In the name of three fathers
In advance of Father’s Day on Sunday, three Cork men of different generations sit down and talk about what it’s like to be a father today and how things have changed over the years. Brian O’Connelltakes notes
ON BECOMING A FATHER
Mark Curran (23, a father of one):“There is a lot more responsibility with fatherhood than I previously thought. The picture I had in my head was that things would come right and they’d fall into place easier. They say that parenthood is the most natural thing and that it is in all of us. It’s true in effect. There are things you pick up, but there are also parts of it that you just instinctively know what to do. Other fathers are more open to discussion about it nowadays.
“I was the first in my gang to become a dad. To be fair to my friends, they were helpful in every way they could be. They always inquire about my daughter, Sadhb, and any chance they can, they will still visit.
“Friendship between us has gotten stronger, if anything. The negatives are that I was hoping to bring up my child in our own house, but with the economic climate we’re in, we’re still waiting to buy a home. I’m hoping that side of things will come right. Always, before, when I was free and single, you’d have been going away travelling and hanging out with the lads in your head. Since I became a father, I don’t even think of it any more. Sadhb is my number-one priority and she will always come first.
“The set-up I have is that I am away five days a week working, so the two days I have to see her I want to maximise my time.”
Michael Canty (74, a father and grandfather):“I was 23 when I got married, and we had our first child six years after that. We had three kids in total. We weren’t as open as the kids are today. It was completely different. In our time, even when you were married and if you were in company, women stuck with the women and the men went with the men and that was it. In my time, when you got married, within 12 months you were often expected to have the first baby.
“Fatherhood wasn’t difficult to adjust to. I found it a wonderful experience. It changed my life completely, and my outlook. My wife didn’t work, and I was out working all the time.
“She was the one in the house who looked after the kids really, looked after everything, to be honest. My wife took over everything as regards the children. I was mad about the kids, and am still very close to them.
“I’d like to think I gave the kids honesty, an ability to mix well, and also tried to get them to play sports. I never pushed them into careers – whatever made them happy.
“As a grandfather, it’s different. You have them and you love them, but you can walk away from it. I think fatherhood was much different and less complex in our day, as we didn’t have the choices that parents have today.”
Aidan Mulcahy (47, a father of one):“My son is now three, but I never thought about becoming a dad. I had at one stage thought I’d never be a father. For a long time I had the view that with six and a half billion people on the planet, I didn’t really need to bring more children into the world! But I became a father, and now I think if that hadn’t happened I would have completely missed out on something. It’s totally changed my life. As a father, you can no longer think as an individual, you now think of ‘us’. If I am working away for a few weeks, there’s always the consideration of childcare, and so on. My own dad died when I was 15, so the influence from my father wasn’t very strong. I think you have to make it up as you go along.
“Everybody has it in them, every man has the capacity to be a father. It is trial and error. One thing I think you learn is infinite patience. I don’t look towards my child’s adolescence with worry. If you do your job right as a father, then that stage should be less difficult. With all of what is happening at the moment, we’re becoming a more open society and changing our attitudes towards children.
“I think in my parents’ generation, the mother did the minding and the father took on a spectator’s role. He came home in the evening and took you to football matches or whatever. But now my wife works. We both work. We both have to pitch in equally.”
ON WORKING PARENTS
Michael:“I think kids miss out on a lot these days. But I suppose they’re being brought up with the times and there is a move to both parents working. I think kids definitely miss out because of that.”
Aidan:“I don’t think kids do miss out. My child misses his mother when she is away, but if I’m there, it’s okay. You have to compensate for having both parents working. As long as our son is with one of us for a certain amount of the day, I don’t think he misses out. He’d prefer obviously if both parents were there, but it’s not possible.”
Michael:“I suppose in my time the kids spent most of the time with their mother. If they weren’t at school, they were at home, and I was out working most of the time.
“I was missing a lot of the time, but then I’d make up for it on weekends and in the summer. During the holidays I’d spend a lot more time with them, kicking a football or trying to teach them how to ride a bicycle, that sort of thing.”
Mark:“In my situation, Sadhb is with her mother Monday to Friday and then I take over on weekends, when her mother goes working. I mind her then and, as Aidan says, if one of us is there, Sadhb is happy.
“Being young, a lot of the traits I got from my own father are still fresh in my mind, and I try to pass them on. My own parents taught us the good values in life, such as respecting money and being generous. There are other things I think I as a father will give Sadhb, such as a love of the sea and fishing, and so on, which she may not get from her mother.”
ON FATHER’S ROLES
Michael:“If you’re there and the kids can see that you mean well for them, and they can depend on you as back-up if their mother is not there, then that’s a big thing. I was home every night, out most of the day, but when I was home I always made time for the kids. I think things are much more difficult now for parents. I think it’s not easy now to be a father.”
Aidan:“I think not only is it not easy to be a father, it’s not easy to be a man. In previous generations, men and women had very defined roles. Men went out to work and many women remained at home. Now the boundaries are blurred and you don’t quite know.
“I know of several situations where the father has just lost his job and the mother is going out to work. She is now the breadwinner and the mother, and he’s at home. That’s happening everywhere. In the current age, men have a more difficult time defining their role, and the things that made men feel like men are changing. That’s difficult.”
ADVICE FOR FATHERS
Mark:“I never had patience in my life, but since I’ve had my daughter you learn to go with the flow. You learn to sit back and be patient. I would advise anyone to have a child – it’s the most wonderful experience I’ve had in my life. To hold your child for the first time in your arms, when she is only minutes old, I am never going to forget that feeling. My advice to someone simply would be to go through the journey.”
Michael:“The only advice I would give is for a father to be there and support his wife or partner. You have to not get too caught up about things either, and remember that kids will often go to their mother first. In my family, that was the case. Then my wife would have talked to me about it and ask me for advice. The final decision, though, was always hers! I was glad to leave it to her. Your role as a father changes as the kids get older and live their own lives.”
Aidan:“Trust your instinct and invest your time in your children – that’s my advice. It is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s the making of you as a man, and adds a whole different layer to your life. I think also, in terms of understanding children, it’s important to try and think like they do. That’s the mistake a lot of fathers make, trying to impose their way of thinking on to a child.”
Michael:“In our time there was a lot of ‘kids should be seen and not heard’ type of thing. Not in my house though. The previous generation hunted kids out of the room when adults gathered. We decided to change that aspect of family and made the kids far more involved. I believe that’s the way it should be.”