The Father Burden, Bike Gods & Looking So Good

September 3, 2010 in First Year Fatherhood  

The Father Burden, Bike Gods & Looking So Good

A couple months before my son was born I was in the heat of needing a motorcycle, badly. Like, drooling about being on an older BMW carving my way through traffic and frontage roads…

This got me thinking about all the stuff I could buy if I sold my car. I could, well,  buy a motorcycle, for one (“Why, yes, that classic motor bike is indeed mine… and yes, I do have great taste. Thank you!”). Even if I stopped there, that would be a total victory.  Then I could get an awesome camera, killer lenses, a new computer, clothes, CLOTHES!  I could look so good!  “What’s that?  Why, thank you!  I do look so good.” Not to mention all the awesome accessories for motorcycles that I’d get to chalk up as “safety items” like helmets and jackets and handlebars and chaps!

Vintage Dad, Vintage Bike, from scarlatti2004

scarlatti2004's dad in 1964

It was when the drool started seeping through my shirt that I snapped out of my daydream. And when I came to, there was something in the back of my mind that made me feel weird, some dark thought looking at me through the shadows… like it wasn’t good for me to be thinking about all this stuff, like I should be ashamed. After some digging, I realized what the thought was…

Selfish Dad Shelves Self, Sacks Cycle, Blames Father Burden

The problem was, I was carrying on, daydreaming about all the stuff I’d love to buy myself, all the toys that would make my life more awesome, when the arrival of my son was just around the corner… and the money from the car would surely best be put into cribs, strollers, diapers, feeding chambers, soundproof doors, baby’s investment future, and sh*t like that.

I was immediately struck by the sorrow of not getting what I wanted, and not only that, but the fact that I would be spending the rest of my life with the responsibility to take care of my kids’ happiness before my own.

I mean, in the heat of my reverie, the thought of sacrificing something as central to my identity as  1). a motorcycle and 2). looking so good, was a solid punch to my gut.

I know I sound selfish, I’ll admit that. But the truth is these dadly feelings of putting my son’s happiness before my own just aren’t coming naturally yet… and it makes it really hard to let go of the classic bike god I could totally be!

Father Burden Is Burdensome

Ok, stop whining. Here’s the deal: Well, prepared or not, this is happening now: this is my first father-feeling, more of a father-burden. This characteristic will define my life from here on out: I will always put my son/daughter/kids first.

That is a crazy ass thing to say from where I’m sitting: some scraggly 20 something reclined in an Ikea chair, wearing pajamas, trying to figure out what the hell he’s going to do when he grows up (“What’s that? Why, yes, I do look particularly fatherly today. LOL!”).

So, dear reader, the long and the short of it this: dads, more often than not, do not get motorcycles. (or at least new dads don’t)

Conclusion… 14 Months Later

This was the first time the sacrifice portion of being a dad came up on my radar. It happened over a year ago, before my son was even born, and it points to something we all, if we want our kids to call us “dad“, have to learn: we learn to put our kids first — not in every little thing, but whenever we need to.

And, of course, the good thing here — as we who are called “dad” know — is that when you get to know your kids it’s often times very easy to put their happiness in front of your own… Good luck, dudes.

Please Comment & Add Your Voice!

Jim September 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

Chase,

I think you are spot on! Fatherhood is a path and a direction. We are required to shed some things before departing for the path….or we find out from ourselves along the path that some of the gear (before we became dad) is not needed. Kinda like a mountain climber with too much gear and not all of it necessary to reach the summit. Hard for a climber to leave gear behind.

How our life was as “men w/o children” is extremely important to what we take into fathering. Dreams of the motorcycle, or the photography god you think you can be . . . . are great dreams that keep us steady and our minds multi- dimensional. Fathers need those dreams when they can’t buy new shoes for their feet, or its been years since they have taken a walk on the beach, or find themselves driving a car with 200,000 on it. Somehow it all helps you pare down you own life to the things you really desire, and pursue the few things rather than trying to do it all. And when we finally own that perspective, we enjoy our friends stories about doing the things we once thought of doing. We live thru their words as if we are them….and enjoying every bit of it. Our buddies stories become more vivid and exciting as we grow…..because we finally realize from the gift of fatherhood . . . .we can’t do it all or even most of it. Fatherhood changes the way we love our buddies. It a ripping change that becomes our best moments our best growth.

You nailed the picture of that transition. You painted the picture of some of that ugly we discover as we enter into fatherhood.

Good man Chase, be well,

J R Small

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Chase September 22, 2010 at 9:16 am

Jim, wow. Thanks. Great comment! Sounds like it comes from some real experience.

Lars September 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I agree – being a parent means sacrifice and compromise. Ditto being in a committed relationship.

But remember there’s an important step from bringing a sacrifice to matyrdom. Do not make that kid (or those kids) all your life. That’s way too big a responsibility for a kid, to have to give meaning and fullness to their dads life. Make sure you still do things for you. Things you want to do. That bike might be out of range (for now), but probably less will do. Pick something that you go do, just for you; you will come back energized and happy, and your family will love you all the more.

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Chase September 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Good point, Lars. Great point! Thanks for writing!

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Samuel September 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

“when you get to know your kids it’s often times very easy to put their happiness in front of your own.”

I’d say it’s often almost impossible not to, really.

Actually, my problem in this area is remembering to do the things that feed me for my own sake rather than always doing the things the kids want to do. I’ve got a four year old son and a six month old daughter, and between the two of them I could easily spend 100% of my free time playing trucks and giving tickles.

In my experience, the father burden thing gets easier with time. That isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes wish I could buy myself a little convertible MGB to zip around in and tinker with. But now isn’t the time for that, so I don’t sweat it. And as often as that comes up, so does the opposite problem.

It’s a struggle sometimes to remember to take a few minutes out to read a book, watch a grown up movie, or go for a walk in the woods all alone. It feels to me like if I’m not teaching my kids by example the importance of following one’s own heart and passions, I’m not doing my best job as a Dad.

Like in so many things, it’s a hard balance to strike.

Thanks for providing this place to discuss this stuff.

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Chase September 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Good stuff, Samuel. Thanks for contributing.

As you mention going for “a walk in the woods all alone” I realize i need to dawn some flannel and take an early morning saunter. God, that sounds amazing. I’d totally get my life in order. Shit. I’ve gotta do that.

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Matt September 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

When I read this post, it made me think of a quote from a former Harvard professor who decided to become a stay at home Mom: “Thank God, who saves us from what we think we want.”

Yesterday, I was pulling the trash can in and took a look at the 1999 Mazda Protege and the 2002 Chevy Venture (totally uncool in Colorado, by the way. Next family vehicle better be an SUV) and literally thought, “How are these my vehicles?” I’ve never been obsessed with having a cool car, but how are these the cars of a 34-year-old? It was just the latest piece of evidence in what’s becoming a not-so-mysterious case of “Am I cool?” In my experience, parenting is like the Trail of Tears in which you leave the land of cool, free time, and sleep.

I’m exaggerating. In all honesty, parenting has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I can’t think of much that requires more patience and selflessness and gives you more self-awareness and joy.

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Voula September 26, 2010 at 7:24 am

OMG I couldn’t help but laugh. When I was about 7 months pregnant with our first, my husband said, casually, “I’d love to get a motorcycle some day. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

That casual comment set off the biggest fight of our relationship. Why? Because in my hormone-addled state what I heard him say was; “I want to buy a motorcycle – right now before you go on maternity leave and we don’t have any money. I am selfish, immature and I want to spend a lot of money in the most irresponsble manner ever. And in the process, I will probably kill myself on this bike leaving you a single mother with a baby.”

Now, however, I get the need for the bike. But he still isn’t getting one until the last kid finsihes college or we win a lotto :) He knows (and often reminds me) that children are short term pain for long term gain.
Cheers!

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Chase September 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Ha Ha! That’s awesome, Voula! And it’s also awesome that you now get the idea behind the need for the motorcycle… Us dood guys are trying to figure out how to be big time freedom creative manliness guys whilst also not blowing up our houses and ruining our relationships.

I think maybe this bike thing is more universal than I thought! Cuz, basically, it would be fun… Don’t you think!?

Thx for the story! :)

Dave February 7, 2011 at 6:12 am

I feel slightly guilty about having two motorcycles in the garage, and planning to buy another in the near future.. Shame on me..

As I’m about the join the brotherhood, I realise there are things that we need to give up. For instance, It might not be acceptable to go out on a three day bender. There are sacrifices that we need to make for the greater good of our family. I think what is equally important, is the realisation that (fathers) having hobbies and time for ourselves is crucial to striking balance in our lives, and nurturing that greater good within our family.

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Chase February 7, 2011 at 6:30 am

You’re absolutely right Dave. And congrats!!

Jonathan January 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

First off, I love that you posted this. While I was reading I found myself reflecting on my life, though rather short thus far. But I have some questions… I’m 23, married, in school and I just found out that I am soon to be a father myself. Shocked as I was at first, I now know that with some time, guidance, and patience I will be able to not only raise my child, but be the loving caring father, no, DAD that I want to be. So with that said, I already own a motorcycle, and I have a Jeep… My wife is looking for a car that will be better than the Jeep on gas and heat, also a smother ride… I want to keep the bike and ride from time to time and hopefully when my child grows old enough ride with him. When I was reading your post however I began to wonder if this was a selfish notion… What should I do as a soon to be father, do I get rid of the bike, or do I keep it and find time to ride when I can? Sorry if this seems irrellivant, but I would like to know. I’ve been riding for four years, and the bike has always been a stress reliever for me…

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Chase January 24, 2012 at 9:36 am

Congrats on the impending dadliness, Jonathan!

The story above is my own story. It’s not meant to say to dads everywhere that bikes are bad. Not at all.

For me it wasn’t about the bike as much as it was about the money and the time. I didn’t have a bike yet. I wanted it almost as an escape from the weighty responsibilities of being a dad.

Your story is totally different and you’ll have to blaze your own trail on this one. Bikes don’t mean anything about fathering one way or another. Neither do hammers, forts, occupations, cars, careers, passions… it’s what you do with it that counts.

Good luck blazing your own trail, Jonathan. You’re going to OK.

Mike May 23, 2013 at 9:18 am

Honestly Chase – a fantastic post.

I couldn’t have summed it up any further. I always had the urge to buy ‘toys’ for myself before and during the first couple months after my son was born. (my son is 1 now)

As the months have gone by, it is absolutely clear that he is the most important thing in my life……. I can get the toys later…… Much later.

I want to be a great dad when I grow up……..I think that starts by learning to cleanse the selfishness.

Thanks for posting.
Mike

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