Admittedly, in our modern world, the sacrifice of one's own needs and wants is not a popular idea. Instead, we are taught in today's culture to live our lives our way, to put ourselves first and do what feels good in the moment. The only problem with this attitude is that, at least as far as fatherhood is concerned, it has never worked in any generation in world history.
Successful fathers understand the need to sacrifice something of themselves to be able to raise responsible children and create a happy home environment.
As a man becomes a father, he learns by necessity to sacrifice things like sleep, convenience, and a previously active personal social life as he helps his partner through pregnancy and begins to raise that little boy or girl that has come into his life.
But that sacrifice, whatever the dad may think, is not generally short-lived. It is a "career-long" commitment for the time he is raising his family. Many things that used to be a priority now have to take a back seat as he puts his family and children in a preeminent position in his life.
A dad who makes a promise of sacrifice for his family will find quickly that while he misses the things he used to have or do, he doesn't miss them quite as much as he thought. If he is watching, the joys he experiences as a father can outweigh any sacrifice he needed to make to be a great dad.
So, when you commit to sacrifice for your family, what kinds of things do you give up and what things will you experience that you will miss if you fail to effectively sacrifice?
Money. There is no doubt that it is expensive to be a dad. The need for clothing, diapers, school fees, band instruments, larger cars, and the like seem to outstrip the dad's needs or wants for a cooler car, the high-end bicycle or snowmobile, the latest fashions or the hottest gadgets. Dealing with the need for a careful family budget can be a downer because there always seem to be more needs than money.
This may sound a bit disconcerting to a man who is considering whether he is ready for fatherhood, but it is a dose of reality. But if they are observant, what dads soon learn is that the impact that some of these family priorities in the life of his family is so positive that it outweighs the simple pleasures that more disposable cash used to have for him. Certainly, a day of hunting on an African safari is incredible, but so is the sense of self-discipline and achievement that a child has from learning to play the trumpet in the school band.
Time. Fatherhood demands a tremendous time commitment if a dad wants to do it right. There will be many days when after a long day of work, followed by fixing dinner and a few hours of homework helping, Dad collapses into bed well after midnight not having done a single thing that day that is just for him. He may long for the days of a relaxing evening at home with his wife, or even the college days when an evening out meant fun and laughs. But once again, one has to consider the value of the time investment. An evening out drinking and dancing is great, but helping a child learn a concept that will serve him well his entire life is also a great reward.
Hobbies. Often, losing proficiency at a hobby is the one thing fathers miss most after having a child. The rounds of golf, the bicycle race, time in the wood shop or sitting in a duck blind were their activities of choice in their pre-father days. And it can be made even harder when the friends involved in those hobbies are still doing them and getting better at them. Fathers don't have to entirely give up those hobbies, but they will need to decrease the intensity and the frequency of the hobbies if they are going to invest in fatherhood. Again, consider the value of investing your time and energy in helping raise responsible and successful children compared to cutting a couple of strokes off the golf game.
Friends. New fathers often find themselves orbiting a different world than their friends who do not have children.
It can be a big adjustment for a man to now connect more with other fathers than with his former roommates and friends who are not fathers. But let's face it - you don't have as much in common anymore. So while you may sacrifice some former friends who no longer share your interests and values, you can find new friends who share more with you in your new stage of life. And these more mature friendships will actually contribute to your becoming a better father, so it is one of those high-leverage activities that pays dividends in many ways.
Freedom. Single guys without kids can go where they want when they want. Interested in a new job that pays less but is in an exotic location? A single guy can make the change. A dad will likely stay where he is to keep the kids in their school class and with their friends, help them feel secure, and provide enough money for the needs and wants of his family. Dads can't move about as freely or change their minds on a whim once they are the providers and protectors of a family.
What we consider to be sacrifices as a father - money, time, hobbies, friends and the like - are really not sacrifices at all in the long run. Think about these changes in your lifestyle as an investment that will grow in value over time. So consider the role you have and the responsibility you bear as a father of children and make the Sacrifice Promise:
I promise that I will sacrifice things that matter less for the things that matter most, and that includes my family. When deciding how to spend my time and resources, I will think about fatherhood as an investment in the next generation and will put my own formerly selfish interests aside for the benefit of this family for which I have taken responsibility.