What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There’s no truer saying for a father. Whether it is the firstborn, second or even fourth child, being a father comes with tremendous stress and anxiety.
Welcoming a child into your life as a father is one of the most significant shifts in life. It reorders your priorities, thought patterns, and ultimately, behavior for better or worse. Because there exists no textbook on how to raise a child – challenges are often random and sporadic. There are some known challenges all fathers will face, such as:
- Shifting priorities – the most important priority in your life is your child. That’s a fundamental shift to what may have previously been your career, sports, friends, building a business, etc.
- Emotional responsibility – the feelings of being a caregiver to your child and a husband/partner to your spouse (or you may be a single father) is different than before. There’s an immediate need for more resilience and positive thinking. Patience, empathy, and intimacy with your child and partner become very important during this time.
- Financial wellbeing – you’re likely contributing significantly to your child financially. Your job may have seen you living paycheck to paycheck, or you may have been in debt already. On top of that, comes the immediate and future financial needs of your child, which can be stressful.
- Career transition – the progress you have made in your career may be indifferent to where you want to be. You may find yourself in a “mid-life” crisis or in a space where you can’t leave your job to pursue your passion. Consequently, the stress you experience on the job spills over into the home environment
As a Dad, I can assure there are a thousand more challenges that have not been listed. They are not something anyone can adequately prepare for, but there are tools which you can use to make the journey easier:
The ability to recover from tough situations is the greatest asset any father can have. That is all fatherhood is – a series of challenging situations thrown at you daily. How you react to them will determine your happiness and success. You need to be deliberate about building resilience!
- Express yourself – Being honest and open about your difficulties is the first step. Find an external mentor, talk to yourself on video, or engage in expressive writing. These tools will allow you to take a deep breath from life’s challenges.
- Meditation – Mindfulness, and meditation takes your thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of life and gives you a time to reflect. Consequently, you’re able to review things that are working and things that are not. Take the time to give yourself credit by reflecting how far you have come in life compared to where you were three years ago.
- Sleep – your sleeping patterns will be disturbed with a child. However, when you do get a chance to rest, you MUST enter a state of deep sleep. Switch off your mobile phone, remove the television and laptop from your room to help with this.
Make financial literacy a priority
Having a finance degree does not make you financially literate. You need to empower yourself with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions.
Some of your best resources to do so are:
- Podcasts/radio – research good podcasts which speak about how to deal with money – particularly those that focus on raising a child
- Read – pick out a few financial magazines and newspapers. Stay informed with the economic situation in your country
- Enroll for a class – not your traditional accounting/finance type class – rather at an institute or with a seasoned expert that focuses on how to deal with money (i.e., understanding the nature of money).
Be open and communicate
Studies show that when a father communicates well and shows affection, it significantly contributes to the social and cognitive development of a child.
Listen – don’t rush when you’re speaking to your child or partner. This is the time of life when you have to be at your most patient. Put your mobile devices away when talking to your child and listen to their jokes, concerns. Be an active listener and practice this every day
Be open and honest – if you’re struggling with certain aspects of being a father, then communicate this with whomever you are raising the child with. This is the first step to a fulfilled relationship.
Chase your passion, not your money
Finally, it’s important to put life into perspective: the majority of your adult life will be spent at work or running your own business. You have to fill this time with work that energizes you – or you will have no energy for anything else in your life, including raising a child.
Therefore, you need to listen to your gut and not chase the money. It’s a counter-intuitive principle, but there is a rule called Parkinson’s law: Irrespective of how much money you earn, you will spend the maximum amount – and a bit more. Having this understanding makes you realize that money provides temporary happiness. Pursuing your dreams and passions gives you joy, which then spills over to your relationship with your child.
Don’t try and be perfect or compare yourself to anyone else. That will kill your self-esteem. Take one step at a time and start and end each day with positive reflections and learnings.