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Month: September 2016

Fatherhood and Self-Improvement are not Mutually Exclusive

Fatherhood and Self-Improvement are not Mutually Exclusive

I often hear parents complain that they don’t have any time for themselves.    Time is in short supply when you’re a parent but so is energy, patience, and focus.  Parenting is a huge responsibility, and if our children are sick or disable, then they require even more resources.

While we do have to meet the needs of our children we also need to make sure our needs are being met.  We cannot ignore our own health and well-being because if we don’t, then we won’t be able to take care of anyone.

For a long time, I envisioned the responsibility of being a father and self improvement as polar opposites.  Either I was taking care of my kids or I was taking care of myself.  But that is far from the truth and I almost missed a huge opportunity.

Since parenting responsibilities drastically diminished my available free time, I’ve been forced to look creatively at how I spend my time.  Driven by a hunger to improve I wanted to find areas to be more efficient or effective.  What often came up was how I could kill two birds with one stone.  This led me to the idea that maybe I could find things that were good to do with my kids and help with my self improvement goals.

I found that there are a lot of activities, if done slightly differently, can be good for all of us involved.  One item that comes to mind for me is our need to play.  I tend to have a more serious personality, and I often found myself in my 20s and early 30’s, very serious and contemplative.   Most of the activities I liked to do for fun, like playing music, I turned into a serious endeavor for achievement, instead of just doing it for fun.

Having children changed that for me.  They instinctively know how to play.  At first, I noticed a sense of reticence within myself.  Get on the floor and just accomplish nothing for an hour?  But as time passed, I found myself learning to disengage from the to do list in my head and just unplug with my child.

Since then, I’ve been able to take what I’ve relearned about playing with them over to hobbies and other interests I have, such as playing music and hiking.  Additionally, I’ve found ways to incorporate my kids into these other activities.  For example, we were able to get a baby backpack from a friend and use it to go hiking with the little guy in toe.

In addition to the examples above, I’ve been looking to identify many different areas and activities that can have common ground that are good for all involved.

Eating Healthy

Buying, cooking, and eating healthy food takes time and requires planning.  Therefore, I’ve tried to get my kids at least partially involved in all the stages.  As they get older I hope to continue to get them involved more.

It starts with taking my boys to grocery and teach them all about fresh produce and explain why we pick certain foods for a healthy diet.  Then at home we teach our 4 year old how to measure ingredients, mix items in a bowl, set the table, and clear dishes afterwards.

This teaches him what it takes to cook and clean but it also gives us an opportunity to bond while doing it together.  I can go to the store and cook dinner much faster by myself but then I would miss out on the opportunity to bond and teach my children about the process of eating healthy food.

Chores

We have been giving our oldest son chores that he’s responsible for and rewarding him for helping out.  We’re starting small and having him pick up his toys in the evening before bed in addition to helping set and clear the table at breakfast and dinner time.

Again, we can clean up the house faster by ourselves but it gives us all an activity to do together and it starts to teach him some responsibility.  We often make it fun by racing each other as we clean up or we put on some music and have a dance party.  This adds an element of play into an otherwise un-fun activity.

Like most healthy relationships, there needs to be a compromise.  Sometimes, my kids don’t want to go for a hike, they’d rather just play with Legos.  I’d rather be eating a box of Oreos on the couch binge watching Breaking Bad but that doesn’t mean its the best choice.  So sometimes, the right activity to do with your kids is not the easiest, or most fun, but done together it is good for all involved.

There are many things that we can do as parents that also are an investment in ourselves.  Yes, we all need time away from our children, but we don’t need to think that time away from them as the only way we can invest in ourselves.
Becoming a Father is Helping me be a Better Man

Becoming a Father is Helping me be a Better Man

I have wrestled with some tough questions lately and it is positively affecting my well being.  I’ve allowed myself time to reflect, to learn, and to try some new things.  I’ve started to accept and process some of the hard answers I heard.  

And it’s working.  These moments of choosing to change are important to my personal well being.

Choosing to fall in love with my wife, propose, and then marry her is such a moment in life.  Recognizing the need to lead by example to father my sons is another.

These moments are deep, rich, and transforming.   And I’m convicted about what I’m discovering.  By going deep, by engaging my heart, soul, and emotions, I was able to decrease my tolerance for the status quo.  Beneath the surface a fire started that increased my expectations for myself.   I hungered for something more.

While I experienced a few of these deep moments recently, what has really caught my attention is a slow trend of progress in many important areas of my life.

Have I achieved all of my goals?  No, but what is important is I’ve made progress. I’m growing in many areas of my life. This new trend of progress has come on the heals of my some deep soul searching.

Here is a list of areas that I’ve noticed some improvement over the past year or two:

  • Better sleep
  • Reduced stress
  • Proactive medical care
  • Flossing regularly
  • Simplifying material goods
  • Limiting information inputs
  • Mobility and injury prevention
  • Making time to play
  • Weight Loss
  • Less selfish
  • Better diet
  • Success at work

Let me be perfectly clear.  I have a long way to go in all of these areas.  I want and need to continue to improve them.  But I’ve started and I improved, and that is something worth celebrating.  I’m better off now because of things that fatherhood has asked of me.

I had to look myself in the mirror and realize that what I see there is going to be studied and emulated greatly by my children.  Just the act of trying to get better is exactly what I’m currently asking them to do as children.  I’m telling them to read, learn something, and try new things so why wouldn’t I do the same?

There’s the rub.  We spend approximately 20-25 years raising and developing our children to become independent.  This requires them to constantly learn, grow, try, experience, stretch, test themselves, and learn from the results.

So to be the best father, I need to be an example of this and act this out.  And then and only then, after trying to serve my children by being a good example, do I get personally rewarded.

I didn’t dive into this philosophical transformation out of selfish intent, but out of a deep desire to be the best father I could be.  But while doing so, it required me to step up my game and become a better man.

So, to my two beautiful boys, I thank you for helping me become a better man.