Being a decent dad is, and always has been, an important and challenging role. Here, 27-year-old Luke Lewis from Murchison talks about what it’s like being a modern father in a changing world.
Boyhood is changing, and fatherhood with it.
My partner and I have three boys. When I came home from work today, I scooped up the youngest, along with a slice of carrot cake baked by the middle, and then painted the nails of the oldest. Then we rode bikes, collected eggs, I adjudicated arguments and kissed cuts.
Our days are mostly spent this way, me revelling in the wonder of childhood while trying to give them the best chance to just be in it.
We aren’t an especially different household; I work full-time, my partner mothers full-time.
We share the housework as best we can (she does more, but I’m trying to change that), and we talk about parenting and all its joys and hardships. We discuss what it’s like parenting in the 21st century, navigating our family through today’s challenges.
Culture throughout the world is filled with positive social change.
Queer Eye is one of Netflix’s biggest successes, the new Little Mermaid will break cultural barriers, and Lil Nas X, a young, gay, African American, has the longest running number one song in history – a country hip-hop song, no less.
These are all cultural progressions to applaud and be proud of. They show our children, no matter their gender, race or background, that it’s okay to be themselves, whoever they may be.
But that’s not to say we can all sit back and binge reality TV drag queen RuPaul until Nobel Prize laureate Malala is the President of Earth.
There’s still work to be done; and men, especially fathers, have a unique, and I believe pivotal, role to play.
Toxic masculinity still pervades much of culture, from arts to sports to politics. Men are disproportionately the perpetrators of most of the violence in the world, and also often the victims of that violence.
Men have the responsibility to change this. To change attitudes towards the way masculinity is portrayed. To ask ‘How are you feeling?’ And to care about the answer.
Fathers are in the unique position of directly influencing future generations. Our children watch our performance of masculinity, whatever it may be, and internalise it, either to perform it themselves one day, or seek out those who perform it that way.
As a dad, I’ve been conscious of showing extra empathy to my boys, so they see men as caring figures. I’ve never walked through the door and had to dish out discipline for rotten behaviour in my absence, so they never see men use violence as vengeance.
I make sure we clean together, because that’s a skill all people need. I’m learning to cook alongside them, because that’s a skill all people need. And on the other side of that same coin, they mow the lawns and do woodwork with their mum, because they’re good skills too.
The best part, though, is that the simplest and purest way I make the cultural change I want to see in the world, is by loving my kids.
I unashamedly and embarrassingly enjoy my kids. I love them and, I believe, they put that love back into the world.