It is a very rare occasion that I sit down and think about what freedoms I gave up when my daughter was born. Because, quite honestly, I do not have the time. But, I have no regrets, and from the moment she was born, I have been having the time of my life. My focus is all on her and my wife.
This is how I feel it should be. The father and husband is responsible for the protection, care and guardianship of his loved ones. That is the number one priority.
I really should have titled this post 'Becoming a Dad Means Sacrifice', but I think the principle idea applies to both men and women. You will have to forgive me though, because through my eyes this issue falls more heavily on the men, thus you will see my focus drift that way.
It saddens me, and even frustrates to an extent, that there are many men who do not share this view. Not completely, at least. I have seen and heard, on many occasions, fathers and husbands that cannot give up the indulgences they enjoyed before marriage, and before their children were born.
I am not even sure where to start, and I have been postponing this topic due to the fact that I want this article to hit home for any dad or husband who stumbles across it. I want this to be perfect, or at least a perfect representation of my perception.
Times have changed, and with them, so has the family dynamic. The roles of husband and wife and dad and mom have completely changed. There is no such thing as a man's job and a wife's job. Everyone is capable of doing everything.
However, I feel that some men still carry on mannerisms that they themselves witnessed in their own childhood. So, my starting point would have to be with us, the parents of the next generation. We need to teach our kids, especially our sons, equality, sacrifice, and hard work in domestic settings. We, especially us dads, need to teach by example. It is our actions that speak volumes, and can help mold our kids to become the best parent and spouse they will become.
There is really no other way to describe it, but the main drive behind the actions I detest is selfishness. I have to be careful though, because I need to distinguish between selfishness, and necessary free time. There is always a fine line between acceptable and despicable. Yes, any man who chooses selfish activities, or in essence puts himself and what he wants over his family, is despicable.
Every parent needs their moments of sanity and free time. I even wrote about how to help Give Your Wife Free Time, and for those interested, take a peek at the post when you get a chance. Getting moments away from the hustle and bustle of being a parent is a wonderful remedy, and can refresh, rejuvenate, as well as let built up stress roll off your back.
Now, here is the fine line. Getting time away, or a night out is very healthy. Both my wife and I take these opportunities when we can, and are more than happy to watch our little girl so the other can relax and enjoy free time without worry or stress. But, the rule is, know your limits.
For example, if I were to go out with a couple friends for dinner and shoot some pool, or watch a baseball game, and head back home afterwards, then I have had a great night out with my friends. However, after the evening's plans were done, let us say I then decide I want to head back out with my friends and go to a bar and drink, or maybe just head back to someone's house and stay there until the wee hours of the morning. That is unacceptable. I would be selfish, putting my desires over my family.
See, my belief is that family always comes first. If I go out, I cannot stand the thought of being out late with my wife and baby girl home alone. I need to be there. Staying out late is something I did when I was single, when I had little responsibilities. Now I have a family that depends on me, and my responsibility is to them.
I feel lucky though, because I actually do not want to be out late. I want to be home. Many men do not feel this way. They feel trapped at home, or feel the need to get out and cut loose. The confinements of being at home 24/7 are too restrictive for them at times. It is this mentality that can be detrimental to harmony in family life.
My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation is to sit down, literally sit down, and look at your wife and your kids, one by one. Think about how much you love them, and how much more complete your life is with them as a part of it. These are absolutely the most precious people in your life. They depend on you, and need you.
Next time you find yourself about to make a decision that will keep you away from them unnecessarily, remember those thoughts, and make the right decision.
Time and Money
As I was jotting down my notes for this post, I was lumping everything in terms of sacrifice under time and money. Anything that a parent refuses to let go of, which is trivial to the well-being of the family, falls under these two categories.
I myself had to give something up when my daughter was born that falls under both these categories. For about the last five years or so, I was a hardcore online gamer. Working in a hospital, I work three 12-hour shifts a week. That provided an abundance of free time the other four days, which I used chunks of to play online computer games.
It was such a strong part of my life that it had come to the point of being an addiction. That made it all the harder to give up. In addition, I was paying monthly fees for subscriptions to play the games. My wife really never had an issue with it, and on the few occasions she did, I made quick adjustments that made her happy. And yes, she was completely justified.
When my daughter was born, and even before when my wife was pregnant, I knew I was going to have to give the game up. It was just taking up too much of my time, precious time that I would want to spend with my daughter. Not to mention saving the extra money for all those diapers I knew I was going to be buying.
When my baby girl was born, I still played on and off the next couple of months. I just was not happy with myself, and knew that I had to shut it off completely. On January 1, I deactivated my account as part of my resolution to give my lifestyle a complete makeover. In addition to losing weight, eating healthier, and getting physically back into shape, I also vowed to cut off a needless source of entertainment that would keep me from my wife and my daughter.
I still have not played since, over two months later. Sure, I still love the game, but my family is more important, and I will never think twice about the choice I made.
When I talk about time and sacrifice when becoming a parent, I am referring to instances where choices are made to do something as opposed to being at home. Keep in mind I fully support days or nights out, but I do not agree with the following:
- Staying out late
- Going out when family needs you
- Making a decision that you know will keep you from helping out, especially if help is asked for
- Repeatedly taking time to yourself at the expense of your significant other
There are others, but these are the main four.
Staying out late is my number one no-no. I covered this earlier, so I will not go into too much detail. Just remember that you have a loving spouse at home, and kids who depend on you. They need you there. You are the guardian and protector of your family. Staying out late while your family is home alone should be a no-brainer. Go home.
The others fall into line and more or less involve making decisions, which I believe to be selfish by nature. As a husband and father, one has to truly give up the right to put themselves first. Sacrifices must be made for the betterment of the family.
Doing so grudgingly will not bring any good, so take on this sacrifice as something that needs to be done, and know you are doing it for those that are dearest in your life.
Guys and girls, if you have any frivolous expenses, be they via shopping, hobbies, or any other means of spending chunks of money that could be used elsewhere, re-evaluate the importance of these indulgences.
I actually met a dad once that loved fixing up classic cars. In my college days, I was a waiter and this guy was one of my regular lunch customers. He had just bought an old car from a junk yard, and was preparing to fix it up. A couple weeks later, though, he found out his wife was pregnant.
He told me they were paying bills fine, but there was a very small amount of extra money they allotted for themselves for their personal hobbies. Realizing that the money he used for his cars would be better saved for the baby, he sold his classic car.
The baby was born, and he told me that he had not spent another dime on fixing up any more cars, though his passion still was very strong. It was the easiest decision of his life. Instead, he attends every classic car show in the area that he can, which is far cheaper, yet still allows him to be around the cars he loves. That is exactly what I wish I would see in every family.
I realize it is hard, but there comes a time when you just have to accept that certain things you spent money on before are now things you may have to give up.
My suggestion here is to do what the man did by going to auto shows. Find another avenue for your passion that is much cheaper, but does not require completely letting go. For me, I gave up my online games. However, I have a gaming console, and every three months or so I allow myself to buy one game. It is a little different experience, but it keeps me happy. In all honesty though, I rarely touch the video games. There is too much to do in the span of one day, and it is just way too low on the priority list.
Betterment and Growth by Selflessness
Becoming a better parent and spouse can be done by sacrificing aspects of time and money for the betterment of family. For all those that struggle with this, I call on you to make a stand and help lead our next generation by example.
It will be hard, but focus on those you love, and make them the motivation for change. It is what we do as parents. It is our job and our responsibility. Together, with encouragement and support, we can grow to become better for our children, and better husbands and wives.
As a husband and dad, I urge everyone to think about what more they can do. It takes a strong person to admit they have room to grow. For those of you that do, you have my respect. One small step we take can evolve into great strides that carry our children into adulthood, preparing them to be the best mom and dad they can be.