Are You A Father or ________ First?
Who am I? Who are you? What is our identity? And are you a [fill in the blank with your job/career] first or a father first? I would say that I have a lot of different “identities”...a child of God, a husband, a father, a son, a friend, founder of The Endurance, a Razorback to name a few… We all have a lot of “identities” but it’s the order that determines how we live.
Since I am a Christ follower first, that identity supersedes all of the other identities and determines my actions in my other identities (husband, career, father, etc).
My identity as a Christ follower determines my actions as a Razorback fan for example, not the other way around! (I have to confess, there are moments where I get it backwards though!) Dads, the question I have really been pondering is this... Is my identity in my job/career first or as a father first? And how I answer that question determines everything….
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear makes the case that our identities determine our actions and habits. I didn’t wake up today and decide, “Ok I am not going to the store to buy cigarettes and smoke them.” Why? Because I am not a cigarette smoker. It’s not my identity. I don’t even have to think about not buying cigarettes.
Our identities determine our habits. Want some new habits? Change your identity first.
Between our “career” identity and our “father” identity, in my opinion, most of us have it backwards. But if you look at our culture, it makes total sense as to why.
From the moment we start school, it’s all about us and preparing for our career one day. Then we get to high school where we have to make a decision about our next steps, our future career, and what will help prepare me for that career. Being a father was the furthest thing from my mind and I was never asked even one time, “what will help you be a better father one day?” Then we go to college and again it’s all about preparing for our career. It’s all about us and what will make us happy! Then we start the career and of course we want to be successful at our careers. But then at some point we meet our “better half”, marry them, and then the kids start coming. We always knew we were going to be fathers at some point.
But how does being a father go with our careers? Which one drives the other?
I believe what our kids really need from us and what we really want if we want to have a joyful, fulfilling life, is to be a father first. Also, one of the important responsibilities that God has given us, is to be a good father to our children. When we are a father first, our career is still very important because it’s how we provide for our families. But if we are a father first, our career doesn’t come in front of our children and their needs. If you are not sure which “identity” you are putting first, here’s a few good questions to ask yourself…
Do you have to remind yourself to spend quality time with your kids?
Do you feel like your kids are a burden and keeping you from other things?
Are you actively working towards connecting with your children on a deeper level?
There’s no shame in admitting that your job/career identity is first and being a father is second. Most Americans are right there with you. You might even still be considered a “good dad”.
But once your identity changes to father first, trust me, you’ll know the difference and your kids will know it too.