’s high stress and beautiful simplicity all wrapped into one.
A dad is presented with little opportunity to breathe or take a break. From the moment your baby arrives, the senses are under attack. It’s unrelenting, unforgiving, and while they say it gets easier, the harsh truth is that regardless of your preparation and the strength of the relationship between you and the baby’s mum, it will test you to your core. And if you’re looking for the answers - No, it doesn’t get easier. In my experience you adapt to the next obstacle, and you just harden to the challenge of everything that accompanies the complexity of being a parent. Every stage is different and throws up unique challenges, ones you cannot ever really prepare for.
Every day is filled with equal amounts of joy, love, laughter, pain, sacrifice, and frustration. The lens you apply to your experience is clouded by your own self-awareness, willingness to adapt, and accept that the world around you is largely outside your control.
In its rawest form, there is much to appreciate and enjoy. The challenge is that often we’re too wrapped up in the world outside to notice that the relentless pressure does subside. We’re too focused on the next thing, the next milestone or event, that next level of accomplishment, that we fail to notice that for the briefest of moments, time stood still.
There is nothing I wouldn’t change about what we have as a family. My partner Teri and I have worked hard to get to a place where we have, to some degree got this parenting lark figured out. It’s not perfect and man I would love more time to spend quality time together as a couple, one a one to basis with my boys and a little bit of time for myself. But the harsh truth of it is, if you’re not prepared to sacrifice the right things, the time for yourself and your partner can be hard to come by.
I remember the birth of Henry like it was yesterday. There was a moment just after he was delivered that I thought about my own mortality. I questioned my ability to guide this little person through the world. It suddenly dawned on me… his survival, happiness, joy, and ability to know and understand love was on me. What struck me was how unprepared I felt for the task at hand. Had I reached my potential? Did I have more in the tank? What if I failed? How would I cope with the failure? Those initial questions subsided as we finally got Henry home, we settled down into a routine early and tried to find a rhythm. There were plenty of challenges and they started early with both Teri and Henry working hard to get the feeding right. In those days I was consigned to a bit part role, but I was confident I’d make my impact at some point. That early role enabled me to get back into the swing of things at work and I knew after a health scare just before Henry was born that I needed to find balance or at least find some sort of balance that enabled me to feel mentally lighter.
In the early days, she makes a sacrifice for the benefit of your family. Your response is to go out and provide and continue to push on. But did you ever stop to question whether it was the right path to take? What’s the risk of taking a step back and investing in your family’s future? Why not enjoy the moments and focus on your little one and your family? I knew I was burning out and I needed to make a change. To make any change and align to your new role you need to be clear on a few things:
If I make a change – What are the costs of doing so?
What does the cost mean to me, my family, and my partner?
What are the costs of not doing so?
Who does that cost?
What’s the impact on you and them if you make a change or fail to make a change?
You must quantify the cost and the benefit, but you must also understand the short- and long-term strain that it can put on you and your family.
One will outweigh the other. As you try to find that balance, before you make a sudden, not fully thought-out change for a short-term benefit, take a moment to pause and reflect on the role you want to play and the influence you want to have on these beautiful little people.
I learned this in 2020 after my crash after Maxi our youngest was born. I reflected on past decisions, one’s I’d made for the benefit of my family, but because I’d failed to weigh up the true cost to me, the decisions I made ultimately cost them. The decisions I made, led me to losing sight of what was important and completely ignoring the need for balance.
Now, what that balance looks like is entirely up to you. It’s personal preference and my only advice is to answer the questions provided and consider the true cost. In my own story I struggled for 3 years to find balance. I thought my approach to fatherhood was what my family needed, and boy was I wrong. When the s*$t hit the fan, I was scrambling around looking for answers, confused and isolated I needed help.
The key to establish any sort of balance is understanding your role, the father you are, the father you want to be and most important of all getting to grips with what your kids really need. Answer that last part and everything begins to feel a little clearer.
As a father, I was so much more than a provider, but at the time, this was the role I defaulted into. A lack of confidence clearly contributed to my unwillingness to challenge the status quo. I kept my head down and worked hard at the expense of memories I’ll never see.
Society expects you to keep going. A lack of communication on your part can lead you to focus on the things that matter only in the mind of your employer. On my return from paternity - I remember thinking, 'I’m back. I must make up for lost time, I must become indispensable.' I did it after Henry, but because of the events that unfolded after Max was born, I approached those early weeks with newfound perspective. I would push hard. It’s in my makeup and it’s part of who I am, but this time I would control the narrative that rattled around inside my skull. I remember getting back to work in and straight into the chaos of a business trying to steer its way through COVID. I sat back, evaluated a few things, and recognised I could add value, but if that value wasn’t reciprocated or at the very least recognised then I knew my place and for the first time in a long time I had comfort. I knew the value I brought, but I knew deep down the value I contributed at home would be my legacy.
In that first year, you shoulder a lot. I’m not saying that mum doesn’t too, and we both know that the pressure she feels and experiences is relentless, but there is a difference. She’s made a sacrifice for the family. She’s taken a step back to create life, and for a moment in her life, nothing else matters. She is committed to her role, and she’ll do everything in her power to create a healthy and loving environment for the baby. You, on the other hand, need to demonstrate that you have a role to play too, and that role is of value to you, her, and the baby or your older children. That position can lead you to question your worth. Back late, you’re missing the basics, you’ve opted for face time over daddy time, and that creates a conflict that eats away at you. The solution or so you think is to keep pushing on because these sacrifices will be worth it in the end.'
By accepting I had a greater role to play and understanding what was important to me and recognising the costs of my prior decisions I understood I had more to give, not just through providing for the family, but by engaging on a deeper a level and directing my energy to the right places.
Before you can add value in my humble opinion you must first value what you already bring to the table. You cannot look for comfort in the words of others, you must believe in your ability to lead your family and prioritise what’s truly important. If you get that right then the balance will come, the confidence will be high and the courage you need to make the big decisions that shape the lives of your family will be there.
Think about your impact and think about what might beholding you back. Now ask yourself, is that really the impact you want to have? Does that relentless pursuit of someone else’s praise outweigh the connection you want to share with your young son or daughter? I’m not saying you should sacrifice your ambition or your sense of pride you feel when you accomplish the goal you set out to achieve. What I’m questioning, is whether you are pursuing whatever it is for the right reasons? Is it creating more pressure, and is it contributing to a higher degree of stress? Is it destroying your confidence in your role as a parent? Is it damaging the relationships you love and cherish?
Let’s face it – companies are ill prepared for the impact that the early days of fatherhood have on you. You arrive back to work bleary eyed, looking somewhat untidy and nobody asks you how you’re getting on or how you are feeling. The acknowledgement by other fathers is there, but we’re consigned to our lanes, all focused on our own objectives and unwilling at times to be seen as vulnerable. At a management level, the questions aren't asked because the policies don’t extend far enough, and many dads just walk back into work like nothing happened, and their employers don't plan for their return to work, and there is little support given or available once the baby has arrived, and dad is back at work.
You see, fatherhood is relentless, unforgiving, and the most incredible experience, so why not as employers build in a check-in service? Why not sit dad down and ask him how things are at home? Why not show a little compassion and consideration for the pressure that he'll be under?
I suspect having talked to a lot of men; you’d prefer to leave the conversation at the door for fear of it being used against you. The bullish man will tell you that two are separate and work stays at work and home, stays at home. Ok, so that strategy is immediately misguided because work and home cross over the moment you become a parent. What father’s want is support, no judgment, just the ear of someone who will listen and be prepared to ask the right questions. Together we solve problems, alone we fight on looking for answers, but drained of resources we stumble and often miss the obvious.
My wife and I are the pillars of our family. We work together, but we need support too. With many parents now working from home that balance we’ve talked about is hard to find. It take perseverance to wrestle the challenges that come with modern parenthood and too often at an employer level they are overlooked.
In the working from home culture, I can hide behind my screen, and you can too. Your policies failed in the office environment; how do you expect them to improve in this dynamic working environment I find myself into day? As an organisation, I suspect you'll be focused on diversity and inclusion, but the foundations of modern families are built on unity, respect, equality, communication, trust, balance, and love. As an employer, you can help fathers and families thrive in these difficult circumstances, and frankly, the basics can be accommodated quickly. To the employer reading this The Modern Fatherhood Club exits to advance the modern fatherhood agenda, but we recognise the importance of strong foundations in any family.
To support your employees, we will provide you with:
Access to The Modern Fatherhood Club - Free resources for every dad
Upskill the leadership team at your organization on what to look out for when a dad returns to work.
Create a return-to-work, paternity-focused meeting designed to engage with dad and understand anything you as an employer need to be aware of following the baby's arrival.
Talk to dad about your flexible working culture and how it can benefit him and his young family.
Get dad access to other dads in the workplace - Build a strong dad-focused network to ensure that dads are talking across the business.
In a culture where diversity, inclusion and equality are so important we cannot overlook the qualities a strong, confident father brings to the workplace. A happy and engaged dad will deliver improved results and remain committed to an organisation that is prepared to build a culture that supports dads. Our resources can help you build that connection and engage dads and your leadership team in getting the conversation started.
Fatherhood is an amazing journey! It’s filled with challenge, hope, love and joy and a happy and supported dad, clear on his impact can have a positive influence on his family. As an employer your resources are finite, but failing to address the issues affecting dad at work and home will leave him feeling disillusioned, isolated, and questioning his impact and contribution at home and work.
Every employer should be focused on the family unit. A strong, healthy home life benefits both the employee and the employer, and a focus on dad enables him to feel less conflicted, better supported, and more engaged. It doesn't take a lot to engage a father in honest conversation; the biggest obstacle is your ability to really listen to him and his needs.
As a dad you need to figure a lot of this stuff out on your own. Take it from me, as someone who struggled to adapt to the seismic shift that is fatherhood, I had to acknowledge a lot of stuff that I had carried around for along time and I had to get clear on what the cost of me staying in the darkness would be. You must recognise that the balance is hard to nail down, but working toward it and recognise what your kids really need will go a long way to helping work out what works for you, your partner and them.
As a business leader, you understand the importance of supporting your employees' mental health and wellbeing. That's why The Modern Fatherhood Club offers a series of virtual workshops designed specifically for working dads. Our workshops provide practical strategies and insights to help your team navigate the challenges of modern fatherhood and prioritise their mental health.
Our workshops can be tailored to meet the needs of your business and are available all year round. Each workshop is led by Aidan, a father of two, who has a unique perspective on fatherhood. The workshops are designed to be interactive and offer the opportunity to connect with other dads within your organisation.
Investing in your team's mental health and fatherhood skills not only benefits them, but it also benefits your business. By offering our workshops, you can demonstrate your commitment to supporting your employees in their personal and professional development.
Don't miss out on this opportunity to invest in your team's mental health and fatherhood skills. Click the button below to learn more and register your interest.
Aidan, Founder of TMFC
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