The reluctant dad: Preparing for fatherhood againWritten by Thomas Jeffries
“We can do this. We’ll figure it out.” At least that’s how Greg tried to reassure himself when he learned his wife, Fonda, was expecting their third child and that he was again a father to be. But facing reality and preparing for fatherhood with three children, Greg was worried. How would they handle raising three kids in a two-bedroom apartment?
Once little Henry arrived, Greg couldn’t deny that his son was a gift from God. Sure, finances were tight, but life was good for the next several months, maybe a year . . . until it wasn’t. That’s when Fonda realized she was pregnant again. This time Greg panicked.
Terrified to have kids
Greg and Fonda married at age 20 in Greg’s mother’s backyard. Their reception was a potluck. They were extremely broke, Greg says, and extremely proud of how inexpensive the wedding was.
The couple worked multiple jobs, ate lots of ramen, and every morning Fonda prayed that the car would not only start but also keep running. The thought of having children and preparing for fatherhood was terrifying.
“We were so broke that pregnancy was a real fear,” Greg says. “Our parents would remind us what a bad idea having kids would be.”
The couple waited six years to have their first, followed closely by their second. Greg got a better job, but it didn’t make their apartment any larger.
Disheartened as a father
If Fonda’s third pregnancy was a surprise, the fourth was a bombshell.
“Kid number four was Greg’s breaking point,” Fonda says. “It’s not that he didn’t want her. It was the influence of our culture – one boy, one girl, no more kids – and the negativity from both our parents, combined with the sky-high cost of living.”
Greg’s idea of the right way to provide for his family wasn’t panning out, and as he was preparing for fatherhood a fourth time, he felt like a failure. He knows it sounds bizarre – his family had food, shelter and the basic necessities of life, but it still wasn’t enough. Expecting a fourth child, he felt like they had entirely blown it.
Greg needed someone who could relate – or at least listen – to his anguish. Someone other than Fonda. He recalled that Focus on the Family offered a complimentary counselling consultation, so he slipped off on his own to place the call.
“I cried on the phone to a man I will never meet,” Greg says. “I expressed my shame at not being able to provide what I considered to be a minimum standard for my children.”
The counsellor’s name was Geremy, and he was taken aback by Greg’s remorse as a father to be. Greg, Geremy insisted, was a success by almost any standard. Maybe he didn’t enroll his kids in every sport or buy them all the latest gear, but he showered them with affection and availability. Isn’t that what every child remembers long after batteries are dead and gadgets discarded?
“Geremy said, ‘The first thing you need to realize is that kids are always a blessing. Always. They’re gifts from God.’ And the second thing he said was, ‘Kids value relationships, not stuff.’ ”
Encouraged by God’s promises
Greg already knew, already believed, everything Geremy said, but hearing it out loud made all the difference. His kids were loved and cared for. The couple’s choice to welcome each new blessing would not doom them to a life of poverty.
Geremy encouraged Greg to post verses around their home highlighting God’s promises about offspring and to list the things they treasured about each child. He assured Greg that the problem wasn’t with him as a father to be, but with a culture that says 1.9 children is ideal, and anything more than three is, “What were you thinking?!”
Greg told Fonda what Geremy said, and lifted two burdens that day. The counsellor also planted the idea of relocating to someplace with more affordable housing. The couple left California when their fourth was a toddler; by the time number five arrived, they’d purchased their first house.
Greg and Fonda stopped listening to what the culture says about the size of their family. They now have seven blessings – four boys and three girls – and remain open to more. Greg describes life in their home as organized chaos and constant mayhem, yet it’s also a lot of fun, and no one is ever lonely. Preparing for fatherhood stopped being stressful and became a joy.
“We tell our kids that they are our special treasure from God,” Greg says. “Our home is filled with joy.”
Preparing for fatherhood – We’re here to help
If you’re struggling as a parent or have questions about preparing for fatherhood, Focus on the Family Canada offers a one-time, complimentary consultation with one of our professional counsellors. Call 1.800.661.9800 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific Time and ask for our care associate, who will schedule a time for you to speak to a counsellor.
© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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