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The Psychological Benefit of Embracing Fatherhood

By Paul Rothbart

The Psychological Benefit of Embracing Fatherhood

Perhaps the most important job in the world is one that’s rewarding but has no salary. You don’t need a resume or interview to get it, but it does require skill, wisdom, and patience. Although it doesn’t provide health insurance, personal time off, or a pension, it has numerous benefits. The job in question is being a parent; for men, that is fatherhood.

There is more than just a biological component to being a father. Conception is the easy part. Taking an active part in the care, welfare, and raising of your children is what fatherhood is really about. The children of fathers who are active in their lives tend to have higher IQs, do better in school, and are less likely to get themselves into trouble or engage in negative behaviors. Children benefit psychologically from an involved father, but that’s a two-way street: Men who are involved fathers also benefit psychologically.

If you’re a dad, embrace the job -- it’s good for you.

Benefits of Being an Involved Father

Providing a home, food, clothing, and an education are certainly vital aspects of parenting -- and any good father does this. Most parenting studies have focused on mothers as the nurturing parent. However, a man who embraces being a dad goes far beyond the basics and can also be a nurturer. Rather than leaving child-rearing tasks to the mother, a true father sets an example and serves as a role model for his children.

He guides them through the ups and downs of their lives, encouraging them and gently correcting and redirecting them. Preparing your children to grow up and navigate a world that is often complex and scary is the essence of a parent’s job.

Emotional Benefits of Embracing Fatherhood

Mental health is every bit as important as physical health. Happiness and well-being certainly contribute to one’s mental state and health. How do men define happiness?

A survey conducted in the UK in 2017 involving 2,000 respondents found that for most men, job satisfaction was at the core of happiness. Further studies found that this applied to men in the United States as well.

After a secure job and good income, good physical and mental health were the next indicators of a positive outlook and happiness. After that came relationships, both with a significant other and with children. Men who feel secure in these aspects of their lives are usually better at managing stress, which further contributes to happiness.

Tied into employment and familial relationships is a sense of purpose. The vast majority of people, including most men, like to feel needed and like they are making a contribution to the world. Men who are involved fathers, take the time to develop good relationships with their children, and help guide them to adulthood, are performing a vital task for society. These fathers generally have an excellent sense of purpose, which makes a major contribution to their happiness and mental health.

The Chemical Side of Happiness

So much of mental health is tied to brain chemistry. The production of hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, improves mood and your mental state. Another important hormone is oxytocin. This is a bonding hormone that helps couples get together and reproduce. It also bonds parents to children. Women experience it when breastfeeding but oxytocin is also produced when cuddling a baby or hugging your child.

I can attest to this firsthand. When my son was an infant and my wife got up for his 2 a.m. feedings, I still got up and sat with them even though there was nothing I could do directly. Just the act of being there physically while my son was being nourished strengthened the bond I felt with him. I always felt soothed and serene and never thought about the lost sleep.

Physical Benefits of Being an Involved Father

We all hope for a long life expectancy, and living a healthy lifestyle can add years to your life. A good low-fat diet consisting of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and plenty of fiber, can help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other life-threatening ailments. It’s also important to exercise regularly. These are what things help men live longer.

Another aspect of long life is the successful management of stress. Although stress cannot be completely eliminated and it does, in fact, serve a useful purpose, excessive anxiety and worry can be harmful to mental health. It can also impact physical health.

Unchecked stress can cause headaches, muscle and chest pain, and is a major contributor to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes, and can absolutely shorten your life.

Engaging in things that make you happy, such as spending time with family and friends, and engaging in hobbies, are two of the best ways to manage stress. Spending quality time with your children is also effective and can help keep you feeling happy. Play catch, read to them, take them to a park or to a movie. You’ll be creating moments that will help them grow up to be happy, productive adults, as well as improve your own health.

History of Father’s Day

One of the best parts of fatherhood is that we get our own day. Mother’s Day has its roots in ancient Greece and was the first parenting holiday recognized in the United States. It was first celebrated in the 1860s. In 1908, a woman named Anna Jarvis led the drive to make it an official holiday. Father’s Day came a bit later.

Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. However, it was on July 5, 1908, that an event honoring fathers was first held. A church in West Virginia offered a sermon honoring the memory of 362 men, many of whom were fathers, that had died in a series of explosions in a coal mine the previous December.

A year later, a woman in Spokane named Sonora Smart Dodd, worked to drum up support for an equivalent of Mother’s Day for male parents. On June 19, 1910, the state of Washington became the first to begin celebrating Father’s Day. The holiday began to spread and, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged every state to honor fathers annually. It was not until 1972 that Father’s Day was officially declared a national holiday.

Conclusion

No job is more important than being a parent; this applies to fathers just as much to mothers. Male parents owe it to their spouses, children, and society, to take an active hand in the lives of their children. It certainly helps them, and Dad gets some nice benefits as well.

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