You could be under the impression that you’re a good father because your child knows who you are and you provide for them, but true fatherhood is about the emotional bond that a father has with his child.
“If the father lives in the same house as his child, one of the biggest signs that he’s not a present father is when no relationship exists between him and his child. This is when the father has no emotional connection with his child,” says counselling psychologist Banetsi Mphunga.
“And this doesn’t mean that there’s no interaction with the child. There may be interaction [yet still] no emotional connection. This is what we refer to as absent parenting.”
Mphunga explains that absent parenting can also occur in cases where fathers don’t stay with their children. Such fathers may feel that because they provide for their children materially and see them once a week, they’ve played their part.
“Yes, you might be providing everything that the child needs and you might be seeing the child often, but if you haven’t provided for the emotional needs of the child, this is a shortcoming you need to be aware of in your efforts to become a good father,” Mphunga says.
Essentially, a parent needs to cater to the emotional and social needs of a child.
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“If a father finds himself in a situation where he’s genuinely unable to contribute financially, but he is there for his child’s emotional needs, his inability to provide monetarily doesn’t make him an absent father,” Mphunga explains further. “Money doesn’t guarantee your presence in your child’s life.”
Mphunga’s advice on how to be more present as a father:
Be aware of your child’s milestones. If a man knows the milestones in his child’s life, that’s a clear indication that he’s trying to be present.
Be involved in your child’s social activities. When the child has a sporting event, be there. Drop your child off at school if you are able to. There are fathers who could work closer to their children’s school, for example, but do not afford themselves that bonding opportunity which would allow them to drop them off at school every day.
Participate in raising your child. It is possible to do this even remotely. When the opportunity presents itself, you should be able to tell your son things like “this is what a man is supposed to do”; “this is how a boy is supposed to act around girls”; “this is inappropriate to say or do when you are talking to your mother”.