Messages in our #CanWeTalkAboutThis bottle that inspired us to publish this article:
“Young fathers often find themselves struggling between wanting to be successful in their careers, providing well for their families and wanting to also be there for their children with time and involvement.”
“I hope someday I will be the kind of parent I dreamed I’d be.”
“’When I have a kid I’m not going to beat him, I’m not going to do anything to discipline him, I’m just going to make him do push-ups. By the time he gets to college he’ll be buff as hell!’
“A buddy of mine said that when I was in college,” Aaron says. “And I thought ‘Oh that’s a great idea.’” Aaron Thomas is a 25-year-old non-parent, non to-be parent, but a young South Asian man who’s decided it’s not such a bad idea to think ahead of time about fatherhood.
The first time he ever seriously considered the type of parent he’d be, he was 16.
“I don’t think that was the norm…but because of the way I was raised I had things I wanted to do differently. I think my dad, his focus when he started a family was essentially to make enough money to support his family and provide for them…I would want to have more of an emotional connection with my kids so I know what’s actually going on in their lives as opposed to what they’re doing.”
It may not have been the norm at 16, but what about now? Do young men talk fatherhood over beer?
“With my group of friends, probably not. But when it’s just one or two of us, yes. Most of the time with a lot of guys they have an opinion but it doesn’t come out. A lot of guys shy away from it…until you get to that point in your life when you’re having a kid.”
Aaron’s best friend is about to have a daughter.
“He said, ‘OK time to go get the license and buy some shotguns.’ It was all jokes but we understand the things that are going to come our way…lifestyles change, the impact it’s going to have on his relationship with his wife, how he’s going to look at things differently…live his life differently.”
On the whole, the marital relationship in the context of raising children is given more importance by this new and next generation of parents than the ones prior.
“Almost everyone agrees having a kid with someone you’re not happy with is not acceptable…I think because the generation before us got married early and started a family early, there are a lot of experiences they didn’t gain from.”
Aaron says the shift of getting married at a later age may actually benefit children “cause I think if parents do it they’ll be doing it for the right reasons as opposed to doing it because of the norm.”
But one thing he feels hasn’t changed is women often prevent men from reaching their full potential as fathers.
“I do think that men, if given a chance, would have more to contribute, more to say, and more to actually do on a day-to-day basis. If you look at a lot of sitcoms now, fathers actually have a very active role in their daughters’ lives, or at least they try to.”
Particularly with daughters, and particularly within South Asian families in which many things (sex, menstruation, etc) are taboo, fathers have no room for involvement.
“When the daughter has a sensitive issue to talk about, the father’s not going to be, ‘OK let me go up and talk to her,’ but there’s a second of pause where he may want to do that, but because by default the mother would go up and talk to the daughter right way he doesn’t get the chance to take that opportunity.
“In terms of the mother, I think at times she should hold back and say ‘OK, I think you should go up.’ She has to allow that to happen…because it’s hard for men to do that…so a little bit of encouragement from mom would help.”
Of course, bulk of the responsibility falls on fathers. “I think if you try and do one thing with your daughter every day you will make that connection with her so that hopefully when she needs to talk about something and her mom’s not around, she can come talk to you.”
When asked what people could do to better understand men as fathers, Aaron says “I have to start with women. I think a lot of women spend time trying to understand men, but the fact of the matter is women don’t spend time understanding what kind of father her man wants to be…I think most of the time, especially with South Asian families, people are very unaware of how fathers want to be, how involved they want to be, and how they would actually like to be different with their daughters and sons.”
Hopefully, fatherhood is headed in a new (and improved) direction with the generation of men Aaron belongs to. But every parenting cycle has its own set of boundaries. From cross-cultural marriages to homosexuality, everything was once taboo. What is something Aaron would find difficult to accept in his children?
He says quickly and frankly, “Sleeping around.
“I understand that it happens…because you’re trying to figure out who you are, how you are…but in some ways you can actually lose a part of who you are by doing that…you can lose it for good completely, and sadly it’s not coming back ever. I guess that’s why I wouldn’t support it if it comes to my kids. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to learn from them, but I think I would have a problem with my kids doing it on a regular basis.”