She looked at him with big, open, eyes and he did his best to hold her—this mass of slippery, waxy, newborn fragility.
Something triggered deep inside him. It wrenched at his heart, cracking it open with joy; it wrenched at his gut, waking a primeval fear he’d never felt before. He looked up at the midwife, half-hoping she’d save him and take the little bundle back into her capable hands. But the midwife just smiled at the man who, to her, appeared strongly confident as he held his first child.
“Welcome to your new daughter,” she said, before turning her back on him to tend to the mother.
And so began a journey that was to totally overturn his life as he knew it—one that led him from the horrors of sleep deprivation, the lack of sexual intimacy with his wife and the lows of worrying about how to keep his innocent daughter from harm, into the highs of watching her first wobbles, her first school show, her first ‘I love you, Daddy.’
Like many fathers, he struggled with whether to follow in his own father’s footsteps by being the semi-absent paternal figure who ruled from a distance while keeping the family in material comfort.
As an older father, he’d already watched some of his friends follow a similar path. They had thrown themselves head-long into careers, working early mornings and late into the evenings, sure that it was the best way to be a father. But he wasn’t sure that was what he wanted, nor was he sure that some of his friends weren’t just using it as a cop-out, as a way of avoiding awkward questions that lurked in the back of their minds.
Was that really what being a father meant—helping to set the rules, playing ball with the kids at the weekends and making sure there was enough money in the house?
If it was, then he wasn’t sure he really wanted to be a father at all.
For men, like my friend here, who choose not to go the conventional route of enacting the paternal role by limiting themselves to the modern equivalent of the hunter, there are few role models to follow. They are courageously forging a new way, though perhaps also terrified at times by what they have deliberately, or inadvertently, taken on.
That’s not to denigrate the importance of materially providing for our families. When our physical survival is threatened by starvation or inadequate shelter, it’s difficult to think of anything else. But for those of us for whom these basic needs are met, it is time to be turning our attention and energy to other ways of fathering those that need that from us.
Feeling secure is a fairly fundamental need too, as is having a sense of empowerment—and neither require money. Both of these can come from feeling loved by parents, whether mother or father. By consciously stepping into the archetypal energy of the enlightened patriarch, though, fathers have the potential to compassionately model power and authority for their children, whether genetic off-spring or not, and to show that these terms which have become so loaded in our society are not dirty words.
This is not to say that mothers aren’t also capable of modeling these traits. Mothers and fathers vary hugely one from the other and need to be free to carry the archetypal energies that flow most easily through them.
But the world needs the energy of the enlightened father as much as that of the enlightened mother—the one who is consciously tapped into his own warrior energy and knows when and how to use or restrain his drawn sword (pun intended).
It needs the energy of the patriarch who can lead, when required, from a place of sensitive understanding and knowledge rather than from fear or from a desire for popularity.
It needs fathers who can stand by the mothers in this world in knowing that building walls to keep people apart never provides long-term protection or peace in the world—fathers who are willing to take the long road of supporting genuine education and understanding over war, but who can still fight the fight if absolutely necessary, in the same way that all parents instinctively will when their young are in danger.
And the world also needs fathers that are in right relationship to the archetypal mother energy.
Fathers that are capable of standing in their own strength and with respect when it comes to dealing with being mothered themselves.
Fathers that are capable of co-creating a loving parenting relationship with the mother of their children, regardless of the marital or romantic circumstances.
Fathers that are capable of being guardians of the greatest mother of all, Mother Nature and who can gratefully accept her bounty while honoring her natural cycles and needs.
Father’s Day gives us a chance to cherish those men that are, or have been, fathers not only to us personally, but also in the world around us. This is our chance to show that we respect the role of father and recognize it’s immense value in our world.
And, it is an opportunity to encourage our men to be fathers that hold the power that matters most—the inner power that is required to develop the understanding and compassion which will help fathers to find, and then walk, their deep truth with courage, self-respect and pride.
(Originally published on Elephant Journal)