Sometimes my male clients tell me they do not really talk with their fathers, yet these men know to the letter exactly how their dads feel about them, their lives and their choices.
Western culture purports fathers and, by extension, our father figures are archetypes of our connection with the world, setting our relationship style with authority figures, our community and our work. This archetype has come crashing down with the economy a decade ago as more and more young (cis, het, middle class) men find themselves assuming traditionally female roles in child rearing while women continue to make gains in full-time employment.
It’s a topsy-turvy world for young fathers and one in which their parenting roles have become far more central to their children’s lives. What I hear more and more from men of all ages is how they saw a straight-jacket of masculinity saw keep their own fathers silent when their jobs weren’t meaningful or they only had an hour with the kids at night.
No wonder it seems unusual for men to have easy conversation with their older dads.
We all seek meaning from work enough and love. Men who are new to fatherhood, and those hoping for children, are confident in their emotional need to have as much time as they want with their kids.
Working through the loss of a physically or emotionally absent father, whether through overwork, divorce or death, can bring up painful feelings that you may have avoided for years.
We can’t get that time back with our dads. Sometimes the relationship rupture is too great to repair. And yet we do this inner work to understand what happened with our dads, and to forgive ourselves for our behaviour when our needs weren’t met. Or for being away from our own kids to put food on the table.
We talk about our feelings so we can be present to our kids and to our dads, if they are still in our lives. And so we can continue to read our father’s opinions of us clearly from their single glance at us when we darken their doorway.
August 28, 2016
Kate Lawton is a social worker providing psychotherapy in downtown Toronto. See the Contact page for availability, rates or to book a free initial session.