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Focus on Fathers

"Good Enough" Dads

By Cheryl Peachey Stoner
Hesston KS USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 2, March-April 2005, p. 74

I always admire the fathers featured in this column, sensitive dads who seem so in tune with the needs of their families. Fathers who spend every moment at home playing with their babies. Papas who take turns getting up with the children at night, changing diapers, and giving baths. But I admit to wondering about where these men exist. Most of the dads I know, including my own husband, come up a little short in comparison.

One thing I've learned in La Leche League is that all you need to do is trust your baby to let you know his needs, and trust yourself to meet them. If you can do that, then all the unsolicited advice from strangers at the supermarket is like water off a duck's back. And all the directions in parenting books can be just the icing on the cake. You can be secure enough to "take what you need and leave the rest." If you are in tune with your baby, you are all the mother your baby will ever need. It's not about striving to be some impossible idea of a perfect mother. You are "good enough."

The same is true for fathers. It's hard to know what we can expect of fathers, sometimes. We want them to be good providers. We want them to maintain and improve our homes, and to do their "fair share" of the housework. And we want them to spend as much time as possible with their children, playing, teaching, working, and being their role model for what it means to be a man. We also want them to be nurturing partners, oftentimes knowing our thoughts, feelings, and dreams without us telling them.

When we look at those expectations, we have to admit that no mortal could live up to them! We can't expect them to be superdads any more than we can live up to the impossible image of being supermoms. So, what can we expect?

Just as we allow ourselves to be "good enough" for our children we need to let go of our expectations of perfection in their fathers. Your children's father may not be able to tune in to your emotions with empathy without your telling him. He may have to be at work longer than you'd like every day. He may lose his temper, leave his underwear on the floor, or otherwise show that he is human. He may live in a different house from you and your children.

But if he has let himself fall in love with his children, and is with you on that roller-coaster ride of parenthood, then he is all the father they will ever need. He certainly isn't perfect, but he is "good enough." Thank goodness for good-enough fathers! I love my sons' good-enough father, my imperfect husband, beyond all reason.

Remember, the ultimate grace is that, despite your shared imperfect humanity, your little ones still think that you are supermom and superdad!

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