Too often, family time is used almost as a punch-line,” according to Patrick Riccards, author of, “Dadprovement: A Journey from Careerist to Adoptive Father to a Real Husband and Dad.” He argues that families need to be authentic support systems that are more than, “a prop to get through a crisis.” Fathers need to move beyond stereotypes, like that of the traditional financial provider in the family structure, into being an “emotional provider,” too.
“You have that moment where you are recognizing that your priorities are all wrong. . . Yes, we had gone to such great lengths to create this family, but as a father, as a husband, I wasn’t necessarily giving everything I should be giving to my family. I was falling into traditional stereotypes.” Patrick Riccards.
Creating a family was a struggle from the very beginning for the Riccards family. After trying a number of medical interventions, they found that they still couldn’t have biological children of their own. As a couple, they decided to explore international adoption. The adoption of their son, and first child, from Guatemala went fairly smoothly, but they were contacted about adopting of a full-birth sibling less than a year later; chaos ensued.
They were able to bring their son home when he was just seven months old because all of the paperwork was already in place, but the situation was very different with his sister. The Guatemalan congress decided earlier that year to gradually shut down their international adoption program. Citizens became, “worried about how many kids were born in the country and were adopted out of the country.” If they weren’t far enough through the adoption process by December 31, they would lose their daughter; “It was a race against the clock.” Delays meant that they were unable to bring her home until she was thirteen months old, but even that was a significant victory, more than worth writing about.
“So much of what is written comes from the perspective of the mother, you see the trials and struggling to get pregnant, the decision to adopt, the adjustment in the family; all of that is told from the point of view of the mother. You rarely see it, particularly on the international side, from the father,” Patrick Riccards.
Even after the fight to create his family, it was only during the act of writing his book that Riccards really came to recognize that clocks had again become something that he needed to fight against. There was actually a point where Riccards missed his daughter’s fifth birthday because he had to deliver a business speech, rationalizing it because, “She will have other birthdays.” A new commitment to fatherhood and the family was required that had a better balance between work and home. Part of the problem, Riccards observes, is that we often have a false idea of what success even looks like. We tend to strive for things that don’t make us, or our families, happy. The important thing is to have a positive impact, rather than focusing purely on salary or titles.
“You know, when I decided to become a Dad, it wasn’t that I decided to be a Dad and, therefore, every month I was expected to write a check to pay for the mortgage, and to cover food and clothes. I made a commitment to help raise my children, and that’s what this is about,” Patrick Riccards.
Riccards emphasizes that balance in our lives brings us greater happiness and health, as individuals, and it benefits our children, as well. For example, he points to a study that shows that “in those households where daughters saw their fathers washing dishes at home, those daughters were going to be more ambitious and were going to push and achieve more in their own lives.” That kind of yin and yang between the personal and the professional is important for everyone in the family, both genders.
“We have been hearing for years now . . . that if women want to truly be a professional success, then what we need is for them to behave more like men, and they need to focus on their careers and not so much worry about the personal or worry so much about the family. At the end of the day, we are selling everybody this horrible lie,” Patrick Riccards.
Riccards explains that, too often, men become overly intimidated by the fatherhood process, “We need to recognize, we are going to make far more mistakes than we are going to get things right. What is important is that we continue to push that, continue to try. Mistakes make better fathers, make better families.” According to Dadprovement philosophy, it is important to have realistic expectations and priorities, which recognize our strengths and weaknesses as individuals, instead of falling into stereotypes. Spouses need to relate to each other as partners and adapt to how their roles continually evolve, as children age, and over time. Riccards suggests that everyone must make time for professional development in their families, just as they do in their careers, because that is the only way to beat the clock, once and for all.