Willow Magazine CREATING LIFE - Page 97

Becoming An Empathic Father To Raise Gentle Boys

Torsten Klaus

Once a father-to-be asked me what he would need to buy for his new baby. I told him that he only needs a few things. But even more importantly, he will need to give three things: unconditional love, empathy and trust! I wish I had heard those words when I became a father myself. Not that I was overly concerned about buying things for our first born, but soon after his birth I realised how little I felt emotionally prepared for fatherhood.

Society expects new fathers to just continue functioning ‘normally’. After a ridiculously short paternity leave, one should go back to work, earn money, do overtime, smile. It just didn’t happen for me, my work life suddenly became a lot less important (not that I was ever career driven!) With becoming a father I started to negotiate with my employers about working part time, in order to have enough time for my family. Yes, I even left a job some years ago when I was denied the right of working part time. They pushed me as far as they could, yet my answer was still simple and straightforward: My family is more important than your business. I realised quickly that for me to build a strong bond to my children I needed to be around. A lot. My wife also needed my support, for her the transition was even bigger, and she also needed me to be around for more than just a few hours each day.

Having more time allowed me to reflect on fatherhood and what’s it about for me: being authentic, honest, clear and empathic. But those things just don’t come by easily and quickly. For me as a man and fathe, I struggled for years to find a kind of connection to my emotions and to be able to express, explore and accept my feelings. Growing up in the eighties and nineties the ‘world of men’ I observed was covered with sticky layers of coolness, aggression, bullying, selfishness – men were obsessed with their ego, their success, their advantage; whether in school, work, with family or their friends.