You've probably heard by now that approximately 1/3 of homes were father-absent homes, according the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010. And approximately 40% of children born in the U.S. were born to single mothers. You've probably even heard the term "fatherless America" used a time or two.
The reason that this issue is being stressed now more than ever is that research is showing a father's involvement is critically important. It's showing that children with absent fathers are at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, lower academic achievement and more likely to become incarcerated - just to name a few.
But you're a good dad. You're home with your children and you even go to their sports events sometimes. So while you may be reading this thinking to yourself that you don't have to worry, there are some things you're doing that you might want to talk a look at again. These are things all men need to know in order to be a better husband, father, and man.
If You're Not a Good Spouse, You're Not Being a Good Parent
Your children look to you as an example of what a relationship looks like. Even though you may think you're hiding your marital problems from your kids, the truth is, they're smart - you've said so yourself.
They notice things when you didn't know they were looking. You need to set a good example to them of how a man acts in a marriage by treating their mother that way. I don't mean the typical 'take her on a date' stuff. I mean the stuff you want your daughter's future husband to do for her: dress up nice when you go out together because she's important to you. And don't be afraid to have your allrecipes.com app on your Kindle to remind you when to stir the bisque because it's her favorite dinner.
One of the most important ways you can be a good spouse is knowing the ways you fall short. By simply acknowledging the ways you fall short is a great example to your children of how to take ownership in a marriage.
Being the typical 'Father Knows Best' male and pretending you're perfect gives your children the perception that this type of masculinity and (over) confidence is good. They will go on to emulate that in their marriage without knowing any different.
Being a Good Dad is More than Just Providing a Paycheck
Of course you love your kids. The roof over their head and the food on their table proves it.
But be honest with yourself.
Even if you didn't have kids you'd still work to provide for a roof and to have food. There's nothing extra-special you're doing for them that you wouldn't do for yourself.
You have to show your children that you're more than just a provider. You have to show them that you're actually invested in them. I know it's cliche' but it's true: children feel loved through your time. Walk home from school with them, put down your laptop and read a book with them, or go on their elementary school field trip to the zoo with them. The ways to spend time with them is endless, and the rewards pay more than just dividends.
It's Tough Being a Dad - But Nothing's More Rewarding
Now more than ever mens roles have changed. Ward Cleaver is now recognized as being too traditional, but Homer Simpson is too much of a screw up. Somewhere between the two is where you're supposed to be.
Without clearer guidelines it can seem like the expectations are too ambiguous and you are set you up to fail. In reality, with guidelines so broad, the sky is the limit. It's your turn to read a parenting book, and find out how to be the best husband and father you can be.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.