What It Means to Be a Father

What it means to be a father — how does that look?

This is a question I seem to ask myself every single day. Every time I see my son and daughter. It’s a question that keeps me up at night. It’s one of the biggest fears I have; not knowing the answers and not being the father they deserve.

I’m new to this. I’m only three years old as a father. But, I learn every single day, small snippets here and there. Over time they accumulate. Right, wrong or indifferent I’m gathering the components of what I think creates a father my children deserve.

The beautiful thing, and something to realize and accept, is that being a father is a constant work in progress. As my children evolve, I myself as a father must evolve. Each and every day I am learning, growing, questioning and being challenged.

Becoming a father is a hat that I’ve always looked forward to wearing. It’s something, as a kid, I envisioned doing with my children; playing catch, wrestling, reading, shooting hoops, jumping in puddles.

At the same time, I never envisioned or gave thought to the being part. Two different things, two enormously different purposes.

As I grow and become more aware of being a father, here are a few things that I have found, as of now, that serve as a foundation for me in what it means to be a father.

I take care of myself first.

Spiritually, emotionally and physically I make space in my day to take care of myself. The year Brody was born I was extremely stressful. There were lots of different sources leading to my stress and high anxiety. I was living from my outer world not paying any attention to my inner world.

The more I explored my inner self the more I realized that if I want to eliminate the stress and anxiety that was ruminating in my outer world, I had to take care of myself first.

This has provided me with a level of awareness that I haven’t ever had before. I’ve widened the gap between stimulus and response leaving space for myself to make choices in everything I do. It’s being aware of how to respond to things instead of reacting to them.

It’s impacted my relationships within my home and outside. In order for me to be a father, I have to work on being my best self. This is an important element into the father I am and to the father, and holistically the person, I am becoming.

I take care of myself first so I can give my best self to my family and to others. To make a difference and be part of something much larger than just myself.

I focus, wholeheartedly, on the present moment.

We live in a world of distractions, thus technology serving as a double edged sword. I would, and still do, find myself looking at my phone while my son is trying to get my attention; to tell me a story, or to ask me to battle with him, or to just wanting me to notice him.

As I began to take care of myself I have become more aware of this behavior. Nipping it in the butt sooner, or eliminating it all together.

Regardless, being present and only focusing on him while we are playing or talking is part of being a father. It’s embracing the mundane moments we tend to gloss over thinking that they don’t matter.

These are life’s precious moments; waiting in the grocery line with my son, driving home from daycare talking about his day, initiating a spontaneous dance party, making up lyrics to our favorite songs.

Being a father is being present. It’s simply being there, wholeheartedly. Tweet this

I live through my authentic self.

I don’t want my kids to think I am someone that I am not. I want them to know that I can’t fix everything, I don’t have all the answers, I’v made mistakes, I’m not the strongest, I’m not perfect (that there’s no such thing as perfect), and that I have lots of flaws.

I’ve learned to discuss my flaws with my son (the same will go for my daughter as she gets older). But, I apologize how I overreacted and let him know that it’s a flaw of mine that I am not proud of. I tell him that I am working hard to fix it, that it’s a constant work in progress.

What I want them to see is that I always give it my best in everything that I do. I want them to see me accepting the mistakes I’ve made. I want them to see me owning my flaws and that I am working to fix them. I want them to see the imperfections that illuminate within me, but that they are the very imperfections that make me who I am.

By being my authentic self, I want my children to feel that they can be their authentic self regardless of what outside influences might come over them.

“The question isn’t so much “Are you parenting the right way?” as it is “Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?” – Brene Brown

That’s really the question.

Am I being the person I want my children to grow up to be? Am I engaging with the world how I want my children to grow up engaging with the world? It’s what I ask myself everyday. It’s something I am mindful of each time I see my children.

Part of answering that is knowing that I am parenting from the foundation of taking care of myself first, being present and being my authentic self. The ‘what it means to be a father’ tends to take care of itself.

It takes intentional effort. It’s not always roses and butterflies. There are bad days and even worse days. But the more I function from this foundation the good, and even great, days out number anything else.

To me. That’s what it means to be a father.

This post originally appeared on The Real Moms of Eastern Iowa.

Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll

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About Eric Ungs

Eric Ungs writes about a journey of intentional self growth, nudging you to let go; to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and honest with yourself so you can give your best self to others. Author of 10 Incredible Ways to Live a Fulfilling and Joyful Life ebook.


  1. Jen

    Congratulations on your new arrival. I agree wholeheartedly about being present. Being a parent is tough, mine are teens now, the challenges are different, but it doesn’t get easier. Especially the fear of not being good enough.

    1. Eric Ungs

      Thanks Jen! 🙂

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