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Notes from Yolanda: Fathering, a Balancing Act

Among the many celebrations June brings, we have Father’s Day. So today, I will talk about fathers.

A father’s archetypal role is that of a provider of strength and security. The pressure is on the moment a man becomes a father. The responsibility is quite demanding. Often this responsibility is taken up to such an extent that a man disconnects entirely from his own needs and gets lost in the array of responsibilities for his family. Conversely, there are times when the ‘father part’ in a man fails to emerge once he becomes a father and his own needs override his family’s. Both scenarios will directly affect his fathering.

It is quite challenging for a man and requires ongoing effort, attention, and work to learn to balance his own needs with those of his family’s (this also applies to mothers, of course). However, when and if this is accomplished, this is what it might look like: the man embraces the responsibilities of being a father, offering the attention needed to his family while allotting time for his own interests, creativity, and hobbies apart from his family without carrying any guilt for doing so. This translates into creating space for the ‘responsible father’ in him without neglecting the ‘inner bachelor’, who doesn’t disappear when a man becomes a father. To clarify here, when I use the term ‘bachelor’, I am strictly referring to the part of the personality that wants to engage in independent interests barring nonconsensual extramarital activities.

What was your experience with your father growing up? Usually there is a story here ranging from perfection to disaster. The stories of ‘perfection’ often describe receiving devotion, attention, and support while the ‘disaster’ stories might be about abandonment, misunderstanding, or rejection. Depending on the nature of our relationship with our father, a blueprint is created which seems to follow us in our future relationships.

Stories containing painful experiences pave the way for difficult relational challenges in adulthood. For example, there are those instances where, for whatever reason, the ‘father part’ fails to develop in a man after his child is born. In those cases, he continues to carry on his usual routine as a single man focusing only on his needs and relating to his children more as male or female cohabitants. Multifarious problems ensue, ranging anywhere from appearing selfish to damaging interactions with his children.

However, I do not want to neglect mentioning here that there is abundant hope and possibility that we can still gain from the unpleasant experiences – we can utilize them as models of what not to do as we parent our own children. No matter what was sketched on that original blueprint, it can be modified with effort and psychological work.

Conversely, when positive stories are displayed on the blueprint, we usually have an easier time giving and receiving love and compassion: A father who was present, treated our mother well, championed our decisions, gave us space to shine, understood our emotional life, and guided without overpowering us creates imprints which make us feel safe and good about ourselves – key elements for nourishing trust and positive self-esteem. Even if only a few of these basic conditions existed in his fathering, and the conflicts and difficult times between us and our father – which are unavoidable in any relationship – were mostly handled and resolved, a productive role model with solid foundation stands a good chance of forming which we can then transfer onto our own family.

The key word here is balance, for us and our father. Our responsibility is to balance both the gifts and the limitations from the fathering we received, while his responsibility is learning to balance his own needs with those of the family.

May this Father’s Day fill your heart with gratitude for gifts and lessons received.

Yolanda Koumidou, LCSW, BCD, CHT, is a bilingual psychotherapist, Greek and English, and Executive Director of the Koumidou Center, LLC, with 30+ years experience in offering individual and couples therapy nationally and internationally. She is the author of a few books and poetry collections and a host of a popular podcast focusing on Harmony in Relationships. She has an office in Lynbrook and a retreat center in Upstate New York where she offers private individual and couples retreats.

More information is available online: www.koumidouretreats.com and by phone: 516-568-0306.

Follow on social media: @koumidouretreats

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