What Matters Most About Being a Father

As a father, you have a lot of pressure. You’ve got to pay the bills and still be available for your kids. After a hard day of work, you need to have another boost of energy to be there for your kids. And in this job as a father, you never get any days off. You need to be “on” all-the-time. 

You hopefully have help from your wife who does all the heavy lifting (which you should be thanking her for every day of your life). But that doesn’t take away from your role as a father. You need to embrace that role and live it, each and every day.

The best thing I’ve ever done. The best thing I will ever do is be a dad to Taelor and Sydni. I can’t ever give up because I can’t ever leave my daughters…You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage because of you.

~Stuart Scott, ESPY’s Speech 2014

The most important and hardest responsibility of being a father is actually being there. Showing up is part of it, just as you would show up for work, but actually being there, physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally is the harder part. When you are with your kids, you’re not a corporate executive, an all-star basketball player, a janitor or whatever your day job is. You are Dad. By whole-heartedly being there, you are loving your kids.

Your kids need you to really love them. And loving them is more than just financially providing for them. You need to love them for who they are and who they want to become. You need to love them for all their talents, shortcomings, and everything in-between. Love is all they need from you and you need to give it freely without any limitations.

What I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children — all of our children — a better world. Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.

~President Barack Obama

Being a father for my daughters is my most important job; it’s the best job I’ve ever had and the best job I’ll ever have. 

Everything I do, everything I say, every moment I spend with them becomes part of the fabric of their lives. My compassion, my guidance, and my example will give them the confidence to become the women they were meant to be. Their view of men and their relationship to men is shaped directly by my actions and how I treat them and my wife.

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In May 2009, our first daughter was born. During those first few weeks of our daughter’s life, our lives became engulfed in tending to her every physical need. Diapers, throw up, rashes, feeding, washing, sleeping, and playing became the norm.

After my paternity leave, I was back at the office. Initially, I enjoyed the quiet of being alone in my cubicle, away from the craziness of tending to the baby at home. However, I soon started wishing to be at home with my wife to watch my baby grow up. I didn’t want to miss anything, including the burping, the crying, the smiles, the moments when my daughter was just about to fall asleep, and even the red faces just before poo-poo. I wanted it all, but I was stuck at work.

Dealing with the push and pull conflict of being the financial provider and a present father has always been challenging.

Eventually, after about a year, I was able to find an even better job that would allow me to work remotely. Being at home with my little girl was one of the most valuable times in my life. I was there to share in all the little moments with my wife and my daughter and also was able to provide for my family with a steady income.

I was a stay-at-home father for three years and watched my first daughter grow up from a one-year-old toddler to a vibrant, intelligent four-year-old girl. I also got to see my second daughter in all her infancy, without missing much, as compared to my first daughter’s infancy. I’m thankful that I was there for all of that. The time spent together, especially in our kids’ earliest years, has strengthened our family bonds and has helped me become the father I was meant to be.

Now my oldest daughter is in Kindergarten and my youngest daughter is in preschool. They’re developing their social skills and becoming more independent in their school environments. They’ll eventually have their own lives and own social circles and won’t want to spend as much time as I want to spend with them.

But I’ll always be their Dad. And I’ll always be there for them. No matter what.

Being a father is the best job you’ll ever have in your life. Embrace that role. Be there. Love your kids. Be the best father you can be. And your kids will love you back tenfold.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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