It’s Father’s Day in Aotearoa on Sunday. We asked some of the dads we know to share their thoughts about fatherhood.
On Sunday, it’s Father’s Day, a day to celebrate all the good dads. Here at The Spinoff Parents we know it’s not a great day for everyone so we have a post on getting through here, and a post on supporting those who struggle through here. In this post, we want to celebrate all the fathers doing their best. We want to reflect on what it means to be a good dad and how being a father changes you. Thank you to all of the dads who so generously contributed. The lovely photos you see were sent in from dads and kids and partners around New Zealand.
Dad for 13 years, three children: There’s a largely unavoidable change of priorities when you become a dad. It’s a lot harder to do what you want, when you want, but it usually doesn’t feel like an impediment because being a parent somehow feels “good” and “important” so there’s some sort of constant positive feedback from that. It’s a strange and rewarding feeling to be one of the most important people in someone’s life. To be the person who interprets and explains the world to someone else. The most rewarding moments are probably hearing my kids express themselves in their own way – to see them becoming their own people. In terms of the hard parts, there’s a sort of constant imposter’s syndrome. How can these people look to me to know how to do everything when I can barely figure any of it out myself? And I worry about providing for my family – I’m acutely aware that people depend on me to keep things going properly. Things I’d pursue or take a chance on if it were just me seem too uncertain and risky now. If I was to say anything to dads it’s just that I’m pretty sure none of us are really sure how to do this stuff. We’re all making it up as we go along, and will invariably screw stuff up, but hopefully we’ll get it right more often.
Dad of six years, two children: Being a dad has definitely changed what’s important to me. Almost everything else – career, hobbies, whatever – becomes secondary to making sure my family is fed, healthy and safe. My dad became a father a hell of a lot younger than I did – by the time he was my age, I was off to university! I still sometimes feel like I’m not ready for this now I’m in my forties, so god knows what it was like for him in his twenties. He was (and is) a great dad, I think, but a product of his time. I don’t think either of us said “I love you” to the other until I was at least in my thirties. I tell my daughters I love them every single day. I just want to be the type of dad whose adult kids don’t consider him to be a total fuckwit.
Dad for two years to one child: I’ll have been a dad for three years in November! Being a dad has changed me fundamentally. It has made me see the world differently, it makes me think of the future differently. You start looking around you and thinking ‘damn, my boy is going to inherit this mess, what can I do to make it a bit better?’ My dad is goofy, sincere, extroverted, and he makes time for everyone around him. I’m like him in a lot of ways, but I got my mum’s temper! Dad is way more laid back. He’s a pretty great dad and a grandad to six kids now. The best part of being a dad is getting to see this crying, pooping little jelly bean become a laughing, running, thinking little person. Watching him develop his own personality. Cuddles, definitely. The most challenging thing is remembering that a toddler mainly lives in the present. Lack of sleep. Anxiety that you’re not doing it right! I want to be reliable. Kind. A good role model. I would say to other dads: Don’t forget your kid is always watching you! You’re teaching them all the time whether it’s on purpose or not. Play with them, time spent on the floor playing lego is worth a hundred hours in the office.
Dad for 11 years, two children: My father is the best. He’s most supportive and genuinely nicest person in the whole world. He is truly a renaissance man. I am so lucky to have him. Everyone loves him. We certainly have some similarities, perhaps not enough and I wish I could be more like him. The responsibility is pretty daunting. I’m a solo dad so there’s a tremendous burden of responsibility. My lads have recently been through a really tough time and they have been so brave throughout which makes me incredibly proud. I want to be like my dad.
Dad of 17 years, three children: I became a father by accident, without ever having thought about what that would entail. I watched my friends spend their twenties traveling and stuff, and felt a bit like I was missing out on something important that I’d never get back. Now that kid is nearly an adult and, corny as it sounds, nothing I missed could compare to what I gained. I use the term father at the top, because I didn’t become a dad right away. It was a slow, halting process that I feel like I’ve only really properly got my head into with our youngest (she’s five). The old me would have unproductively beaten myself up about that, but I think I’m more forgiving of myself now, and thus a better dad to them. I’ve stopped comparing myself to other parents, and thus stopped resenting those I felt were better at it than me. I just am the dad I am, and mostly that seems enough. Broadly speaking, the service you give to your children is exhausting, but also the most real and profound thing I feel like I do. I just feel very lucky, even if I didn’t know it for some of the first few years.
Dad for five years, five months, 28 days to two children: Its a lot of extra responsibility, I had to put in a lot more effort, especially with jobs around the house and emotional support and actually plotting the course of how we want our children to be raised. I think being a dad has made me more ambitious about how much I get paid and stuff as well. My dad was absent. My grandad was more my father figure and he was an insanely practical man, he could do anything. I’m partly like him, I think he gave me an appreciation for fixing things and gave me a lot of practical skills and taught me satisfaction from work, but I’m also crazily different in terms of my politics and my ethics. There are two things I really love about being a dad: one is seeing them learn skills, being able to pick something up and become good at it, I really love that. The other is when you’re putting them down at night and they give you that ‘I love you dad’ and you can just tell that it’s that absolute love. The amount of work that’s involved in fatherhood and that to be a relatively decent partner and father you have to go so far past what society expects of you – that’s challenging. Most of all I want to be the emotional support they need, a safe haven for them whenever they’re facing hard times, to be the person they can rely on for advice or help. But I also want to be the type of dad that gives them useful skills and helps them become constructive people. It’s hard being a dad but it’s good, try and make sure your partner isn’t the one doing all the house work. Basically, don’t be a shit cunt.
Dad for 13 years, two children: I strive to be the kind of dad whose children say, annoyedly, “Daaaaaaddddd,” at least once per day. Getting the chance to live life alongside, and deeply understand, and be mystified by, two actual human beings is really rewarding. That bond is amazing, and it’s something that you rarely get in your life, and I really treasure it. I’ve tried to be as much as possible like the way my dad is now (warm, expressive, patient) and not like what my dad was like when I was a kid (reserved, emotionally absent, disinterested). The hardest part of fatherhood is being wrong all the time and feeling like you’re always fucking it up. My advice to dads is: Do your best to cry in front of your kids at least once a year. If you don’t think you can gin up the tears about a dead person or whatever, just watch Toy Story 3 with them.
Dad for six years, two children: My dad was an asshole and I thought I’d be a bad dad because of him. But actually I’m a really good dad and I love being a dad. I’m nothing like him and that makes me feel really good. When you have a dad who is just shit – who runs out on you and your mum – it feels like you can’t ever let that go. But then when you have your own kids you get to be the dad you should have had. That’s a really good thing – it’s all good though. Every part of being a dad is awesome. I feel like it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life and I feel like it’s the best job I could ever do. I feel lucky.
Dad of ten years, two children: Being a dad has changed me greatly. I like to think it has made me a better human being – more compassionate, better listener and more patient (well, mostly). The hardest part of it is the adjustment. The lack of time. The lack of sleep. I just want to be the kind of dad who is patient; kind; there.
Dad of five years, four children, two are my step children: Fatherhood has definitely changed me, if it doesn’t then you are doing it wrong! Your world changes from being “me” centred to “them” and “us” centred. My father wasn’t around much in my life but I did try to adopt his calmness and level-headedness. Seeing your little people grow and develop into their own personalities with their own senses of humor, passions and preferences. The most challenging? Stopping Baby Shark going round and round in your head at 1am. I want to be the kind of dad who my kids will always be able to go to and feel 100% accepted and supported and know that I will always be proud of them. My message to other dads is to try to remember that no matter how little they are, they are still people with wants and needs and interests, they’re not blank robots. Always treat them as such.
Dad for 36 years, two children: I don’t have grand kids but I’m an optimist at heart. Fatherhood made me more sensible, not wrecking yourself so that you have the strength to bring them up and be active with them. My father worked a lot but was a good provider. He didn’t go to sports or activities so that’s something I vowed to change and went to everything even if the kids said “you don’t need to come!” The most rewarding part is seeing them grow into independent, caring citizens and having great conversations with them. The most challenging part was letting them go and be those independent individuals. I want to be a loved and accepted for who and what I am as a dad. My message to other dads is to be accepting of who your children are and walk beside them, guide them, love don’t judge and enjoy the ride.
Dad for seven years to one child:The hardest part about being a dad is prioritising your time. Evening your temper. Remembering what is important.Being a dad really changed me. Suddenly it wasn’t all about me. My father and I are so similar that it scares me. But I don’t think our parenting styles or outlooks are at all similar. He is a kind and generous man. The most rewarding part of being a dad is seeing someone grow. Knowing you had a part in that, and always will. Doing your best to nurture and recognising you spend your life learning. My message to dads on Father’s Day is the same as any other day: Be the best person you can be. Be kind. Have fun. Enjoy life.
Dad for four years to two children: When I became a father, for the first time in my life, I was part of something much bigger than myself. I’d been part of sports teams and work teams before, but this was something different, something that couldn’t be walked away from and required 100% commitment. It forced on me a new maturity and a level of responsibility, that before kids, I didn’t know I was capable of. It also accelerated the greying of my hair and made me terrified of hangovers. My father left when I was still rocking nappies and had very little presence and input in my upbringing. But I am similar to him in some ways. When you become a parent yourself you see how much is already genetically hard-coded into your own children. It was the same for me. I share traits, strengths and weaknesses with my father that aren’t learned or mimicked but were there from day one and unavoidable. I think most men who grow up with an absent father eventually make peace with that.Because I grew up without my own father around I thought I’d just become the kind of father that I always wanted. The fun, exciting, cool dad. Now, I know it’s not that simple. To be a good father, sometimes you have to be the safety police, and sometimes you even have to be a bit of a dick. I just want my children to love being kids and be so content, happy and focused on pursuing their own dreams that they needn’t notice, or feel, the efforts and sacrifices I make. Then one day, perhaps as adults they’ll realise that I was an exceptional dad. I want my parenting to be a victory in long delayed gratification, and for my children to be the greatest achievement of my life.
Dad for nearly 12 years, two children: Yes, fatherhood has changed me. I only get one decent sleep a month now. My father was chill, I’m not like him on the chill stakes. But I love watching the kids grow and change. It’s challenging with money. I just want to be the kind of dad the kids want to hang out with when they are older, but also not have them grow up to be douchebags.
independent journalism happen!Find Out More
Dad since 1982 to three children, granddad to six children: Becoming a father changed me massively. It made me stop thinking about myself and become responsible. My father was a product of his environment and generation. Detached emotionally and limited in knowing how to cope. I don’t blame him but I like to think I’m making a better fist of it than him. And that’s not a criticism. I loved my dad. The most rewarding part of being a dad is the grandkids! And seeing your children succeeding as adults and being kind to people. The most challenging part is coping with worrying about your children all the time. I want to be the kind of dad and grandad who is remembered as being kind, generous, wise, and a rock to lean on. My advice to other dads is to be kind to each other and talk about things.
Dad for five years, two children: I can remember what life was like without children, intellectually. I can recall nights out, travelling, sleeping when I chose to, spending money on frivolous, non-kid-related things. I know there was a time when I didn’t have children because I’ve seen photos of myself with bright eyes and clean clothes. But I can’t remember what it was like, physically. My body doesn’t know what it feels like not to feel tired and heavy. My shoulders can’t remember not being nigglingly sore from carrying another person (and sometimes people) in my arms every single day. Yet, I love it – having kids. To you, your own children are funnier than the funniest adult you’ve ever met, purer of heart than any saint you’ve ever heard of, more insightful than any book you’ve ever read, more beautiful than any person you’ve ever seen. I mean, they can be terrible too – the worst! But the good is so much better than the bad. I guess there’s not much I wouldn’t trade a lot to be able to share life with some of the best people who ever lived.
Dad of one for just over 4 months: When I held my little one for the first time I felt my heart get crushed down to something insignificant, it physically ached. Then I felt it expand like an exploding water balloon. My heart got bigger to make room for this little person. I’m only 4 months in so lots of things have been rewarding. It’s probably tied between seeing my wee one learning new things – she can roll over AND put her feet in her mouth – and the ever growing love and adoration for her mama since she’s been in our lives. Being at work when the little one is having a rough day and her mama is having to deal with it single-handedly is tough. I want to be a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Mufasa. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like in practice but I hope I’ll be a dad who can be open about how I’m feeling, learn from (all) the mistakes I’m sure to make, supports my wee one and her mama to be the best people they can be and reads as many stories to them whenever I get the chance. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say to dads I did a quick google for some snappy message or advice but I realised the issue I was seeing with almost all of it: The stereotype of what a dad is is stupidly restrictive. My message to dads is: tear up the expectations of what being a father means and the limitations of how men can raise children, tear up the reductive and harmful ideas of what a “man” is. You get to decide the type of father you want to be. The power we have as fathers is huge and we should use that to turn our small people into incredible adults ready to bring more awesomeness into the world.
Happy Father’s Day from everyone at The Spinoff Parents.
Love The Spinoff? The best way to support us is to join The Spinoff Members. For just $2 a week you can help us hire more journalists – and receive a FREE copy of our first book.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.