We asked that very question to thousands of men as part of our research. Some answered, “My father” or “My pastor.” But the most popular answer by far was, “My wife.” And when we asked, “Who helps you overcome struggles in your fathering?” the number one answer was, again, “My wife.”
You may be comforted to know you’re not alone as a parent, but you should also be challenged, because your power as a father is greatly affected by your relationship with your children’s mother. Are you striving together with her as you progress toward a common goal, or are you struggling against her, and spinning in circles?
She’s your number one asset and ally as a father, and showing her love and respect is one of the best things any father can do for his kids.
1. Two Indispensable Perspectives
Even if you were some kind of Superman, you could still only supply your children with a masculine perspective of the world, valuable as it is. It takes a woman – ideally their mother – to provide the deep feminine input that rounds out their world and opens up more of the wonders of adulthood.
By virtue of carrying, bearing, and caring for your children in her own unique way, your children’s mother sees things in them and about them that you may miss completely. Her perspective can be quite illuminating when you compare notes, especially when it comes to understanding growing daughters. And her natural sensitivity to her children’s needs makes her an expert on how to meet those needs. Don’t be jealous; be humble. Ask her advice, and really listen; or sit down with her and say, “Honey, how am I doing?”
2. A Model for Chivalry
“Date your mate” is more than just a clever phrase. It’s a philosophy. It’s a mindset in which you reinstate some of the conditions of your dating relationship. You probably don’t have to ask her father for permission or worry about an eleven o’clock curfew any more. But your purpose is worth revitalizing: to continually re-win your true love’s affections. You revive dinners and movies, take walks in the park, visit the old hang-outs and even start showing affection in public again.
During your wedding ceremony, you verbalized your commitment all at once. Marriage is an opportunity to demonstrate those vows every day.
Living out your wedding vows also helps your children. You can talk your kids through their first dates and let them know what to expect, but you can show them a lot too. Your son is taking subconscious notes. He’s asking, “How should I treat women?” “What does it mean to be a husband?” Your daughter also has her eye on you. The thought of giving herself to a man in marriage can be frightening. She is asking herself how well her mother fared in the deal. Your children watch when you open car doors for your wife. They listen closely when you compliment her on how radiant she looks in that new dress, or express your appreciation for all she does for you.
Dad, be passionate about the one who provided you the opportunity to be a father in the first place.
3. A Sense of Security
A fourth-grade girl wrote about her father, “He treats my mom very nicely, which makes me feel wanted.” Daily expressions of affection for your wife will do wonders for your marriage, but your children also pick up on it. If the atmosphere of the marriage is distrust or anger, then that mood will permeate the entire family. If the atmosphere of the marriage is non-communication, the children get used to silence and foreboding. On the other hand, if the atmosphere of the marriage is love, the whole family will absorb that love.
Words and deeds that demonstrate your love for your wife provide your children with convincing proof that the foundation of their lives – your marriage commitment – is not going to shake, buckle and split apart. When Dad loves Mom, all is well in the universe.
One of the greatest legacies you can leave your children (and yet-unborn grandchildren) is the firm belief that marriage is not to be taken lightly. It’s worth your commitment, and worth sticking it out through the tough times. Show them that your marriage is worth every ounce of effort you put into it and that, some day, theirs will be too.
Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.