When I became a parent, advice started coming my way at a record pace. Advice like:
Get a second-hand stroller. They work just as well, and they’re half the price.
Baby formula is great! Feel free to use it if you need it.
Have your child adapt to your life, not the other way around.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
As you can see, some of the advice is practical, while others were met with eye rolls. And while most of it was well-meaning, it was challenging to parse through conflicting parenting methods and choose which direction I wanted to go as a dad.
Most parenting advice centers on the child and how you can help them thrive. That’s why I often focus on you, the parent, because if you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.
The reality is I don’t know your child. There are a lot of parenting experts out there with tips and tricks to get your kids to behave or sleep well.
Some of them are very good at what they do!
But a kid’s success is primarily determined by a one-of-one playbook designed for that specific child. As a dad of two, I can tell you the playbooks for my girls are wildly different, but with that knowledge, parenting them both is a joy because I don’t try to parent them the same.
To understand their needs, we need to understand ourselves, and let’s be honest; parenting is hard. It takes a high level of self-reflection and vulnerability, and that process can be uncomfortable to create willingly.
But when we step into vulnerability, asking ourselves the right questions, we can build a foundation that allows us to show up well for ourselves and others.
1. When was the last time you felt completely helpless in life? What led to that feeling?
Asking this question opens the floodgates, focusing on a specific time when you simply couldn’t overcome an obstacle.
Maybe it was a work struggle. Perhaps it was trying to install the car seat on the way to the hospital. But reflecting on the moment will help identify what led to that feeling, seeing if there were common denominators that could have been prevented that you could work to eliminate in the future.
2. When you’re feeling anxious, what is your game plan to get back on track?
Everybody feels anxious occasionally, but when that feeling is on its way or has shown up in full force, what have you done to lower yourself from that peak, allowing you to return to a calm state?
Maybe it’s by accident, or perhaps a conversation with a loved one gets you back on track. Regardless, make a plan so that when that parenting anxiety begins to kick in, you’re more likely to move forward in your decision rather than languish in indecisiveness.
3. Why do you think men generally struggle with vulnerability? How would your life be if the previous generation of men in your life showed more vulnerability?
It’s essential to think about the big picture, that way, we can zoom back into our life with the proper context to move forward.
Vulnerability and men don’t often go hand in hand, so look back on your life and ask why that is. List a couple of reasons this might be and look at your life to see if any of these barriers still exist.
4. Who can you turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed? What typically makes you feel overwhelmed, and how can you avoid burnout?
A key component of being vulnerable is sharing your feelings with others. Therefore, it is essential to identify a person or a group of people you can turn to when you need it.
Burnout can happen, but burnout can be mitigated or dealt with efficiently when we recognize the signs.
5. What does it look like to show up well for your family? What will you do this week to show up well for yourself?
This is where you can identify what you want your future to look like. Some steps will need to be taken to achieve your goals, but when you know where you want to go as a parent, you can better identify the road you’ll need to take to get there.
So, one foot in front of the other, start this week by showing up for somebody in your life and build the fatherhood foundation you’ve always envisioned.
Pull together some dad friends and ask these questions. Allow vulnerability to lead the way, as you’ll likely be surprised by the weight that is lifted off each shoulder as we realize that our struggles are often more alike than we think.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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