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Men At Work

Warwick Pudney, author of “Beginning Fatherhood” has examined what ‘work’ means for a new father.

A strong provider role can get in the way of being an involved father. The most powerful switch to go on for the new father when he and his partner become pregnant is – the provider. It’s not just, “We’ve got more overheads. We’ll have to watch the money now, “or” There’s only one income now”.

It goes far deeper than that. There’s a whole change in the new dad’s being and mostly it’s unconscious. Going into the provider role usually means some degree of shutting down emotionally, being strong, distancing and certainly not being there so much. That’s not good for babies and partnerships.

Every scrap of modern thinking about occupational gender equity, her job being important, being there at this important time; is liable to go out the door. It takes a clear thinking and a strong-willed man to stay on course and not sell his soul to work. With women seeking to stay in the paid workforce it’s a great opportunity for fathers to be less responsible for providing.

The model that we got from our dads is one of “Work hard for your family and watch them grow”.

That’s exactly what many young men are still doing – following in their fathers footsteps as workhorses for their family with 40-60 hour weeks. Hardworking providers can easily find themselves on the edge of a very fine family watching them grow, rather than being there with them and being part of the growing.

That’s why its often so easy to decide who gets the kids when they break up, because he’s been doing such a good job as a provider he hasn’t been there in the middle of it all. The mother is often the centre and core of the family instead of it being a shared role.

Mother then becomes the gatekeeper of his parenting and he parents second-hand through her. Voices such as “George will you just read Michelle a story?”, “Brian, don’t forget to pick Kevin up from football, and “You will be home in time for Jackie’s birthday tea, won’t you?”, tell a story of mother directing the parenting instead of a man who has taken on the role of father for himself and is thinking about how to do it.

That then means two parents having to talk about the best way of parenting because he’s got some ideas of his own.

So; “What are ya? – A father or a mother-helper?” Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with two parents helping each other. That’s how it’s done. This is about thinking about being a father all the time and consciously doing it.

The goodies are heaps of fun with your kids, respect from them, your son or daughter coming to you when they are hurt or need help, greater trust in you to meet their needs and about having a relationship which is yours, not parenting in the shadow of your partner. For her it means less worry, less responsibility, less work and more trust.

So what’s the biggest thing to get in the way of all this? Invariably it is work. New fathers need to work less not more. Time and time again I hear new fathers switch on like clockwork when the baby is born and before the birth, with statements like “I’ll have to be a bit more responsible now”.

Some of this throwing himself into work rather than parenting may be from a need for him to feel important because he feels rather dumb around babies, or from a sense of generativity gained from work, while she celebrates her generativity by having carried a child. Our society also strongly rewards the father who works by measuring him as “successful” or a “ good provider”. Women too may seek men who are “good providers”.

But consider the cost.

Ron: “ I thought I was doing it right, I mean driving 70 hours a week to earn a lot of money so my wife and kids could have everything they needed. Then my wife asked me to leave.

She said she wanted a relationship. I still had to drive 60 hours a week to pay the maintenance, and some other fella moved in”.

Imagine lying on your sickbed at the end of your life. I bet you’re more likely to be saying “I wish I’d spent more time with my kids” than “I wish I’d spend more time at work”.

Don’t go into the driven provider role. Stay with your family and enjoy two relationships not just one.
Remember, work less-enjoy more.

Here’s some ideas from “Beginning Fatherhood” on reducing your weekly financial needs so that you can enjoy the relationships of your family:

  • Save for the event so that you can have time off together.
  • Save beforehand so that you can earn less each week
  • Pay off the mortgage first.
  • Move to a cheaper house.
  • Move to a cheaper town or suburb.
  • Run one less car or a smaller one.
  • Have friends who understand that you need to spend less.
  • Extend the period of your mortgage.
  • Reduce the payments of your mortgage.
  • Reduce other payments in your budget. – insurance, bank cards, memberships,
    subscriptions, alcohol, etc.
  • Not everything has to be new. Accept gifts of second-hand furniture.
  • Enjoy sharing the provider role with your partner.

Next: Father Of Three

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