As I look back over now 34 years of being a dad, I can certainly see many ways I have become better by embracing the opportunity to be a father and to try to influence my children for good. The benefits of being a dad cross into the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual realms for many fathers. I have long felt that a man can better reach the ideal of manhood in the context of marriage and family living.
This might seem somewhat counter-intuitive for many fathers, particularly those with large families or with children with special needs. Dads can often feel tired, discouraged, overworked and ineffective in so many settings. But other dads will certainly talk about how fatherhood has made them better men. My sense is that, on balance, we become better men by being better fathers.
What I have felt intuitively over the years is starting to be supported by solid research. Fatherhood helps men with health, activity, and job satisfaction and lowers the risk for depression - among other things.
So if you are pondering whether or not to become a father, or would just like some validation that you have made the right choice, this list of the top ten personal benefits of being a father is worth your consideration.
- Your personal health improves. Research shows that the structure that comes into a man's life because of fatherhood helps him make better choices. Having a family to come home to and be responsible for helps fathers choose a healthier lifestyle.
- Your activity level increases. Getting up at night, playing with the kids, walking at the park – all these kinds of work and play make dad more active and thus feeling better about himself.
- Fatherhood reduces stress related ailments. The National Institute of Mental Health found that men who are in healthy family relationships are less likely to have stress-related health problems. Issues like chronic pain, insomnia, stomach problems, and fatigue are less problematic for stable fathers than for other male subsets of the population.
- Your nurturing side is enhanced. So often, we see boys and young men being pretty self-focused and self-absorbed. The Minnesota Fatherhood Initiative found that men who succeeded as fathers became less inward-focused and developed a greater ability to nurture and care for others. And not just for their children, but for their spouses, friends, and coworkers.
- You have a lower risk for clinical depression. Men who live alone have a much higher risk of depression and suicide than married men with children.
- Your job satisfaction improves. This may be a little counter-intuitive, but research shows that committed fathers feel more comfortable in their occupation and feel that they perform well at work more often than men who are not fathers.
- You will cope better with daily life. Men who are fathers tend to have better coping skills with stress in all areas of life, not just at home. (Does that mean that it improves your golf game? Maybe not, but every aspect of life seems to get better when men are fathers)
- Your children will learn better. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study has found that the children of responsible and involved fathers learned life skills faster and better than children without an involved father in their lives. And a study of children in Barbados that are born to adolescent mothers found that children with an involved father had much better grades than other children.
- Your sex life will improve. Again, this may seem a little strange to new fathers, but the research is clear. Committed fathers married to their children's mother have more and better sex than men not in such a family relationship.
- Your personal freedom is enhanced. Research shows that committed fathers are less likely to have encounters with the criminal justice system, fewer hospital admissions, fewer accidental and premature deaths and a decreased risk of substance abuse.