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Could fatherhood be the key to better male mental health?

I did a talk recently for an exclusive group of high profile women all about masculinity. It was on Bond Street in London, a post part, hands down I was the worst dressed person in the room.The conversation turned to how these influential women could help men get over the problems traditional masculinity throws up. […]

Image by magdiel-lacoquis
Image by magdiel-lacoquis

I did a talk recently for an exclusive group of high profile women all about masculinity. It was on Bond Street in London, a post part, hands down I was the worst dressed person in the room.

The conversation turned to how these influential women could help men get over the problems traditional masculinity throws up. The problems that manifest in men topping the charts of suicide, addiction, loneliness, depression and more. 

Much of this is about men not meeting the exceptionally narrow expectations they feel they should. Being successful financially, the status that comes from a label of seniority. We can’t change the reality of the situations we find ourselves in, so all we can do is change the standards we’re comparing ourselves to.

What if instead of feeling successful because of our job title and bank balance we had a broader definition of what it means to be a great, successful man?

I think that could be fatherhood for those of us lucky enough to experience it. Especially at this point in time, when the traditional image of man, and dad is being blown up. On one hand, this means us dads don’t have a clearly defined archetype or path to follow, so we’re making it up. On the other, the freedom to make it up means we can place it at the centre of our identity with pride and without the fear of being ridiculed by others, as we would have been in the past under the old, narrow view of masculinity. 

I think this could help us achieve in other areas of life too. If you’re a long-time reader of my writing, you’ll know that many of the principles of great parenting are applicable to other areas. Here’s a simple, shortlist of six, there are more, but that’s not the point of this.

  1. The ability to stay calm while others around you are losing it.
  2. Creating the conditions for your children to succeed works for a team in a work context too.
  3. Coaching your children to find their own solutions is a skill set all the literature on leadership says is crucial.
  4. Being open with your children, embracing your mistakes and vulnerabilities is a form of honesty that, brought to other areas of your life, helps you see reality more clearly so you can make better decisions.
  5. Rapid reframing of a situation for your child, so they realise the sky isn’t falling in, is the same approach to turning insights into creative solutions.
  6. Setting firm boundaries with work so you can be back for bedtime is exactly the same discipline you need to stay focused on producing quality work and cutting out pointless meetings and other distractions.

If we hang our success hat on being the best dads we can be, if we really strive for that, maybe we will be more successful in other areas of life too.

Every two weeks I send an email to dads of things I’ve found that have helped me be a better dad. Articles, ideas, questions, exercises, all sorts of things. Sign up here if you want to get it too.

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