To celebrate Father’s Day, six dads reflect on this momentous role; what they know, what they’re still learning – and how kids can stretch you further than any job.
Alain de Botton // Founder of The School of Life, Philosopher + Dad to Solomon and Saul
It’s a fictional creation called ‘being a father’ and I don’t think that’s a problem… but it’s a heavily edited version of me and it means, in a way, me putting aside a lot of my own needs and desires, really to be focused on somebody else. Which is kind of an odd role to play: I’m at the service of my children in many ways as a father. They love to tell me how stupid I am and that I don’t understand anything at all about anything – it’s very important to them constantly to tell me this and it certainly brings you down to earth. But it also expands you; I hated sport all my life and I have a younger son who’s a sports fanatic and it’s through him I’ve discovered that actually, watching a game of football is something that could be possible for me and I’d never ever had imagined that I would do that, but I do that. So they stretch you, in unusual and interesting ways.
Blake Mycoskie // Founder of TOMS + Dad to Summit
I think the best thing I’ve done is just give [my son] undivided attention. We have a policy where we have no phones, no computers in the same room that he’s in so we don’t find ourselves distracted when we’re spending time with him. In the house, if I need to go do some emails or make a phone call, [my wife] Heather will go watch him and I’ll go do that and… I’ll come back to him and give him my full attention. I think that’s a really important practice to get involved in because he might not totally understand it now, but definitely in another year it will have an impact. So I try to make the time I am with him very, very high quality, and very, very intentional.
Charlie Wood // Managing Director of Dropbox ANZ + Dad to three
I’m now a lot more conscious of my own actions and activities. I’m very conscious of time. Now that my kids are out of the toddler phase, I really try to minimise my business travel and avoid late nights at the office. It’s an incredible time to be together as a family and being present is very important to us all. One thing I’ve noticed recently is the change in the change. As the kids move through their stages of life I have to change my position as a father. We’re not just kindergarten-carers now – we’re responsible for helping form their world views, their values as well as their sense of humour and taste in music.
Mark Newman // CEO and MD at Oroton + Dad to Emily, Annabel & Julia
Fatherhood is the single most important thing I have done in my life. [It has] fundamentally changed many things about me from that day forward. The obvious sense of responsibility is more than compensated for by the enormous sense of joy and happiness the girls have given me, and I have learnt to be a more patient and understanding person. [I was surprised to learn] that no matter how much you tell yourself you will not do
to your children what your parents did to you, you end up doing exactly that. And how much money it costs – although they are worth every penny!
Tim Cahill // Fashion Designer at Cahill+, Soccer player + Dad to Kyah, Shae, Sienna and Cruz
I think the main thing for me is just to have fun. I suppose it’s hard because I want to be the ‘fun dad’ but at the same time I like them to be disciplined. I hate it when I miss their soccer games and I hate it when I miss stuff. But I think if you can capture the moments and give them your attention, which they need, I think that’s most important. I’ve got four kids so I understand that time with them is important… I tell them I love them and hug them, even if they’re naughty. I think that’s what’s most important for any dad, is to give your kids love and affection. Just support. Support them in what they do. You can’t be too hard on them, especially when it’s [about] football or stuff like that; the main thing is just being there for them.
Tony Ward // Managing Director of SurveyMonkey APAC + Dad to Bella
I know it may sound like a cliché, but fatherhood has made me stop and appreciate the small things. I get great joy watching my eight-year-old figure things out and growing up to be a strong, confident woman. [There’s] so much joy and pride in herself when she does new things. The most surprising thing about being a dad is how hard it is to be a good parent! To be present and attentive with all the noise that is in our daily lives and to focus on what is truly important.