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The Father Effect – Reflections of an aspiring dad

Fatherhood and its impact, now more than ever in this age of the millennials and Generation Z’s, continues to be an interestingly documented objective phenomenon. The importance of dads has, until recently, been neglected and it is time we made up for lost time and appreciated the importance of fathers in a child’s development. In a bid to shift attention from the largely dominant motherhood on parenting studies, researchers are trying to answer the million-dollar question, what exactly makes a good dad?

An interestingly essential topic during these unprecedented times of COVID – 19, the Strathmore University Staff Wellness series gave many aspiring and “veteran” fathers a chance to reflect, rethink, and re-invent themselves as the protectors, counsellors, and providers of their homes. A rare men’s webinar session held on 20 July and moderated by Mr. James Nyiha, Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, was truly mind-provoking and eye-opening.

Drawing the line between fatherhood and work-life balance

A sensitive yet generally ignored aspect of professionals is creating an equilibrium between their professional, personal, and family life. This involves juggling workplace stress with the daily pressures of family, friends, and self and prioritizing each accordingly. To most fathers, this equilibrium is ever elusive.

According to Mr. Nyiha, when fathers feel a greater sense of control and ownership over their own lives, they tend to have better relationships with both management and, most importantly, family. This creates a kind of maturity that enables them to leave work issues at work and home issues at home.

Fathers play a bigger role than being a provider. They provide wisdom, guidance and leadership for the family, especially their children. This debunks the myth that material comfort is all children need. The random gifting and material comfort, therefore, becomes a great disservice to the children when all they want and need is a loving home with a father present.

Mr. Nyiha went on to present a father’s job description with the first Key Performance Indicator (KPI) being the broad understanding of a parent’s mission. This informs the second and third KPI, which are protecting both the wife and children from any form of harm, and understanding the integrity and unity of life respectively. The latter carries the heaviest weight, with the man at work and the man at home being required, as a matter of necessity, to be equal in the priority ladder. There lies an intricate balance between the two but the scale ought to always lean towards family taking precedence. A take home from this astute and wise man was “Always consult your wife”.

The Father as a Parent

The reality is that this pandemic has upended family life in almost every home. Closure of schools, working remotely, maintaining physical distancing — it is a lot to take in and normalize for anyone, but especially for parents. We are now forced to see and deal with the good and the not so good of our kin on a daily basis.

Children and teens are now spending a lot more time online. While this is helpful as far as curbing the spread of the virus and continuing with their lives, it also presents risks and dangers. Parental control in terms of monitoring a child’s internet usage is quite a test. Mr. Nyiha’s take was, as a policy maker, it is a father’s job to give direction on how things are handled in the home. Borrowing from his own leaf, he advises having a common area for gadgets and their usage in open areas around the house. This, he says, reduces temptations to veer off into undesirable internet usage. A great tool to handle this is https://www.commonsensemedia.org/.

Fathers employ a significantly different parenting style. They play, build, communicate, discipline, and love differently. They prepare children for the real world and provide a look at the world of men. They are far more than just “second adults”; they bring positive benefits to their children that no other person will provide.

To set a safe space of openness and trust, and to foster better relationships at home, proper dads must show the family how to have fun together. Engaging everyone creatively with the help of the wife through activities such as book reading, having meals together after saying grace, hiking, or a do it yourself (DIY) not only enriches bonding, it also presents an opportunity for training and teaching the children key virtues such as fortitude.

Demystifying traditional beliefs such as the role of genders at home would effectively work if the father just participates in the chores such as doing the dishes, cooking, or even changing that smelly diaper. In Good, Better, Best, author Esther Esteban focuses on five work-related habits: diligence, order, responsibility, cooperation, and cheerfulness. Fathers ought to motivate children to do their work, and to sustain and complete tasks well.

Fatherhood is a mixed bag of fun, fury, and failure. However, there is so much to be gained. These are the sentiments of Jonathan Last, editor of “The Dadly Virtues: Adventures from the worst job you’ll ever love”. Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad. So quit being retrogressive; adapt, and become a dad. The children will appreciate this more.

Handling cabin fever

Finally, never ever let your kids know you are at loggerheads with your wife. Protect them from the inevitable time-to-time domestic warfare by always holding marital conversations out of their sight and resolving them amicably in a diplomatic manner privately. The same goes for corporal punishment to children. Instead, inculcate a culture of holding conversations and making them understand their wrongs. Thereafter, you can take away some of their beloved privileges. It is not the African way, but it works like magic…

Utilize everything in your power to create the “Father Effect” concludes Mr. Nyiha.

Mr. Nyiha recommended a deep read of “Father: The Family Protector” by James Stenson, one of the books regarded as fatherhood bibles, for a better understanding of a father’s job description.

 

This article was written by Francis Kabutu.

 

Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu

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