The moment a man finds out that he is going to be a father, he will immediately find himself in front of a road which diverges into two paths: The road of becoming a good dad is the more difficult path, but the rewards earned by the journey are worth their weight in gold. The other path on the surface is seemingly the easier, but the end of the journey is riddled with nothing but bitterness and resentment and regret for all parties involved. You would think that the decision to walk the “good dad” path would be a no brainier, yet so many men make the choice to go the other way. So herein lies my question:
What are the determining factors that make a man choose to walk one path of becoming a good dad versus the other? It sounds like a complicated question, but when you peel back the onion, you'll notice that while the answer might vary based on the circumstances of each man, the common thread between them is their point of reference for fatherhood.
For better or worse, we are all products of the way that we were raised. The person who I am, who you are today is the direct result of how the people who brought us up treated us as children. If you were brought up by a father figure who gives love and support, you're more likely to use that example to become the type of father who provides this for their kids. However, if your fatherhood point of reference is that of someone who was absent and neglectful, then there is a chance that you will also follow suit when you become a father yourself. On the flip side of that, your destiny is not set in stone. There's also the opportunity for growth and evolution if you use those negative experiences to resolve to become the father that you did not have growing up.
How that father figure treated you as a child had shaped your mind and has set you on a path which dictated how your decision making skills will guide you in your life. The inner workings within our character, in our personality that we innately use to choose who we surround ourselves with-be it friends, our significant others, etc., - is either directly or indirectly derived from that point of reference.
Quite often, I have friends and colleagues who compliment me, who look at the fun Facebook and Instagram pictures, assume that this fatherhood thing is all jellybeans and unicorns and will tell me that they look forward to the day they will become a dad. However, they have a very little (if any) of an understanding of the hardships, sacrifices and personal doubts and anxiety that I went through that got me to be where I am today.
Please understand though that the purpose of this exercise is not to give you an excuse for crappy behavior in any shape or form. By reflecting on, and acknowledging your past, you will put yourself in a position that will help you make better decisions in the future. We don't have the ability to choose our environment and role models as a child. But as an adult, we can start to surround ourselves with healthy relationships.
The point of reference doesn't just affect your parenting ability; it can also shape how you interact with other people. For example, if your parents were married for 30 years, your point of reference as an adult will guide you in a direction where you will be more than likely to seek out someone that you can see yourself with for the next 30 years. If your point of reference is more volatile than that, you're more prone to seek out someone that might not workout in the long run.
Although my parents divorced at 4, I don’t remember it really affecting me as a child. In fact, it wasn’t until later in my adult life that I realized what a profound impact that point of reference had on me. Most of the relationships that I had before getting married have been short lived, which was mostly due to my efforts. The instability that I witnessed growing up resulted in me unwilling to make meaningful connections with people. Looking back, I now understand that I constantly kept them at arm’s length so I could avoid being hurt. These superficial relationships caused me to unintentionally push people away. When I finally came to an understanding of this, I found myself at a crossroads and was faced with two choices. Either shrug my shoulders and continue my behavior, using my past as a crutch, or I can use my newfound awakening as a learning opportunity and focus my energies to evolve my way of thinking.
So, it is import to reflect and ask yourself this question: What is your fatherhood point of reference? Based on your answer, will you choose to become a better dad/husband because of that reference, or despite of it?