Fatherhood is a journey marked with unparalleled joys, unexpected challenges, and profound introspection. The delightful moments - showering my children with affection, saying "I love you", teaching them to throw a baseball - these came naturally to me. The intricate dance of parenting has, however, also held up a mirror to myself, revealing aspects I hadn't known or acknowledged. This mirror, reflecting my attitudes and behaviors through the impressionable eyes of my children, has been the most challenging aspect of fatherhood.
To my surprise, I realized I was angrier than I had perceived myself to be. Moments of frustration unveiled an impatience I didn't realize existed within me. And, contrary to the idealized notion of parenthood, I found that I didn't relish sharing every moment of my time as I'd imagined. These revelations, contrasting sharply with my self-image, have been difficult to digest.
Coming to terms with these realities shattered many of my preconceived ideas about who I am. It was an experience filled with discomfort and often, pain. However, it has also been the cornerstone of profound change and growth in my life. Research has found that fatherhood often serves as a catalyst for personal growth and transformation. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology highlights that becoming a parent can bring about significant changes in a person's values, attitudes, behaviors, and identity (1).
Facing these difficult truths, the ones I had conveniently ignored for years, was a challenging yet essential step. When people ask me, "What's the hardest thing about being a dad?" - the answer lies not in the external challenges of parenting. It's about the radical self-discovery and reorientation that the journey of fatherhood has triggered in me.
One of the greatest gifts of fatherhood is this opportunity for self-reflection and growth. We're presented with a crystal-clear view of our virtues and flaws, giving us the choice to embrace personal growth and depth. However, the decision to accept this gift and act upon it rests solely with us.
So, the pressing question remains: Will we dare to choose growth? Will we dare to view these revelations not as indictments, but as opportunities to become better versions of ourselves, not only for us but for our children who look up to us?
1. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (2008). Parenthood as a Moral Transformation.