I recently became a father. My son, Justice David Schulz, was born on February 10th, 2017. When people hear that I have recently become a father they say to me, “Congratulations! You must be so proud.” Well, actually I am not.
I never wanted to be a father. I still do not want to be a father. As I write this Justice is crying wanting to be fed and/or have his diaper changed … again. Honestly, it is annoying, not heart-warming. When I look at him, I do not see a cute, cuddly face. I see an old-looking, wrinkly, eating and poop machine and a hindrance to my life. That is just me being real, being honest. I realize you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “How can he possibly think that?”. My response to that can be partially found in a post I wrote called “Not Everyone’s Like You, Bruh“.
My wife, Samantha, wanted a kid and I could not deprive her of fulfilling that desire. But if it were up to me, I would never have kids. I have enough people I am trying to pour into; I do not need a 24-hour dependent to add to that list. On top of that, I really enjoy free time. I enjoy being able to go to the basketball court any time I want. I enjoy lying down on my couch not having to think about getting up unless it is to go to bed. And to be honest with you, I like my wife not looking pregnant.
Many people told me that my feelings of not wanting a kid would instantly change the moment I saw my newborn son. Well, it did not. I remember watching Justice being born and seeing him being moved to the examination table. Instead of seeing Justice and saying, “There is my son“, I said, “There is a kid.” I did not think of him as my son. I was just looking at another kid. Even for the next couple days in the hospital I kept thinking of him as a loaner kid, as if we were going to give him back to the hospital when we were ready to go.
So here I am now with a kid. My kid. He is my responsibility. I have a couple options. I could continue to be real and honest and spout out my feelings and act accordingly … or I can recognize my feelings for what they are and take my rightful position as father and caretaker.
I choose the latter. How did I come to choose the latter?
I had to recognize that the reason I felt the way I did was because of selfishness. I was selfish with my time, selfish with my comfort, selfish with my goals. I have found that many times when we are complaining about some situation, the root of our complaining is some character flaw of ourselves more so than the situation actually warranting complaint – or at least the amount of complaint that we give it.
I also had to shift my perspective onto the many positive things that could come from having a child. Things like how I now have the opportunity to raise a young man the way God has intended a young man to be raised. Raising a child like that can result in a beautiful life for the child. I have the opportunity to raise a young man who can positively influence a generation that I would have a very difficult time influencing.
There comes a time when you have to move from being real to being right, from being honest to being responsible. I appreciate honesty from people. But after you are done venting your feelings, take up your mantle and move forward.
We can get stuck being real trying to justify our inaction towards something we should be doing. We can think that our feelings outweigh the responsibility. But responsibly doing what is right always outweighs our feelings that leads to a lack of desire to do what is right.
Les Miserables is one of my favorite books. At the start of Book VIII Jean Valjean had just made a decision that he knew he had to do but it left him in a lot of pain. Here is how the narrator presents Jean Valjean’s dilemma:
It is a terrible thing to be happy! How pleased we are with it! How all-sufficient we think it! How, being in possession of the false aim of life, happiness, we forget the true aim, duty!
Ah, yes. Duty, responsibility: the true aim of life. What makes us happy changes so much it cannot be an adequate aim.
To be clear, I am not saying that duty or responsibility is opposed to happiness. I believe that looking at responsibility from the correct perspective leads to happiness when one fulfills one’s responsibility. However, there are some responsibilities that straight up stink. Period. (Hello. Diapers anyone?) Unless, of course, one realizes that God rewards every fulfilled responsibility. With God, there are no mundane tasks. The reward may come later and the joy that comes with completion may be delayed, but it is sure to come.
Start Philosophy Interlude
The quotation from Les Miserables is so true. However, it is not agreed with by many. In fact, there are a whole litany of worldviews that make the highest aim of life to find happiness. Epicureanism is hailed in today’s culture in many different forms. What Epicurus concluded was already concluded by Solomon about 700 years prior when he tried to find the meaning of life without considering God. Indeed, I have to agree with both Solomon and Epicurus in that if God does not exist, then really the best you can hope for in life is to find as much pleasure as possible. Because if there is no God, then responsibility has no ontological existence. Without God, responsibility is something that is ultimately taken on by an individual, not something that is given to him/her. However, with God, responsibility is something that is given to the individual; with God, it is not up to the individual to choose to take on responsibility, it is laid upon him/her by the Creator. With God, responsibility is incumbent upon each individual; without God, responsibility is noncompulsory or up to the individual’s discretion.
Think about it this way:
Why is it a child’s responsibility to wash the dishes? Because it was given her by the parents. If the parents did not give her that responsibility, would she had to have done the dishes? No. Now, if she wanted the dishes clean, then she would have to clean them. But that is an action done out of necessity, not responsibility. Notice that even though it is a physical necessity for the child to clean the dishes, it is not a moral necessity. The child could eat off of dirty dishes if she wanted to and no one could be her judge … except her parents if they gave her the responsibility to clean the dishes. Do you see how there needs to be an Authority in order to have incumbent responsibility?
End Philosophy Interlude – Enter Conclusion
I appreciate honesty. But there comes a time when being real needs to be tempered by being right. Go ahead and express your frustration about a situation. But then introspect and see if there is a character flaw in you that is keeping you from fulfilling your responsibility.
I am not saying that you have to just sit in the dirt of your situation. You can work to improve your situation while you are fulfilling your responsibility. However, do not let your own character flaws keep you from finishing what you should be accomplishing.
Thankfully being a good father is not determined by how much you feel like a father. Thankfully being a good father is determined by how much you decide to enact good fathering principles – by how well you fulfill your duty or responsibility.