Being a dad is often exhausting. It leaves us always feeling tired. A friend once recalled to me that most of his childhood memories of his blue-collar dad, whom he saw only on the weekends, included really long naps. It often irritated the little boy who wanted to play with his dad. He says “I didn’t understand until I became a dad myself.”
But exhaustion is not always a sign of great parenting. We can get exhausted with all the wrong things, for all the wrong reasons. If we fall into bed completely spent only from our jobs, our hobbies, and our ‘toys,’ that could be a sign that we’re wearing ourselves out with things that won’t matter in our families years from now.
The great Teddy Roosevelt once said:
“It is not the critic who counts…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs …; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I think that’s a great description of how we should be exhausted as dads, too—in the arena, striving valiantly, for a worthy cause. So, here are five ways we as dads can earn that “credit” Roosevelt described, by spending ourselves “in a worthy cause”, unlike any other: fatherhood.
The exhausted Provider is teaching his children the value of hard work and teaching them financially, too. But the Provider doesn’t just show a child how to make money. A Provider teaches how to save, share, and spend wisely. We should exhaust ourselves teaching our kids how to spend on needs, question spending on wants, save for the future, and share with others with a generous heart.
For example, when our kids were growing up, we gave them each three mason jars to teach them how to share, spend, and save wisely. They received 50 cents allowance for each year. So, a 10-year-old would receive five dollars per week. Two dollars would be placed in the spend jar. Two dollars and fifty cents were deposited into the save jar and fifty cents in the share jar, to be given to the church. These 5 Reasons Your Child Should Work may give you some additional lessons you can teach your child about finances as well.
The exhausted Protector understands that his children need emotional safety, not just physical safety. He protects the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds of his kids. We should be active and committed to providing barriers and training for our kids to keep the harmful out, and to equip them to discern the harmful from the harmless for their own future. For example, Susan and I spent time monitoring what our kids were doing online and in their entertainment choices, including checking websites, into movies or music they wanted, and even into families of the kids they wanted to spend time with. Over time, we were able to give them tools to apply those filters themselves, too.
3. Loving Leader
The exhausted Loving Leader leads his children by loving them well. That means he gives selflessly and sacrificially to his children. He does what’s in the best interest of his children no matter what it costs him personally. And that means that he says no to things that will harm them. It also means that he gently disciplines them.
4. Role Model
The exhausted Role Model thinks “I need to live the kind of life I want my kids to live.” He needs to be mindful that his kids are always watching him and that everything he does and says is setting an example (good or bad) for them.
The exhausted Participant is an involved dad, not just a spectator. This dad is intentional about being present at the kids’ recitals, performances, and games. He’s involved in teaching his child how to swim, how to drive, and how to date. He’s active in his child’s education, reads to them, and attends parent-teacher conferences. He always makes himself available to his children when they need him. Being present and involved in their life will mean more to them than you’ll ever know.
In what other great ways do you think dads can exhaust themselves and feel great about doing it? Share your ideas in the comments below.