One of the worst parts of fatherhood is the exhausted feeling of turning around and having no one in your corner. Having a tremendous partner in parenting is perhaps the greatest gift a father can be given. She is a great help to him and the source of immense strength. But even with a great partner, there are times a dad feels isolated and in need of support from brothers. To a very real extent, every dad faces those times when he is alone. When reinforcements aren’t coming. When everything around him seems intent on laying siege. When it feels as if everything is against him. Brother, when those times come, remember me. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.
To the new dad. The one who is, by now, well acquainted with that overwhelming sense that you have no idea what to do next. The one who is deprived of sleep and whose exhaustion is only exceeded by the nagging sensation of imposter syndrome. The dad who wrestles every minute of every new day with the internal question “Do I have what it takes to do this?”. The dad who feels an amazingly deep connection to his brand new baby but simultaneously feels so far from being up to the task of raising her. To him I say “Relax, brother. You can do this. You’re not alone. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the stay at home dad. The one who shifted his entire outlook to give his kids the best shot he can give them. The one who is isolated by a social culture that still doesn’t seem to get him. The one who deals daily with all the difficulty of raising young children while, at the same time, defending against views and comments of normative ignorance from seemingly every side. The one who craves significance and deep purpose but feels run down by the daily monumental tasks of raising children. The one who is exhausted. The one who has to fight for the respect of other guys as if fatherhood is of secondary importance to a man’s “vocation”. To him I say “I see you, brother. I acknowledge the work you’re doing so well. Keep going. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the single dad raising kids on his own. The one who works tirelessly to fiercely protect his son or daughter. The one who nurtures and disciplines, constantly trying to find what feels like a shaky balance between strength and gentleness. The one who is forced by circumstance into parenting roles for which he feels wholly unequipped. To him I say “Don’t get weary, brother. Keep fighting. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the dad dealing with infertility. The one whose fervent prayer is to experience the fatherhood journey. The one who quietly hears the complaints of other dads and inwardly mourns over and over again for the loss of the joys others take for granted. The one who comforts and upholds his girl with a graceful and uncommon strength throughout her most trying time. To him I say “Keep your head up. Do not let this make you bitter. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the dad fighting for custody. The one who battles against a legal system that has an unashamed double standard. The one who is completely devoted to his kids but is held away from them out of sheer spite. The one who focuses every ounce of energy and every available dime to the goal of being able to be the father he knows he can be. To him I say “Do not give up. Do not quit. Keep fighting. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the Special Needs Dad. The one who loves his kids regardless of circumstance. The one who celebrates every tiny triumph and is devastated by each failure. The one who faces down the most frightening things medical science can throw at his kid and still somehow provides a safe place for his family. The one who comprehends struggles that most men can’t and who puts in hours of effort that most men won’t. The one who would take all the pain and difficulty on himself without hesitation if it eliminated the struggle of his kids. To him I say “You are not alone here. Do not back down from this fight. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the working dad. The one who pushes himself to exhaustion and still feels like he can never get ahead. The one whose job takes him away from his kids for significant periods of time but whose mind is never far from them. The one who chases after excellence in order to show his kids that they can do anything if they are willing to work for it. To him I say “Stay on track, brother. Your work will pay off. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
To the every day dad. The one who does all he can for his family. The one who takes the responsibility of fatherhood seriously. The one who brings smiles to the faces of his kids in times when smiles are rare. The one who guides as best he can, provides as best he can, protects as best he can, and loves as best he can. The one who faces the struggle of parenting day after day after day. The one who sets the stage for the rest of his kids’ lives. To him I say “Keep getting after it. Remain engaged. You bring honor to all of us and you are not alone. Take heart, my friend. I am for you.”
When everything feels like it is against you, I am for you. And I’m not the only one.