The Best Father You Can Be

Being a father is the most important thing in my life. It's the biggest commitment I've ever made. And it has presented me with both the hardest challenges and the greatest satisfaction I know.

One of my passions in writing this column is to support dads who are also trying to be the best fathers they can be. There are some real obstacles to men on this path. But meeting these challenges can make fatherhood all the more rewarding.

Competing Life Goals

I always knew I wanted to be a father. I also knew I wanted to be a musician, an author, a carpenter, a psychotherapist, an athlete, a farmer, a teacher, etc. etc. etc. My head has been full of career dreams ever since I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. As I envisioned my life I figured I would do "the father part" along side all the other dreams. Little did I know that being a father would put almost everything else on the back burner.

I remember my daughter, Molly, as a toddler calling to me from the climbing structure at the park. It was hard for her to get my attention away from the list of things to do I held in my hand. I wanted so badly to be able to cross something off that list. Once again, however, I had to fold the paper up and stick it back in my pocket. The kids on the hanging bridge needed a big scary troll under them, and that was more important in the moment.

Earning an income for the family is a crucial goal that often competes with having time for direct care giving. Fathers sometimes find their income producing services are so necessary that they get very little daily contact with their children. This is unfortunate, since children also need as much time with their fathers as they can get.

What is a greater tragedy, however, is when fathers unnecessarily devote inordinate amounts of time to their career, and miss their chance to be a loving presence to their children.

© 2008, Tim Hartnett

Other Father Issues, Books

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Your children need your presence more than your presents. - Jesse Jackson

Tim Hartnett, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Santa Cruz, CA. He specializes in Individual Counseling, Couples Therapy, and Divorce Mediation. He can be reached at 831.464.2922 or through his website:

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