“Always remember, there is nothing worth sharing like the love that led to share a name” – The Avett Brothers
Gentlemen, it’s high time that we be honest with ourselves about what it takes to truly excel as fathers. We must learn, and learn to admit, that we can’t raise our children well on our own. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that rings all-too-true.
But who is there to help us and what does it look like?
Now as a preface, in this post I’m going to talk about something that some of you may feel doesn’t directly apply to your current life circumstances. To you I say cool your jets. This is for you, too. You can apply these ideas across genders and marital statuses. If you’re a single dude, separated or divorced, this means thinking about this stuff as you date, if you date, and as you interact with the women in your life on a regular basis. You can even apply this stuff to a non-spouse who serves as a primary caregiver to your children. So here goes…
Men: Pursue your wives.
I’d like to offer up two reasons why I think loving our wives is our first duty in raising our children:
Your spouse is your greatest ally in the fight to win your children’s hearts and to raise them right. By pursuing your spouse—by encouraging her, showing her affection, and taking care of her—you are empowering her to use her gifts and resources to train your kids.
In addition, our relationships with our wives serve as the most important display to our children of what marriage, love and relationship looks like. Our kids will learn from us whether we like it or not. What does it mean to be a man? How am I to be a lady? How ought a boyfriend to treat his girlfriend? What character traits ought I to seek in a spouse? These are questions a young mind will ask. And he will find the answers in the way he sees his father treat his mother.
Having a clear reason to do it, let’s examine how we can make pursuing our wives a reality in the everyday. (At this point, I’d like to just encourage you by saying everybody struggles with this stuff, some men haven’t thought about “dating” their wives in years or decades, and some may even be beyond that—having entirely lost that flame that first ignited the relationship. I truly believe that even in your lack of passionate love for your spouse at this moment, as you choose to honor her and pursue her, the spark will come back and you, your spouse, and kids, will all reap the rewards. I speak to you now as a husband in a pretty effed up marriage….) Here are a couple ideas:
Date Night. Get a babysitter. If you’re strapped for cash, swap sitting services with a neighbor couple you trust. Rules: no movies (because you can’t talk) and no talk about finances. Set a budget ahead of time and agree on it so that you know how much you can spend. Do something you love doing together or try something new. Dessert before dinner is always a great idea. Keep it local so that you have more time to talk without distraction. I always ask my spouse the same question on dates: how can I be a better husband and father? A few of my favorite local Saint Charles area restaurants include: Bien Trucha ($$$ and awesome), Nosh ($$ breakfast), The Office ($$ American/Pub), Pizzeria Neo ($$), and Shakou Sushi ($$).
Flowers? Yep. Ladies love flowers. You don’t even have to go buy them. Go pick them from the neighbor’s yard and throw them in a vase. If she has a favorite, make a point of getting those flowers and not saying anything about it. Then do it again.
Get in shape! Dudes, you’re lying if you say you don’t want girls swooning over your hot bod poolside, on the beach, or wherever. Make your number one girl your number one swoon-seeking priority. Do whatever it takes to make her want you. At the very least, you have a responsibility to keep yourself attractive to her. (All spouses have this responsibility.) Get off the couch and do a DadWOD.
Candles in the bedroom. Buy her coffee and have it delivered. Massage. Start her bath. Leave her a love note. Give her a night out (or in). Don’t expect anything in return for any of it. These things don’t have to cost a lot of money. Do them because you want her to feel loved, secure, important, sexy, whatever. Do it for your kids. Because you need her help.