The most frequently used term in this blog is “involved father.” I use it almost daily in the blog, quite often in my parenting conversations, and believe that I live it (almost) everyday with my son. Heck, it’s even in our web tagline mantra. NYC Dads Group: The destination for involved fathers as they navigate parenthood.
So, what does it mean to be an involved father? Well, I went to the research experts and found this to be the best resource out there to describe in great detail what many of us are living and experiencing on a daily basis with our kids. The University of Florida IFAS Extension – EDIS, published a comprehensive paper: Being an Involved Father: What Does It Mean? by Kate Fogarty and Garret D. Evans. The paper addresses quite eloquently such topics like defining father involvement, how much involvement is enough, spending quality time vs. quantity, being involved in all phases of your child’s life, not to confuse providing with loving, and having a plan to become more involved. The opening excerpt defining involved fatherhood is below.
Father involvement is defined as men’s “positive, wide-ranging, and active participation in their children’s lives” (Marsiglio et al., 2000, p. 276). Being an involved father can be defined in many more ways (Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004; Marsiglio, 2006).
Father involvement means:
• direct interaction between a father and child (play, caretaking);
• accessibility, or how available a father is to his child when needed;
• responsibility, or managing and providing resources for a child (doctor’s appointments, supplementing family income or child support);
• building of social capital, or how fathers provide a support network for children as they grow up to contribute to society.
These are all ways in which a father shows he is involved in his child’s life. The first two ways involve direct interaction between fathers and children and the last two ways are more indirect ways that fathers stay involved in their children’s lives. Father involvement also changes with the age and stage of the child. For example, fathers take on a nurturing role with infant children, but act more as “teachers” in the toddler years (Palkovitz & Palm, 2009).
There was a lot of interesting content in the entire research report. If you don’t have the time to scan it or read the entire piece, let me share the message that hit me the hardest. This excerpt was included in the conversation about providing vs. loving your child.
There is a maxim, “I’ve never seen a tombstone that read, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’.” The message is that, as we grow older, most of us wish we would have spent more time with our families and less time trying to get ahead at work. In the same way, rarely does a child say, “I wish my dad spent more time at work.”
More than anything in the world, children want their parents’ attention and love. Further, research shows that when children receive positive attention from and healthy interaction with their parents, they do better in most all aspects of their lives (home, school, work, etc.) than children who do not receive this attention. This occurs regardless of how much money they have or the type of neighborhood they live in. So remember, being a good father doesn’t mean making sure your child has all the best toys, or lives in the best neighborhood. It means making sure your child has all the benefits of having you in his or her life.