Redefining ‘The Real Man’

Redefining ‘The Real Man’: Five Mandatory Rules for Modern Dads

I’m surrounded by deadbeat dads who routinely camouflage their general laziness, selfishness, greed and poor parenthood behind their manhood.  

“Essendon are playing, can’t miss my team!”

“Just getting a couple of pots with the boys after work – gotta blow off some steam!”

“I’m only smashing out Crossfit 6 days a week so you don’t have a fat husband!”

All excuses I’ve heard from real dads trying to live like single, childless twenty-somethings.

Meanwhile, the women in their lives are juggling part or full-time work, the majority of cleaning and life maintenance and almost exclusive parenting duties – the occasional begrudging trip to the park aside.

There’s those whose daddy self-serving comes in the guise of looking after their family. When one local dad’s daughter was only four days old, he disappeared for a few hours, only to reappear having signed up to an expensive Krav Maga club and committing to several three-hour training sessions each week. Upon gentle inquiry as to the rationale for this decision, he responded that he “needs to be able to protect his family” and that he “can’t feed the baby, so there’s nothing I can contribute”.

Nice one, mate – you went on to miss your little girl’s first steps in favour of rolling on the ground with sweaty men. I’ve been a competitive boxer, and I can guarantee you the ability to rock someone’s clock has zero applicability to good fatherhood (despite your favourite daydream of Ninja Turtles-esque scenes where you fight off hordes of bad guys off to save your helpless wife and child).

My other favourite is the outsourcing of “help” rather than providing it yourself.

The father of one of my daughter’s friends bragged to me that he was sending his wife and kids away to his parents’ house for a week so he could be alone to play Red Dead Redemption 2 on his new PlayStation. He justified this to his wife by suggesting she needed an extra pair of hands to support their newborn baby girl. Um, what? Isn’t that what dads are for?

This sexist, shameful bullshit should not be tolerated. It’s time for some tough love. If I had my way, here would be the five mandatory ‘real man’ rules for dads in committed relationships.  

Be Engaged and Present

It’s time to drop the iPhone, fellas – stop gawking at live footy score updates when you should be pushing your kid on the swing (I would seriously love to know the stats of child injuries in parks due to dads looking at their phone instead of playing with their child).

Social media is another one that has to go.  It is a leech that feeds on your most precious resource – your time with your partner and child.  You really need to be honest with yourself – no one cares about your selfie on the beach in your Ray Bans. You won’t lose touch with your real mates, and you may get the added bonus of losing touch with people you don’t actually care about.

Connect with your little one on their level.  Throw a ball, play hide and seek, use your imagination and have fun with them.  

(PS. Chucking your little one in front of Paw Patrol is NOT parenting.)

Find a Way To Socialise Without it Always Being a Party

There is nothing wrong with mums and dads finding time for drinks with their friends.  However, there are too many guys I know who use established norms such as after-work drinks to excuse a Friday-night bender, or Saturday-hangover sleep-in, or CBF-chores weekend.

Time to set some new traditions.  Get your mates to join you and the family for trips to the museum or the movies, or enlist them to come and help build a tree house or a fortress.

They say it takes a village to raise a child – well, surround yours with the best extended family possible and get some positive catch-up time in while you’re at it.

Recognise The Work Your Partner is Putting In

I have met so many amazing women since having my little girl. Mums who somehow manage to be there for their kids through sickness and health, earn a wage and keep the various spinning plates of life secure on no sleep while still maintaining a sense of humour.

However, too many of these women are with men who are blind to their work. In the worst-case scenarios, some of these guys seem to think that working part-time while running a household and looking after kids is akin to some sort of holiday.

Sit down with your partner and divide up the chores, activities and actions required – and ensure that they are putting time aside for their own rest and relaxation.

Pull your weight, and don’t expect a medal of honour for doing the dishes.

Emphasise Life Over Work

I have been guilty of engaging in the macho pissing contest of trying to work more hours than everyone else as a sign of my commitment to the job.  The reality, of course, is that I was being both inefficient in my work practices and missed reading my daughter a bedtime story five nights a week while my wife shouldered the load. This is unacceptable.

If you are a father working for an employer that demands you are there 12 to 14 hours a day, it’s time to look for a new job. If that means earning less money, take some time to consider how you could cut down on some of your life expenses and make it happen. Family first, always.

Remember that, by your presence or your absence, you are a role model for your child. We’ve all cried to “Cat’s in the Cradle” – don’t let that be you. Be the man you’d be proud to see your son become, and be the standard against which your daughter judges all men.

Prioritise Family Over Gym Bros

This means you, UFC wannabes and Crossfit tragics. Unless you are in the 0.0001% of Australians making a living out of professional sports then there is absolutely no need to train like an elite athlete. This doesn’t mean you should live the Krispy Kreme couch life, but exercise should never impact on valuable family time. Get up at 5 am and run around the block, or bust out a kettlebell circuit in your back yard or lounge room – 45 minutes a few times a week is more than enough. Remember, no-one is ever going to be on their death bed wishing they had done just a few more bicep curls.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was a macho idiot.  But guess what – I grew up and learned what it really means to be a good husband and a father to my daughter.  Follow the golden rules and you’ll discover a new sense of satisfaction in your family life, while being the man your partner and children need.

Nick Orchard works in leadership roles across government and the not-for-profit sector. He’s also a former hip-hop artist, a competitive boxer and dad to a four-year-old daughter.

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  1. Janet Hussey

    Oh Nick I’m so thankful that Kim asked me to read your blog. What an insightful and gutsy article you have written. You and Megan both chose so well. Can’t wait to meet Coco. xxoo

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