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Confidence in Competence

by Mark Phillips    --show me more like this

© Johanna Goodyear - Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

At 3:00 AM, three weeks after our son, Noah, was born, he was howling in misery (we hadn't discovered the wonders of Mylicon yet). Having tried everything I could to soothe him and fail, I actually said, Well, we had a good couple weeks, anyway. (Have you ever wanted to go back in time and give your old self a really hard smack?) I was faced with one of the greatest enemies any man can face: the feeling of incompetence.

In seven years being a Stay-At-Home-Dad, there have been times when I looked at the daily challenges of child rearing coupled with homemaking and wondered, What was I thinking? I can't do this! The ugly head of incompetence doesn't go away easily, either. Thinking I was not equipped to do the job led to more self-doubt. This led to depression (maybe not the clinical brand, but that blue funk that just dragged everything down.) Feeling crummy fed the inadequacy and eventually, I was doing a lousy job parenting. I had become incompetent! I never actually sold the kids for scientific experiments, but I occasionally wondered how plausible a solution that would be.

It turns out that I am not a horribly warped person. I am just a man. According to Dr. John Gray, of Mars and Venus fame, one of the worst feelings for men is the feeling of incompetence. Men need to feel needed and capable to fulfill that need. We are problem solvers, go-getters, bull-by-the-horn takers. (Women might be these things, too, but I'm not talking about them just now). When we are struck with the sense that we cannot solve a problem, it irritates us.

Take, for example, getting lost. Men don't ask for directions, says Dr. Gray, because that would be admitting that we are not competent enough to know where we are and how to get to where we are going. Like I always say, 'Tis better to have been lost and found than admit being lost in the first place.

So, men do not like being inept and parenting can make anyone feel like they have stepped off a pier wearing a diaper bag filled with rocks. Before we go tattooing a big L on our forehead for being the absolute worst parent that ever sired, I find it useful to take a step back. Then take a step forward. Then a step back. Now were doing the cha-cha! Sorry.

When I honestly look at the job I am doing as a father, I conclude two things: The first one is that I really am doing a decent job of it. Perfect? Not by a long shot, but good enough to be confident that my kids will be okay. There are lots of things that I do that will help my kids, the absolutely most important one being that I let them know that they are loved.

The second thing I realize about my parenting is that even with my failures, my children are resilient enough to survive and thrive. They are designed well enough to overcome if I said no when I should have said yes, and yes when I should have said, are you out of your mind?! In short, my kids will endure despite my shortcomings.

If, after analyzing yourself into a headache, you still feel like an incompetent parent, there is still one more step you can take. You could ask someone for advice. There is not a problem today that some parent hasn't lived through and solved. Ask your parents. Ask your neighbor. Ask the couple who have adopted eight underprivileged kids. Someone will have the answer you need.

If you must ask someone for directions to navigate through your parental difficulties, I promise I won't tell anyone.

Copyright 2006
All rights reserved. FatherMag.com authors retain their right to republish elsewhere.

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