“I’ve had to break the bad news to men who’ve got lung cancer,” says Professor Bruce Robinson, one of Australia’s leading cancer researchers. “I’ve had to do it hundreds of times. Sometimes I have to tell men, who are sitting there with their partner, that their cancer is incurable. That they’ve only got six months to live.
“Their reaction varies a lot. Most blokes are philosophical – they’re aware they have a shadow on their lung so they’re ready for the news. Other times they can get upset. They may or may not cry, although their partner usually does.
“If they mention regrets, they’re nearly always the same. I’ve had so many men tell me they wish they’d spent more time with their kids, more time with their families. But what happened was they got too sucked into their work.
“At first, I was thinking about how to help dads, but then the focus became more about kids. Because there’s a great deal of research that shows that there’s a strong link between good fathering and the reduction of the risks that kids face when it comes to drug abuse, alcohol, mental health and violence. The more involved a father is in his children’s lives, the more likely they are to grow up happy and healthy.
“What we found was the most powerful force to help kids that was currently untapped was to improve fathering. So The Fathering Project grew out of that
“We started in 2013 and I think that men’s attitude to fatherhood has changed since then. Men are increasingly aware of just how important dads are. They’re aware that they’re not just the icing on the cake, but are fundamental to their children’s lives. The young dads I work with now, they want to spend time with their families, much more so than back in the days when I was a young doctor.
“But what’s the good of knowing that you’re important and then feeling guilty? At the Fathering Project we share road-tested ideas that dads can actually use to positively engage with their kids. What’s a good one? Start organising “dad dates” – regular occasions when you spend one-on-one time with your child. If you have three kids, then you’ll organise three different dates. It’s all about making the opportunity to talk and listen with your kids.
“Right now, it’s a good time to be a dad. When I was having children, there were no fathering groups – you’d just ask your wife. Now there’s so much more knowledge and information that can help you be a better dad.
“Today, I’m a grandparent. I watch my sons and see they do a lot of the things with their kids that I did with them. They’re committed dads and that’s partly because if you’ve had one yourself then you intuitively know what to do – fathering is so much harder if you’ve had no role model. That’s why being a good dad can affect not just your kids, but generations to come. I watch my sons being good dads with their children and I’m proud of them.”
This is an extract from The Father Hood: Inspiration For The New Dad Generation. Buy it here