Maybe you’ve discovered you can’t teach your kids how to throw that nasty curve ball. Or maybe you don’t have a job like the other dads. It’s possible you can’t fix your carburetor or even change your oil. Maybe you lost it and yelled at your kids for the hundredth time, noticing that other guys seem to have more patience. Maybe you’re suddenly single again, trying to raise responsible kids, knowing that you failed in your own marriage. Pick a cultural hallmark of masculinity.
There’s bound to be a place you feel like you don’t measure up as a man. Each of us, at one time or another, feels like a failure or a fraud. So now what? How is it possible to be a good father when it feels like you don’t even have what it takes to be a capable man? Here are 5 things to remember when you are feeling like a failure.
1. Recognize perfect is a myth.
Failures, deficiencies, and short-comings are all part of being a man and a father. You don’t lose your man card or your responsibilities as a father simply because bad things happen, or you screw something up, or lack know-how. Give yourself some grace. You don’t have to be a smash success all the time. This attitude might free you to enjoy the things you are good at instead of merely pouring over your flaws. Stay the course: your record as a parent will outlast this moment of deficiency. Failures happen, but they are not the whole story.
2. Be wisely transparent.
Admit the places you are weak. Even better, own the times you’ve straight-up failed in parenting or fallen short of what a “good man” would do. Your kids won’t be perfect, either. It is a gift to children when fathers demonstrate with their example what it looks like to recover from failure and keep moving. Embrace the fact that mistakes and failures are some of the richest material for parenting imperfect people. Be a learning laboratory for your kids.
3. Beware of self-pity.
Grief and sorrow, very different than self-pity, can be appropriate and healthy responses to genuinely painful life circumstances. Self-pity, though, adopts a posture of helpless self-indulgence. Part of successful fathering is “other-focus,” a mentality that intentionally leverages “my strength and resources for your benefit.” Beware of excessive self-absorption and self-pity that robs men of the outward exercise of love.
4. Watch where you get your identity.
Skill with power tools isn’t the same thing as being a good father. Neither is your employment. That makes providing for your family an ingredient of being a good dad, but not the whole enchilada. Don’t reduce your identity as a father down to what is supposed to be a component, an ingredient, only.
5. Move toward your kids.
Children need their fathers regardless of what dad is feeling about himself on the inside.A sense of shame over failure is a haunting, lonely experience. But it is very likely that you are feeling a lot of things your kids aren’t putting on you. Consequently, you might have to commit to pursuing relationships with your kids through obstacles only you are experiencing. You don’t have to feel strong and courageous to do this. You just have to hug your kid, stay curious about their life, and strike up a conversation rather than retreat into fearful, retreating silence. Children need their fathers regardless of what dad is feeling about himself on the inside.
Grace, transparency, watchfulness, and purpose. These key concepts can help anchor you in the times you feel like a failure as a dad or as a man. Feelings like these can make you want to retreat. Don’t. There’s more to you than your momentary setback. You’ve got what it takes.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some places that you feel like you’re not good enough?”