Fear and loathing in fatherhood
What happens when you can’t bring home the bacon? Sam Cummins examines the role of the provider.
There’s a wide range of concerns facing today’s new dads and – spoiler alert – there’s a whole other raft of new indignities once baby arrives too. If you’re a mum reading this, then take note – or just pass this over for Dad to read.
The concerns can range from the mundane to the ridiculous to the deeply existential, but first, let’s address some of the more common ones.
Yes, you may end up driving a people mover. Who cares? Who you tryin’ to impress? Even Wu-Tang Clan are rollin’ in MPVs. “Dollar, dollar bill y’all”.
Yes, your kid could be a red-head. So what? I’ve got one, and he’s the total man! And easy to spot in a crowd.
Yes, you’re probably not going to get any action for a few months (or maybe longer). Cry me a river. Your great grandfather probably spent months on end fighting in some foreign hell-hole. Think he didn’t miss Grandma’s loving touch? You’ll survive.
Now, I’m generally a big fan of keeping things surface level, it’s just way safer in the shallow end of the pool. But given these economic times, it’s probably pertinent to address one of the more privately held and deep-seated concerns that all dads seem to share – their ability to provide for their family.
This doesn’t just apply to those families who are running trad roles (traditional husband and wife roles) at home either. Pretty much all the dads I spoke to, including situations where they weren’t the primary earner, carried a burden to provide for their families.
People are complex, economic systems are complex, and inter-personal family relationships and expectations are probably even more complex.
How much the burden to provide weighs on your mind is going to depend on a range of predictable factors; your upbringing, your expectations and socio-economic factors, and of course these things will be different for everyone.
I’m not talking about the “If you can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em” rubbish. Anyone who says this is a certified mouth-breather. Because it’s not a bad thing to worry about providing for your whānau, it’s just a part of the responsibility of having one.
There is mana in mahi, and your family is the responsibility of you and your partner. A desire to provide opportunities for your children has been the genesis of many, many good things. Fostering a spirit of self-reliance is probably one of the best things you can pass on to your kids (that, and a love of chores). It’s the key ingredient to freedom too – keeps the State at arm’s length.
The trick here is to use that drive to provide, but not let it define you because you are not what you earn!
Your baby doesn’t care if he’s being driven around in a Lexus or a Toyota. They certainly don’t care about wearing a new outfit for an Instagram photo. And guess what? They also don’t care if they live in a house you rent, or a house you rent from the bank. There are tens of thousands of great dads out there, all working hard to provide for their families, who are never going to own a home.
A good rule of thumb is to ignore anyone who uses the word privilege, because they’ve almost always been over-educated and under-lifed. They’re also ten times more likely to have special dietary requirements.
The fact is that advantage does accrue over time. Your earning potential is largely baked in before you’re born. It’s hard to pull yourself up by your own boot-straps when you can’t even afford boots!
For a lot of families in the current economic climate, storm clouds are on the horizon – there’s no way we’re all getting out of this unscathed. And for some, it may be the first time they’ve been unemployed.
So, if you’ve taken a financial hit or your work is looking a bit shaky, I’d encourage you to be kind to yourself. Try having a frank conversation with your partner, not just about the numbers, but also about how you’re feeling. Remember, whatever you’re facing it’ll be better together, that it’s not just you, that it’s not your fault and that a problem shared is a problem halved. Just provide your kids with a positive environment and they will be A-okay!
Sam Cummins is a funding and policy manager living in the Bay of Plenty with his wife and four sons. Most of his spare time is spent trying to figure out which of his three older boys is yelling ‘Dad!’ Often it’s all of them, and all at the same time.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 51 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW