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Robert Drago's picture

My younger daughter is graduating high school, and my older daughter just graduated from Penn State, so this fathers’ day is a good time to reflect on past successes… and failures. So here’s some advice for young men contemplating fatherhood today:

Marry well. Find someone you can talk to about almost anything; you’re going to spend a lot of time talking after children arrive... And find someone who isn’t planning to stay at home for 20 years raising kids. Sure, there are great parents who pull off the breadmaker/homemaker stuff, and I know and admire them. But most involved dads have partners who have a job or a career; it gives us more time with the kids, and more say in decisions about the kds.

Plan where you’ll live. The days of corporations moving families every couple of years for a guy’s career are ending, but many dads end up far from family by the time children arrive. You can make your life a whole lot easier by being close to home for raising kids. It’s not all about free childcare, since you’ll also be there to help your parents as they age… and that’s not a bad thing.

Take time. When I ask most dads my own age how much time they took off when their children were born, the answer is usually a day, or maybe two. Thank goodness this is changing, and new dads need to demand weeks or months away from work to start a new child’s life. But time also means being there when a child is ill or has a dentist’s appointment; if mom is the only parent who is really there when a child is in need, where does that leave dad?

Make time for community and friends. The expectations placed on middle-class parents today are unreasonable, unrealistic, and moderately crazed. And many dads and moms respond by giving up friends and community activities to focus on the little ones. That’s a big mistake. If you want to be a role model for your children, friendship and community involvement are important.

Accept your kids for who they are. This is may be the hardest. We all want our children to be perfect, to avoid the mistakes we made, to do better than we did. And it’s our job to mold them, to help them learn, to help them become someone amazing. But far too many of us place absurdly high expectations on our kids, and we hurt them when they cannot or do not wish to live up to our expectations.

The truth? I’ve done none of these things completely or well, but have ended up very close to both of my daughters. So, my last piece of advice is to cut yourself (and your partner) a little slack. Nobody is, or should be, perfect.

Robert Drago is the author of Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life, and a co-founder of the Take Care Net.

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