No Sacrifice: Maintaining Life After Fatherhood
by Michael Childers
Fatherhood is no sacrifice. I have heard it said that, when some men (often friends of mine) think of being a father, they don't like the idea of having to give up hobbies they enjoy, freedom to go and do whenever they want, or sacrificing some other aspect of their childless life. But I see it quite differently.
In fact, I feel strongly that those well meaning men have it completely upside down. I enjoy birding: watching and identifying backyard birds, taking walks with a bird book to find new types which don't frequent my particular neighborhood, etc. As a father of an 11 year old boy and a 9 year old girl, did I sacrifice being able to bird watch? No! On the contrary, I found myself doing more and more birding because of my children. It turns out that they quite enjoyed watching the birds just as I do. They will sit on the back porch for, frankly, longer than I even want and keep a sharp eye peeled for new birds. I even became much more knowledgeable about the birds that I love so much because I found myself teaching my children about them. I have always believed that you teach what you most want to learn. It is certainly true that your understanding of a topic increases dramatically as you teach that topic. So, thank you Cameron and Maddie, for allowing me to enjoy the birds which I love so much. Thank you, for teaching me through your questions about those lovely animals of flight.
But, perhaps the example of birding was simply a happy, little coincidence. After all, what little kid doesn't like pretty little animals that magically take flight and have a myriad of beautiful colors? So, lets consider another hobby of mine: astronomy. Surely being a father would put a damper on that activity because the children couldn't possibly be interested in seemingly static dots in the sky. Oh, but how they are!
My children absolutely love knowing which little dot in the sky is Jupiter and which is the North Star. They love the shapes that the dots make such as a kite, a house, or an arrow. My children love to look through binoculars and see Jupiter's four Galilean moons, or check out the craters on the Moon, or even see the plethora of stars which are too dim to see with the naked eye but come out of hiding with the help of a nice lens. And if I want a little "alone time" with my beloved stars, no problem. The youngsters go to bed long before stars fade away with the morning Sun. So, I have as much time as I want to savor the beauty of the universe in peaceful silence. And, a nice little ancillary aside is, once again, the growth of my own knowledge thanks to the questions of my curious little budding scientists. Still, this activity is once again passive. What about a physically active hobby in which they couldn't possibly undertake? No way having children could accentuate such an activity. Wrong again!
Let me cut to the chase and list other areas in which a sacrifice might occur in the post-childless life: working on the car, attending and watching football games, riding my bicycle, watching the few specific television shows which display a very narrow field of knowledge or entertainment, going for a swim, reading, exercising. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this... my children love being with their parent and sharing in the joys of various activities. Concerns of a heavy burden of sacrifice should simply wash away from the worried mind of a father-to-be.
So, I guess I'm saying that having children enriches every aspect of life and hampers none. Well, that would indeed be a naive statement. Yes, there are sacrifices. So, to be fair, let's look at the spector of sacrifice which will surely descend upon a man's life upon having children. Money disappears at an alarming rate. There exist a small number of activities which are not suitable for children (R-rated movies, repelling... you get the idea). Life gets a bit busier. Strike that. Life gets crazy! Children are unpredictable. They can be happy and congenial one minute, and disturbingly argumentative the next. But does the new father need to abandon his carefree life of hobbies and friends? No. There may be a need for better time management... and maybe a select few activities become a bit less frequent. But let me tell you a little secret. Are you ready? It's a big one. You may want to slow the pace of your reading and settle in to a comfy chair to prepare yourself for this little know bombshell.
Children love their parents. Shhh! Don't tell anyone this. It's a trade secret which cannot become public knowledge lest the population explosion becomes a full fledged supernova. But it's true. The love and laughter which your darling children will unconditionally throw your way will erase any regret you may have for missing out on the rare activity which childless men enjoy. It is impossible to overstate this fact. I promise, your heart will melt with love and affection in a futile attempt to reciprocate the love which will be offered.
So, if you're thinking that your current life as a father has been more of a sacrifice than originally anticipated, then I would suggest taking a second look at your situation. Get a new perspective. Include your kids in that activity in which you are sure they will not be interested. You may have underestimated you darling little ones. And maybe, just maybe, you deserve a little break. In that case, reward yourself with that break. Get a babysitter. Allow a family member to keep your kids for a bit. But I don't think you'll need too many of those breaks if you take the right approach.
And if you're considering entering the wonderful and wacky world of fatherhood, then relax. Life can continue. And yes, you can still enjoy all of those little moments which you currently savor.
Trust me, it will be ok.
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