Hugh Jackman reflects on how his dad quietly empowered him to become an independent thinker and how – as a dad to Oscar (18) and Ava (13) – modern fatherhood continues to evolve.
“Before we had kids, Deb and I made a pretty simple but powerful choice to look each other in the eye at every crossroads in life. Those crossroads are sometimes big, sometimes they’re small, sometimes you don’t even realise they’re crossroads until you look back. But at those moments we said we’d ask each other, ‘Is this good or bad for our marriage?’ – or now we’ve got kids – ‘Is this good or bad for our family?’ And as often as possible, we’d do the thing that is good for our family.
“Sometimes that can mean doing something for yourself. I don’t think it benefits anyone if you’re consistently denying yourself something that you love for the sake of the family. No-one wants a father or a husband who’s miserable.
“Parenting seems very different now. I don’t ever remember my parents talking to me about what I wanted to study or what university I wanted to go to. I don’t even remember my father saying have you done your homework?
“We were left to our own devices to make a lot of decisions. But my father did always talk about education and I remember a key moment that frustrated me at the time, but looking back now I think was an amazing bit of parenting.
“I was offered a job on Neighbours, but at the same time, on the same weekend I was offered a place at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, which was a prestigious drama school. So I had this choice: do I go and become a working actor on a two-year contract? Or do I go and study?
“I was 24 – so I wasn’t young in acting terms – and I really didn’t know what to do.
“I told my father what happened on the Friday and I asked him: ‘What should I do?’ And he said: ‘I can’t answer that for you. You have to make your own decision.’ I remember going: ‘Come on, make it easy for me! Just tell me what to do!’
“By the Sunday, it was really clear to me that I wanted to go and study. I instinctively knew that as an actor when you’re going into an audition you have to believe in your heart that you deserve to be there. If you don’t believe that you’ll never really get the jobs. You might fluke one or two, but you’re never going to consistently work if you don’t believe that you deserve to be there. And I thought that two years on a soap opera was not going to make me confident enough to go to the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and audition. So I decided to study.
“When I told my dad my decision, he said ‘Oh, thank God! I’m so happy you chose that!’
‘Why didn’t you tell me that,’ I said.
‘It was your decision,’ he said. ‘But it’s very important that you get educated and go into the world knowing everything you can possibly know. Never stop learning!’
This is an extract from The Father Hood: Inspiration For The New Dad Generation. Buy it here