The Fine Lines A Father Must Walk

What is a father in the 21st century? Moreover, what’s a man in this day and age. We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift, and one that has (many would say thankfully) seen us re-evaluate the notions of fatherhood, masculinity and even gender which have been diamond absolutes for so many generations. We live in changing times and in order to give our kids the best possible start in life, we as Dads need to change with them. No longer can we get by emulating our own Dads. Instead, we must cherry pick the best elements of our own upbringing while also reassessing our own attitudes towards our own masculinity and fatherhood.




Because for too long, men and boys have imposed themselves in prisons of perceived norms. Boys have grown up feeling that it’s not okay to cry (as has been stated here before, it totally is), especially in manhood. Here we’ll look at the dangers of certain types of masculinity as well as discussing some of the fine lines that both single Dads and co-parenting Dads manage every day.

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The dangers of toxic masculinity


Toxic masculinity is a buzzword that has resonated through the corridors of social media for some time now, but what does it mean? We may assume that it means behaving in an overtly aggressive manner, behaving in a belligerent way to our partner or being enthusiastically disciplinarian with our kids. However, one doesn’t need to be a stereotypical, wife beating drunk to fall victim to the tropes of toxic masculinity.


Very often toxic masculinity is more about failing to articulate (or even engage with) one’s emotions. It’s teaching our sons to “man up”, when what we really mean is “bury your emotions in a box deep within your psyche”. Toxic masculinity is the means by which the less than flattering traits associated with masculinity such as emotional absence and a predilection for aggression make their way up the generational lines. Dads today must walk the line between being masculine without being the wrong kind of masculine. But it’s not the only line a Dad must walk. To be good role models to our kids we must also…


Being strong, yet sensitive


Being strong isn’t about being able to bench press more than your peers or be positively appraised in “my Dad could beat up your Dad” playground arguments. It’s about juggling the myriad responsibilities of fatherhood. It’s about staying calm and collected under pressure. It’s about acknowledging your emotions without letting them get the better of you.


It’s also about acknowledging that we made mistakes and putting an infrastructure in place to prevent them from happening again. It’s about learning from our mistakes without beating ourselves up over them. When we really think about it, strength and sensitivity are not the polar opposites we can assume them to be.


Being career minded without being a workaholic


A father must provide for his family, but it can be dangerous when we think about that provision solely in monetary and material terms. Psychiatrists’ chairs all over the world are filled with men and women who grew up with material privilege but were deeply undernourished emotionally. Thus, by all means do what you can to further your career. Do a little overtime if you need to every now and then, take classes or visit Arcies to seek advice on career development. Just remember when to step back and gain some perspective. Teach your kids that there’s value in ambition but that your job will never be able to kiss you goodnight and your career will never give you a hug when you need one. Your career is important but parenthood is the one job from which you never want to retire!


Being fun without being a pushover


It’s okay to admit it. We all want to be the fun parent. The parent who eschews stern authoritarianism and is the face of fun, enjoyment and frivolity. And while parents owe it to their kids to ensure that they have fun together, they cannot allow themselves to forget the simple fact that children need structure. Worse still, when we try too hard to be the fun parent, we can inadvertently push our partners into the role of tyrannical dictator. Your kids and your partner deserve better.


Being cool without ever trying to be cool


Finally, all parents walk the line with their kids between being cool and being perceived as trying to be cool. The simple fact is that if you do your level best, be yourself and walk the intrinsic fine lines that come with parenthood on a daily basis you don’t need to try to be cool. You already are.


… And if you’re trying at all, you’re trying too hard!


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