How do I know if I am a good dad?
Short answer is, you don’t, but that doesn’t stop many first-time dads and even seasoned dads from constantly wondering if they are doing a good job raising their kids. I know I personally ask this question 1-2 times per day and I am almost 3 years and 3 kids into being a dad at the time of writing this (yes, 3 kids, 3 years, we are insane, but what can I say, my wife likes me a lot).
So many factors go into being what society thinks is the “perfect dad”, and many times the pressure of being a dad can go unnoticed and unrecognized. Don’t get me wrong, moms often times are the ones taking the brunt of the child rearing and they really are the backbones of the family unit (of course that’s my opinion from my experience), but the pressures associated with being the provider, protector, and other stereotypical “dad roles” can really weigh on a person.
I know my mental health definitely took a toll when I found out I was going to be a dad. My first reaction was excitement and that I was finally going to have a baby which I always wanted. Soon after however, I began realizing that I needed to support this child with all of my being, which not only meant shielding them from the societal pressures, but also financially supporting someone other than myself. I also started to fear that I wouldn’t form a bond with my child, that they would grow up and not like me, that they would inherit some of the same anxiety issues I have, that I would have to make sure they are being involved in things when my own social anxiety hindered that for me at times. How do I balance work and spending time with my child? Will I make enough money to support my child? Will my wife and my relationship be the same? Will we ever have alone time agai? Do they go to public or private school? These are only a small fraction of the thoughts that came to mind for me and I’m sure many other dad’s minds when having a baby for the first time.
Luckily, 3 years later, I finally have some clarity on many of these worries, but I do still struggle with some of them.
How can you tell if you are a good dad? This is still the question, and again the answer is, you can’t! However, there are ways I have learned to help calm myself and realize I am doing a pretty good job so far (subject to debate). Let me share these tips with you:
- How to stop worrying about whether I will bond with my child or not?
Every first-time dad has their own first fear of being a parent, and this one was my first fear. How can I possibly know if I will bond with my child? This was also one of the easiest ones to remedy because for me it was as simple as spending time with them! That really is the best way to form that bond. No matter how busy you are, set some time aside every day to talk with your child and do some sort of activity with them. It can be as small as playing peek-a-boo to breaking out the Legos and building a massive tower.
When my daughter was born, I always worried I didn’t have that bond, and then I started reading a book to her every night (even as young as one week old). The way that she looked at me after reading to her told me that we have something special. Fast forward to the present day, I can’t even leave the room without her wanting to come with me. We also have our after work “conversation” as she calls it to catch up on our day.
Same goes for my middle son. We took a little more time to get the hang of one another because I was juggling two kids, but by watching to see what he likes to do and spending time specifically with only him, he and I now have a very special relationship.
- Will my child inherit my anxieties and negative traits?
Possibly! However, the more I reflect on myself, I am beginning to learn that I will be the perfect mentor to my child when the time comes to help them with these issues. Nothing helps another person like being able to have shared experiences and feelings.
An example is my daughter. She has her mother’s sassy attitude towards things, as well as her tenacity, but when it comes to social situations, at times she can be extremely timid and shy despite her normally bubbly and outgoing personality when she is with loved ones and familiar faces, At times, she sits back, watches, and gets nervous to interact with others that are new. Sounds familiar to me! I know how I felt during those situations, and I personally needed the push from someone else to get me involved. This has happened with her as well. I gave her the idea to slowly try to get involved, and now she has started warming up more and more.
You know your kid better than anyone, and you know yourself. No one is better equipped to handle inherited traits than you!
- How do I balance time with my family and work? Can I really attain that work life balance?
Of course you can! It takes a lot of work. It’s always tricky when you have to earn a living to support your family, but you also want to make sure you spend enough time with them and be in their lives. For me, this required me to reevaluate my priorities, and plan my days to make sure I carve out enough time to be with my family.
Some simple things I do for time with my kids is:
- Make sure to always find the time to put my kids to bed. I don’t miss it, and it is my favorite part of the day!
- Pull each kid aside each night and ask about their day. This includes my 3 month old.
- Aside from the bedtime routine, it’s important to have a special thing or activity with each kid.These could be taking them to an activity, reading books, a certain game, etc.
- My weekends are fully kid filled. I try to spend the entire day with the kids on the weekends and do something fun.
- I try to exercise during my lunch break so it allows me to come home right after work.
- If I have a lot of work to do, I still try to leave on time, and I resume my work once they go to bed. It is hard, but it gives me the peace of mind that I am not missing out on valuable and cherished time with my kids.
In terms of spending time with my wife, that part is a struggle for every couple with young kids. We do fall victim to not spending as much time together without the kids as we would like, but there are things we have done as well as things we are currently planning to start doing:
- If you can’t make it to work once a week for a date night, the very least, once a month should be taken for a night out.
- Spend the evenings when the kids go to bed to catch up on each other’s days and really listen to the other person.
- Send texts or phone calls throughout the day to keep up with each other and let the other person know you are thinking about them.
- Attempt a vacation whenever possible. Easier said than done, but we do have some plans to travel next summer just the two of us.
- Will I make enough money to support my growing family?
Earning money is one of the leading worries men have in general. Add in supporting your wife and kids, and the worry becomes even larger. I am no exception to this worry. I think once a week I check my bank balance and go, “WTF did I spend all this money on!?” There are a few things I do or remind myself of to ease my mind about my finances:
- My dad has always told me, “ you can always earn more money, so you might as well spend it (smartly) on things that build fun memories”. I try to remember that every time I am hesitant about taking my kids somewhere because it may cost money. It is more important to have those fun memories rather than worry about the money aspect of it. Just do it within your means! If you can’t swing Disney, go to a local fun theme park instead. Simple adjustments make the worries go and the fun begin (wow that was corny).
- Force your savings!
- By no means do I make a lot of money, but I make sure I put a sum of money into each of my children’s college funds, as well as our regular savings account each paycheck. I then learn to live off of the remaining balance for my expenses and day to day life. This has really helped me be disciplined and grow my savings, and still have money to spend. I should also note that these savings accounts are in mutual funds so they are growing over time. It has been rewarding to watch my money work for itself!
- Don’t be afraid to find other creative ways to earn some extra income. Whether it be a part-time job, a side hustle, or even playing games for money. Put yourself out there and give it a try. I have tried many different outlets to create extra income for myself and family. I have:
- Been a swim coach
- Drove for UBER
- Drove for UBER Eats
- Drove for Door Dash
- Completed Surveys online (Amazon Mturk , InboxDollars, Swagbucks)
- Blog (still waiting for it to become lucrative, but hey, I am trying!)
There are so many ways to do something small for extra cash on the side that won’t take much time away from your family.
With all of that said, I still question if I’m doing everything I can to be a good dad. Then I look at my kids who run up to me every day screaming “daddy!” Accompanied by a huge hug, and I realize, I must be doing something right.