Monday, March 24, 2008
There are many stereotypes and preconceived notions about what it means to be a "Dad." In general, the perception is that Dads are default parents, or the one who is 'on-call' for times when Mom has something else to do. The truth is there are many kinds of dads - good and bad - just like there are many kinds of moms or grandparents or friends.
One of the reasons I started this site was to help me discover more about what kind of dad I am. It helps me to learn by writing things down, so why not chronicle one of the most intensive learning experiences a man can have in his life? I've been a father for more than 13 years, and I've definitely learned and changed a lot in that time.
In thinking about all of the dads I've known throughout my life, I came up with a list of 20 Kinds of Dads. Most dads are multifaceted, but they tend have 1 or 2 dominant themes based on personality, strengths and circumstance.
Here's the list of 20 Kinds of Dads:
1. The Provider - this is the stereotypical role of a father. The one who works to support his family, so that mom can focus on taking care of the kids and home. You gain satisfaction by providing for the needs, wants and financial security of your family. You work hard for yourself and others, and your primary role is that of a worker. You are involved with the kids when work permits; however, you also tend to feel like you've 'earned' the right to do things for yourself, like golf, gamble or go out with friends. You like to spend time with family, but their schedule revolves around yours.
2. The Figurehead - you are the primary decision-maker of all 'big' things regarding your family. Your position is one of authority, and the kids are often kept at arms length because it's easier to control them that way. You love your children and they love you; however, if they need support or attention, then they go to mom, a sibling or the nanny. You are the head-of-household and leader of the clan. It is your job to set direction and keep the family moving forward, according to goals and objectives.
3. The SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) - you are the primary parent in charge of taking care of the kids. Your wife or partner works outside of the home, and your family does not have anything more than part-time daycare. It is your job to manage the day-to-day activities of the kids, and you are responsible for their growth and development. You take care of the house, chores and errands. Part of your job is make sure that things are taken care of at home, so that mom can spend time with the kids (and give you a break) when she's not working.
4. The New Dad - your wife is pregnant, or you have just recently become a father for the first time. You are overwhelmed at all of the changes happening in your life. The amount of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis about the baby is confusing, and you probably feel clueless the majority of the time. You feel guilty for wanting to do the things you did before becoming a dad - you're learning how selfish a life without kids really is for most people. Every time your baby does something new, though, you know that you made the right decision to become a parent.
5. The Divorced Dad - you are a part-time dad because your kids live with their mother. You are divorced, and whether or not you share custody, your interactions with the kids are limited to visitations. You are not privy to the daily activities of your kids, so you must find creative ways to connect with them and stay informed about their lives. Visitations are often treated as "events," so you fill them with lots of fun activities. You struggle with feelings of guilt, loss and/or failure. You are constantly faced with the challenge of staying connected with your kids or slowly drifting apart from them. Even with the best of efforts on your part, you're diligence is rarely rewarded or recognized at the time, even though it should give you some peace of mind and satisfaction knowing that you haven't abandoned your role as dad.
6. The Single Dad - you are the primary parent by necessity. Your child's mother is gone for whatever reason, or you have chosen to adopt a child on your own. Either way, you are completely responsible for your child's well-being, growth and development. You are often overwhelmed with trying to find a work-life balance, and it is difficult for you to have a life outside of work and parenting. You may rely heavily on a support network of extended family, but you are acutely aware that your child is 100% dependent on you.
7. The Deadbeat Dad - you are a biological father only. You do not care for your kids emotionally, physically or materially. You have abandoned your role as dad, and someone should beat some sense into you. Wake up! What's wrong with you? You have failed to take responsibility for your own actions (having sex and producing a baby). You are a loser. Pull your head out of your ass and start doing the right thing. At a minimum, you have a financial responsibility to ensure that your kids have food, clothing and shelter, as well as an education so they don't grow up to be an idiot like you.
8. The Abuser - you are a small and pathetic man who makes himself feel better by verbally, physically or sexually abusing your child. You are selfish, sick and demented. You should never have become a father in the first place. You use subversive means to control others for your own gain and benefit. You knowingly and willingly violate the basic principles of parenthood, which are love, trust and protection. You are good at concealing your sickness and behavior, but inside you know that one day you will pay for your actions. You are a bastard and a deviant, and you deserve nothing good in life.
9. The Doofus - you are the dad who likes to play dumb. "I don't know how to change a diaper," or "I'm not equipped to deal with teenage angst or puberty." Basically, you're a decent guy and OK dad, but you're lazy. You only do the things that you think are fun with the kids. You laugh, joke and tease, and they probably think you're a pushover. Mom does all of the heavy lifting. Your goofball antics may seem fun and amusing to you, but in reality, you are missing out on the real stuff that comes from being involved in both the good and bad things happening with your kids. Grow up! You're not a child or their friend - you're their parent, act like it.
10. The Disciplinarian - whether you're the primary parent or not, you are the one in charge of formally disciplining the kids. You decide and administer all punishment. As a result, the kids love and fear you. At times, you may wish that these duties were shared more with mom because its tiresome being the "bad guy" (and mom being the "nice one"). You know and understand that discipline is an important part of development for your kids, so you try to teach them responsibility, justice and accountability. You also spend time explaining why certain actions have consequences, so that the kids learn from their mistakes.
11. The Referee - you are the one in the middle between your kids and each other and/or your kids and mom. It is your job to resolve conflicts within the home. Being a man, this is not always easy, as it requires lots of empathy and excellent listening skills (neither of which are common strengths for most of us). You don't mind resolving issues, if mom and the kids are receptive to your advice and decisions. It is frustrating, though, to deal with the same problems over and over again. Your goal is to achieve peace and harmony in the family, as well as encouraging everyone to play nice.
12. The Coach - another traditional role of dads is to be a Coach of one of your kids' teams. This is often a fun way to connect and see your kids interact in a group setting. You gain great satisfaction by teaching them to share, compete and achieve goals. You like to see your kids participate in competitive activities (and win), although you are proud of them for doing their best whether they win or lose. The strategies you use as a coach often spill over into the home. Unfortunately, the playbook for how to be a good father isn't as easy to understand as those used for sports or other activities.
13. The Fixer - you are the master repair man of the home. You enjoy helping your kids, and it gives you great satisfaction to see the look on their face when you hand them a repaired toy, doll or bike. You make chores and work around the house fun for the kids, and they enjoy spending time helping you. You like to teach the kids how to be industrious and useful. They learn a lot of handy skills from you. At times, you may feel like you struggle to find other ways to connect with them on a personal level. Master Fixers, though, understand how to apply the principles of fixing things to fixing problems kids bring to you in life. You can't fix everything for them, but you can empower kids by teaching them how to fix things for themselves.
14. The Outdoorsman - you are the dad who takes the kids hiking, fishing and/or hunting. You love the outdoors, so you find lots of ways to include the kids in these activities. It gives you satisfaction teaching your kids to appreciate nature, physical activity and sportsmanship. You take pride in being there when they catch their first fish, learn to drive the boat, or gut their first deer. You instill a spirit of adventure in your kids, and they remember the unique experiences you share with them for years (or their entire lives). The downside is that you may not give a lot of attention to the everyday details of things happening in their lives, which is where a lot of good stuff happens.
15. The Tech Guy - you are the dad who knows everything about computers, cell phones, digital cameras, the Internet, gaming systems and all things technological. You like to play video games with the kids, and they feel comfortable text messaging you with questions. Your kids know that you monitor their use of technology diligently, and even though you appreciate the benefits of these things, you also know that kids use of them needs to be moderated. You may think of yourself as being either edgy or a geek. Your kids think that it's cool that dad likes a lot of the same things they do. Every once in a while, you struggle to find other activities to do with the kids to round out their life experience.
16. The Protector - your primary concern is protecting your kids and family from things that might hurt them or negatively impact their lives. You are the kind of dad who spends a lot of time making sure the house is 'baby-proofed' and all things potentially harmful are secure and out of reach. You tell your kids often about the dangers in the world, and you assure them that you won't let anything bad happen. Your family knows they can count on your for security and protection. The problem is that you can't protect them from themselves, and this causes a considerable amount of stress in your life. You feel good about creating a safe environment for the kids, but it's hard for you to let go and allow them to make mistakes on their own.
17. The Scapegoat - everything that goes wrong at home, or in the kids' lives, is your fault. You are the object of blame for the kids, and they have potentially learned this behavior from mom or other family members. You are the 'whipping boy' of the family, and you struggle with feelings of parental impotence. Your kids take advantage of you because you let them. It's easier for you to be the victim, for whatever reason, even though you know it is teaching your kids to have a lack of respect for adults or peers. As the expression goes, you need to grow a set and be a man.
18. The Deaf Ear - you are the ultimate disengaged father. Your kids talk to you, but you don't hear them. You are either self-absorbed or disinterested for a variety of reasons (depression, exhaustion, marital problems, work issues). You go through all of the motions of being a father, but you're only there in body not spirit. You love your kids, but you're not really there for them or genuinely involved in their lives. As a result, your kids drift away, rebel for attention and, oftentimes, latch on to a boyfriend or girlfriend as a substitute. When you ask things like, "Why didn't you talk to me before you got pregnant?" Your teenage daughter will say, "I did. You never listened." Snap out of it man - your kids need you.
19. The Stepdad - while you are technically a dad by virtue of marriage only, you have the ability to choose to be any kind of regular dad that you want. You probably struggle with feelings of acceptance by the kids, as well as your own perception of your fatherly responsibilities. The situation is influenced by the strength of relations between the kids and their biological father, if he is involved and present or not. Either way, you are still in a parental role, and your ability to influence a child's life is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. You should feel good about trying to be a good influence and helping the kids positively deal with problems as they come.
20. The Good Dad - you are the dad that kids love and respect; adore and honor; and, obey and follow. You know that you're not Superman, but your kids think you are. You show the kids that you genuinely care about them by being involved in every aspect of their lives. You set a good example for them in the way you treat their mother, and others, with respect and dignity. You set high expectations for your kids, but you also empower them to succeed. You are a servant leader in the home, and you make life better for everyone in the family. You love your kids very much, but you understand that there is no true love without accountability. You are quick to discipline, but you spend more time telling kids what they do right than what they do wrong. You are a shoulder to cry on; a helping hand; the rock; and, a good man. You feel fortunate and blessed to be a dad, and you are thankful for your children in every way.
There are many kinds of dad, even more than the 20 listed here. As in most walks of life, there are good and bad dads, and most of us have some of both characteristics by nature. We evolve in our role over time, as we learn from mistakes and grow through experience.
One thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as a "stereotypical" dad - we are all unique. I'm learning how to be a Good Dad. What kind of dad are you? Please feel free to share in the comments.
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