We’ve been told a lie that romance is only giant gestures: flash mobs, rooms full of flowers, chaotic dashes through airports hoping to catch a plane before they can leave you forever. But when all is said and done and children are born out of a relationship watered with romantic gestures, how does a father continue to pursue the woman he’s had children with?
I’m proposing that while large, romantic gestures are wonderful to continue well into a relationship, true romance is found in the tiny decisions you make to ease the burden from your partner’s shoulders. I’m sure you’ve heard that doing the dishes or mopping the floor is a way to her heart. But what about becoming an equal parent with her? What about not acting as if you’re another child she needs to plan out meals, daily schedules, and outfits for?
Fathers often act as if their time at their job is the only time they’re expected to work. If you’ve made the decision to become a father, though, you should be a father 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Just like we expect mothers to be.
If I may be frank, I am tired of seeing other men who made the decision to have children (choosing to have intercourse has an implicit chance of creating a child) and yet cannot be bothered to change diapers or prepare meals for their family. If you do nothing as you watch the mother of your children struggle and spiral down towards being burnt out, you are failing as a father. And failing as a father damages your relationship with your children’s mother as well as your relationship with your children.
If you’re looking for practical ways to become a more engaged father, here are some ideas:
- Never put your entertainment above the needs of your children or their mother (their needs are not just physical; they also need emotional support from you). Put down the video game controller and turn off the football game. Don’t let your woodworking hobby or going out with your friends always take priority over your family.
- Spend so much time with your children that you know their needs and can fulfill them readily. Take your kids on outings and bring the diaper bag (Don’t forget the snacks!). Find out what each of your children enjoy and take them on group trips if you have multiple children and take them on individual trips.
- Find out about the 5 love languages and learn how each of your children feel loved and valued. Oh, and do the same for their mother. If you are loving and/or respectful towards their mother, you’re showing your sons how to treat the mother of their children and you’re showing your daughters how they should expect to be treated.
- The mother of your children needs time for self-care. If she works, time at her job does not count as self-care. Take the kids out on a Saturday morning so she can sleep in and do whatever else she wants. Make plans for her to go out on a Friday night with her friends while you feed, bathe, and put your children to bed.
I know that I’m writing from a heteronormative stance here, and I’ll be honest that I don’t know how this looks for our brothers and sisters in different types of relationships. But you will notice that I never said to do these things for your wife, but for the mother of your children. If you have children with a woman that you are no longer in a relationship with, you still owe her the respect and aid of being the father of her children.
Joseph Bubenik is not a mother, although he is married to one. He and Ali grew up in Saint Louis and began dating in high school. They have been married for 12 years and have 5 children together, ranging from 9 down to 2. Although not particularly interested in college, somehow Joe owns a painting company that seeks to provide high quality work for clients and dignified jobs for all types of people. He enjoys writing, reading about dragons & wizards, thinking about Christmas, and eating as many calories as Ali will let him. He and his wife share a passion for parenting and seek to prepare their children to succeed in the world.