It is very easy to sermonize, and I am definitely a victim of this nasty. I also like to call myself a victim to reduce the guilt that comes with this preachy habit. My wife & I make an effort to blur the line between “Mum & Dad”, to view them as salutations rather than job roles. This isn’t unintentional, but doesn't always work either.
Not a lot of parenting happens intentionally. Even when there is intent, circumstance will flip it on its head. But being ready and in-the-know never hurt. Businesses invest a lot of money on strategy, so it is a responsible move as a family to invest the time in planning.
I think most mothers are inclined to prepare themselves for parenting. Biology could be to thank here. Fathers on the other hand feign ignorance or cite busy schedules as an excuse to avoid coming to terms. Like and ostrich burying its head in the sand, fatherhood doesn't happen till it happens. While everyone is a victim of accidental parenting, i think us fathers can make an effort to reduce these instances.
Part of being a good parent in the 21st century is committing to lifelong learning. Unlike our parents and theirs before, we live in the age of information, which brings with it the responsibility to keep up. I guess a part of committing to anything requires an openness to constant learning. As long as you are just to the cause of self-development, your style shouldn't matter as much as your will. I know my wife will vehemently disagree with my assessment of this, possibly because as parents, we rely too heavily on her research to learn.
Given that my wife is a teacher, the question of preparation didn't even come up. I was given the text and instructed to read. I did make excuses and quite successfully got my wife to bed-time read them aloud. I can be quite convincing when I want to get my way. So, we learnt together.
We discussed and debated everything. Not everything we read made sense, but when our little one came along, we were glad for it.
From my own experience, the biggest challenge to this education started when I was a dad-to-be. There just aren’t enough resources talking to men. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of resources packed for fathers and fathers-to-be. Before I used charm to get my wife to podcast her reading, I did attempt to comprehend a widely popular text on parenting. A cup of coffee in one hand and heart full of intention, I began reading. While it was interesting, it was only 96 pages later that I come across the section for fathers. It was a quiet few pages, nested away, with options of how men can be more involved.
If you view family as transactional, which can happen over time, then the “option of involvement” is a great thing. It gives men the opportunity to skim the surface of parenting, and live life like an episode of “Mad Men”. As exciting as that may be to some, I don't think the modern woman would allow that and eventually even your child will begin to protest.
But if you are an involved father, then it’s likely you were probably a little intimidated as well. It’s a Mums World out there with so much Mother Care that unless you run a ‘Mom & Pop’ shop, you seldom get referenced. But if you do consciously avoid judging a book by its cover, then those 96 pages we actually quite informational. So were the mid-night reading sessions and the coffee date debates. You may not be the one nursing, but it never hurts to know the science behind a child’s nutrition.
Men are hardwired to take charge of their destiny, so it is a good idea to take charge of the learning. The pursuit of knowledge can be addictive and being part of the planning can only reduce our excuses for unintentional parenting.
Vickram Agarwal is a digital and technology entrepreneur who founded Stroke Consulting in 2011 and Daddy’s Digest in 2018. He is currently Partner & Managing Director at the Black Rock Marketing Group in Toronto, Canada. In addition to being a business leader, he serves as an Advisor and Board Member to several non-profits.