What It Means to Be a Dad
By: Dasha Peipon
For Father’s Day this year we decided to skip the “DIY gifts” and “10 ways to show you care.” Instead, we asked three fathers what it’s like to be a Dad, what challenges they are facing daily, and what the hardest things and the biggest blessings about being a father are. Here are their honest answers. And the reasons we love and celebrate them, our fathers everywhere.
The New Dad
For me, being a father has not been about giving life. It has been about giving my life. When I found out I was going to be a Dad, I felt very emotional, happy, astonished, amazed, and a little scared. I felt totally inadequate to father, teach and be an example for my child. When I held my son in my arms for the first time and looked at his face, I felt the spirit touch my heart, and I realized that I was ready to try and be a good dad. I still don’t know how I can be one though. I still do not always know when to put him down for his nap or when to wake him, to feed him, or why he cries when he cries – everything is new… What I do know is how difficult it is to have the constant responsibility of taking care, guiding, educating, teaching my son by example and maintaining a strong affectionate bond in my family.
One day Sigmund Freud was visited by a worried mother who asked him: “How should I educate my son?” The creator of psychoanalysis replied: “Do as you please. It will be wrong anyway.” It’s a joke, of course. But it has some truth to it. The freedom that comes with being a parent suggests that educating a child is an easy task. However, I have been learning for a year and a half that this concept is wrong, and that it is not just about teaching, but rather about learning ourselves.
If my son is not as perfect or successful as others at his age, I am still so happy and overwhelmed just knowing I am loved by someone I adore. That little smile, those kisses, the snuggles and hugs – I would not change it for anything. Fatherhood is the best thing that happened to me, and I enjoy it like nothing else. It gives me a reason to be better. In the moments of weakness, when I am tired of doing all the things parenthood requires, I remind myself how proud I am of my son, who shares my virtues and my flaws and illuminates my days.
The Stay-at-home Dad
My wife and I have four daughters. We decided that I would stay home with our children almost a year before I actually left my job. It was the right move for us. It really wasn’t a difficult decision. I did not like my job; my wife liked her career. Most importantly, we decided that I was going to homeschool our children.
So, what does a typical day look like for me? The 5-month-old (our #4) wakes up two or three times at night. Daughter #1 (age 7) and #3 (age 2) roll into our bedroom around 6:30. Daughter #2 (age 3) is Ms. Lazy-Bones, though. She needs help waking up. Our middle two go to half-day daycare. That, in theory, should give me all the time I need to complete homeschool. I try to get it going by 8:00, but some days that just doesn’t happen. At lunchtime #1, #4 and myself drive to get the middle two. Once a week we go to a homeschool co-op and a PE class for homeschoolers, hosted by our local university. My oldest loves the days she gets to see her friends. I teach a class at co-op and enjoy doing it. (I highly recommend that you find a co-op if you are a homeschool family.) Our everyday life is full of chaos. It’s full of laughter and joy, too.
There are good days and bad. You learn to go with the flow and be flexible. If you can’t get it all done today, you’ll get it tomorrow! Being a stay-at-home Dad is the toughest job there is. But it is also the most rewarding. You are shaping your children’s future every day. That is the most important job in the world. Sure, it is stressful at times, but you cannot put a value on the experiences you get with your children. I truly cherish this opportunity.
The Father of Five
When I tell people that I have five children, they usually look at me with a mix of compassion and pity. When they realize that all five are between the ages of 11 and 17, and that two are adopted, the compassion deepens, along with a little wonder, and some ‘what were you thinking?’ thrown in for good measure. I understand completely. I give myself the same look in the mirror many mornings. Between the neverending sports events and the grocery bill that could be a house payment, staying on top of basic day-to-day living can get overwhelming. When I walk through the door after work, it feels like every person in the house has been saving up all day to tell me what is needed for school or what was broken in the house that day. Looking my wife in the eyes or having a conversation without being interrupted is as common as a unicorn rodeo. The number of relationship combinations that have to work in the family is surpassed only by the level of hormones raging out of control at any given moment. The complexity of a large family is no joke.
But there are many times when the challenge of keeping up gives way to beauty. Like when we all sit around at dinner table and tell stories about our day and laugh together. Or when an older sibling is helping a younger one with something. Or when one child is having a bad day, and the others are able to save the day by rallying around and picking each other up. Or when we all pitch in to tackle a project around the house and are able to get it finished in record time. I believe that these are small glimpses of light, which will overtake the dark and difficult moments more and more as time goes on. I think of future days when these five siblings will reunite and care for each other and enjoy a huge family holiday. I think of the possible influence these five could have on their future families, communities, and world. And that hopefully, the highs and lows of sharing a house with a lot of people will equip them to do what others can’t. So at the end of the day I look at the overwhelmed father in the mirror and can think on these glimpses of light and can smile, knowing that it is worth the challenge to uncover the beauty found in a large family.
Dasha Peipon is blessed to have the funniest and the kindest Dad, who is also a musician, a great cook, a gardener and a seeker of adventures, and will stop whatever he is doing to have a cup of tea and talk about the day.