You’re the dad who your kids need to be their dad.
In the lead up to my son’s birth, a friend told me how parenthood doesn’t come as natural to fathers. Where maternal instinct kicks in before your child enters the world, paternal instinct takes a more roundabout route that creates a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety.
I personally found a large aspect of this included second-guessing and comparing myself to others: other men, other fathers, other people who know a great deal more than me…
Should I hold my son this way or that?
Should I say this to him, or would I be better saying something else?
Maybe this guy’s a better father than me because he does this-that-and-the-other.
I still find myself second-guessing far too much, wondering whether my parental decisions are or are not the right thing to do, but as my son enters his fourth year on this planet, I’ve learned something rather important: that all my soon needs is ME.
He doesn’t need someone else or for me to be more like another.
He needs me and that’s it.
He needs me to be me, and to stay true to who I am, and to love him at all times; to be there for him and to be committed and 100% behind him.
Realising this has taught me a great deal about being a father, and indeed about being a writer, because I now realise more than ever that I don’t have to be perfect.
My son doesn’t need a perfect father, just one who’s committed and loving.
My book doesn’t need me to be perfect, either, merely dedicated to making it the best it can be.
There are a lot of books in this world, and you may or may not like the ones I write. This is fine because my duty isn’t to write a book everyone enjoys, nor one that everyone gets value from. No, my sole duty as a writer is to write the best book I can write, and make sure it serves those who need it.
Just like my sole duty to my son is to be his father, and no more.
And comparing myself to others—be it other fathers, other writers, other entrepreneurs—is not only pointless and a waste of time, but damaging and dangerous, because there is no right or wrong way to write a book or to be a great father. There are guidelines, for sure, and inspiration you can take from others, but to base what you do, create—indeed, who you are—on other people.
Why? Why waste even a few minutes of your day doing this?
Now, don’t get me wrong, because this is hard, and I continue to find myself stumbling and failing.
Just the other night I was with my son, and after he woke up due to a bad dream, I slipped into his bed to cuddle and reassure him. But as I did, I wondered whether I should, whether his mother would, whether I’d make things worse in the long term… whether a more experienced father would tuck him under the covers and then leave his room despite the cries and whimpers.
I had no right answer, bit I did have my answer.
This was enough, and I believe it always will be.
These same worries and comparisons apply when I work on my latest book, The Successful Mistake, because I consider whether a particular writer I admire would do this or whether they would instead choose that.
But I do my best to push such thoughts to one side, because the truth is I believe in myself as both a father and a writer, and although I know I’m not perfect and won’t always get it right, this is fine for I trust I’ll still do a good job; the one and only job I can do.
And this applies to almost anything, whether you write books or not.
A business owner, employee, friend—whoever—you have cause to question yourself each day and compare yourself to someone else; considering what they would do in your shoes.
But it isn’t about what they would do, it’s about what you choose to do; what you decide is best.
And I didn’t appreciate this until I became a father, although my son helps me further value this newfound glory each time I see the love and pride in his eyes. Because I’m his father, and he only has one; will only ever need one; only ever need ME.
So, it’s my job to be ME and to be there for him, and to love him, and to treasure him and commit myself to him.
My book deserves the same from me, and although I didn’t expect fatherhood to help me improve as a writer, it most certainly has. I like to think it’s helped me improve as a man overall, and what lies ahead continues to excite me.