I’m about to celebrate my first official Father’s Day, as my wife is due any day now. To be honest, I’m overwhelmed. What’s the most important quality for a good father to have?
Caroline: I thought I’d answer this “solo” so you could hear a wife’s point of view. First, know how irreplaceable you are in your child’s life. Right now you may be tempted to feel unnecessary.
It’s true that the early days of your baby’s life will be centered on Mommy as she experiences the peaks and valleys of labor, delivery and nursing. But not only does your wife need you desperately; your baby does, too. You can bond with the baby right along with your wife.
When our oldest, Christopher, was just a few weeks old he would stare intensely at his dad for long periods of time, as if he were memorizing every facial detail. And just because your wife may be breastfeeding the baby doesn’t mean you won’t have a role. You’ll be able to do everything else — and you should. You can change, bathe, stroll, rock and, Tom’s favorite, nap with the baby. I have countless pictures of Tom in the recliner with a newborn resting comfortably on his chest.
Beyond that, the critical thing you can do is maintain a close relationship with the Lord. What better model is there than God the Father? Recommit yourself to daily prayer and, if possible, daily Mass. A new family needs God’s grace more than ever, and you can be the vehicle for it.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am that my husband Tom is a man of deep faith. When he makes decisions for our family, I can be confident that he has prayed about them and wants to do God’s will. It is a deep comfort to me and our children, who are now older and can understand.
If you’re feeling lukewarm in the faith, seek out a Catholic men’s group or conference and ask the Holy Spirit for renewal. A few weeks before we had Christopher, Tom attended a fatherhood seminar given by Steve Wood that completely fired him up and made him ready to embrace being a father. He said it was the perfect preparation.
Also be a man ready to sacrifice. When you bring a child into the world, there is no more room for selfishness. Dads (and Moms, too) can resent this and mope, longing for the “good ol’ days” of nights out, or weekends free for golf. Parenthood offers a chance to embrace a life of sacrifice, of putting our own wishes aside for the good of our spouse and children.
When you joyfully embrace sacrifice as a dad, you won’t believe the rewards. After all, “Children really are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of the parents” (Gaudium et Spes). We don’t have a baby in the house right now and our oldest can finally babysit, so we could go out anytime. But you know what? Most times we’d rather do something fun with the kids. Showing our children movies we loved when we were their age is priceless, as is taking them to see great movies on the big screen.
Pope John Paul II repeatedly put it so well: “Man only finds himself through a sincere gift of self.” Happy Father’s Day!
The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the
Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.