There is an underlying premise to my parenting principles – both parents being fully invested in how each child is raised. I will not presume this is always the case. There are a number of circumstances that cause one of the parents to be less invested/involved: the absence of the father (physically or mentally), blended families where one parent is not empowered, imbalanced co-parenting arrangements, or young parents who wrestle with their new reality vice investing in what it means to raise functional adults. And there are certainly more, any of which may cause one of the parents to not be fully invested.
The above lays out the potential scenarios where both parents are not “all in,” so what does it mean to actually be all in? When I make this reference for my wife and I it means we were both prepared to be mentally and physically involved in the planning and execution of raising our daughters.
I will break this down based on three areas, and focus on my particular part – mentally invested in the planning; mentally present/available (to my wife and children) as we raised them; and physically present during their upbringing.
Mentally Invested in Planning: I consider this part of my head of household responsibility. The short, mid and long-range planning for my family and setting the conditions for my children. This included sharing my philosophy, discussing how we achieve those parenting goals, and what has to be done to enable our children to develop as we desire. This required an equal or more amount of mental energy than my work, personal activities and community interests. I had to set aside time to think about it, find time to talk about it with my wife and determine what it looks like as we all grew. It was not a half-hearted discussion, was not viewed as a distraction from other interests or something my wife needed to figure out (for my girls).
Mentally Available: Once we started actually implementing our plan, which created a simultaneous interplay between planning and execution from the age of 5, I had to actively assess how well we were doing. I had to think about perpetual changes in the family dynamic (based on age, maturity, their grade, our location, etc.), self-reflect on how I was dealing with the stress and strain of balancing “work and life,” as well as figure out how to “get in front” of the ever evolving social norms that my girls existed in through school, sports and friends.
Physically Present: I believe in both quality and quantity time, especially when the kids are younger (between 5 and 13). To provide either, I had to be there when I could. I did not exclusively spend time with my kids – I worked, enjoyed my hobbies, volunteered in the community and spent time exclusively with my wife; but I rated time with my daughters as a top priority. And if that meant not doing something else during the week or weekend, then I didn't. The physical without the mental is disingenuous. Being a father is not just providing for them (whether financially, a safe home, clothes or comfort), it is also about them knowing you are present (mentally) when you are physically there AND being physically there when they are wondering “where is daddy?”