These are strange times to be a father. Fathers have never been expected to do more—around the house, in their children’s lives. This is wonderful. It’s also challenging and confusing because societal expectations and the actual process for preparing new dads for doing these things are not quite in alignment. At the same time, the word “masculine” is not indelibly connected to that idea of “toxic masculinity.” So much of what it has and continues to mean to “be a man” are now denigrated and criticized. The modern picture of a dad is somehow simultaneously an overweight oaf who tells lame jokes and a patriarchal tyrant. A control freak and a checked out layabout.
And this isn’t even getting into the extreme theories about how having kids is unconscionable in an age of climate change or feminist arguments for “abolishing the family.”
The point is: It’s confusing and overwhelming to be a dad sometimes. Who should you be? How should you act? Are you doing the right thing? Or are you a monster?
Blake Masters, the founder of Spar! (an awesome fitness/habit app that will help you get better and stay healthy) and the co-author of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, has a rather refreshing and inspiring message for dads out there. We asked him what fatherhood has meant to him and his answer cuts through so much of the noise:
I am *proud to be a father*, not only in the sense that my particular children have this or that specific quality, or that I teach them x or I learn from them about y. I’m proud to be a father because fatherhood is important, fatherhood is a key half of what makes the whole human enterprise keep going, and fatherhood specifically is about raising formidable young people that understand and respect what’s good about the world their predecessors have made, how to keep up that good work, and indeed, maybe even how to make things a little better, without getting crushed or discouraged or too jaded along the way. *My* kids are great, I love them very much, and I’m proud of and cherish our relationships. But every once in awhile, when they have finally gone to sleep for the night, it’s nice to zoom out and try to understand the big picture: we are participating in the timeless institution of watching over and rearing small people, who will before too long take up that challenge and do it again themselves.
Don’t let anyone make you feel down about this. Don’t let anyone kick you around for doing your best. This fatherhood thing is important. It’s a long tradition we are a part of. We are doing the work of our grandfathers and their grandfathers, and at the same time, we are also moving the world forward, questioning old assumptions, setting new norms.
Give yourself some credit. Feel the power of that bigger picture. Know that you are engaged in a timeless process, one that the human species would not survive without. You are a father and that’s a good thing.