By Richard Juman, PsyD, TeamHealth National Director of Psychological Services
The American educator Reed Markham had this to say about fatherhood: “Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.” As fathers, we do the big things, like making sure that our kids are healthy, and the little ones – the roughhousing and the “dad jokes.” There are as many ways of “being dad” as there are dads, but just being there is crucial, since an involved, loving father improves kids’ chances of growing into successful, confident and resilient adults.
Navigating fatherhood in a pandemic
As if fatherhood wasn’t already challenging enough, the COVID-19 pandemic recently inserted itself into the fatherhood equation. The pandemic has ratcheted up the background noise, in big ways.
- Will we all remain safe?
- Will my income remain stable?
- How will things change, longer term?
And then, very much in the foreground, many fathers have taken on the new roles of homeschooler, camp counselor and playtime buddy.
Use this opportunity to discuss issues and feelings
Since the pandemic and quarantines began, many fathers have entertained me with hair-raising tales of how they’ve struggled to negotiate some of the new challenges of fatherhood. But, nobody that I’ve spoken with has, deep down, come off as resentful or begrudging. I think that’s because the pandemic has brought to light so many crucial, existential issues. Obviously, keeping their kids safe is priority number one, but the seriousness of the virus seems also to have ramped up the intensity of their connections to their kids. To the usual banter about sports, celebrities and entertainment has been added many opportunities to discuss the larger issues.
It’s proved an opportunity to teach our kids how to manage big, scary problems. For many, the intensity of the moment is mirrored by a heightened level of feeling and closeness. It’s provided a golden opportunity to discuss important issues, and share feelings, that otherwise might never have been broached.
Celebrate Father’s Day
This Father’s Day, I’ll be celebrating with my kids and my father. He just turned 87, and we haven’t seen him in person since the lockdown began in New York. Even now, we’re planning an outdoor BBQ with appropriate social distancing measures. Despite that distancing, I’m anticipating plenty of chances for meaningful connection and appreciation over the burgers and hot dogs.
To all of the fathers in TeamHealth: It is difficult parenting in a pandemic. Please find a way to celebrate yourself this Sunday.