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Father's Day - Becoming a dad changes you
Robert Dawes, Senior Development Manager for Mothers’ Union, answers our questions about how life has changed since he became a dad
How many children do you have and how old are they?
I have a four-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.
How did you feel when you heard you were going to be a dad for the first time?
Excited, nervous, uncertain. Our daughter was a real answer to prayer because things hadn’t been happening for a while. I went to Malawi on a work trip and sat and prayed with a Mothers’ Union member called Miriam. It was a really powerful and touching moment. She said, ‘You’ve prayed, now you need to put your faith into action and go out and buy some baby clothes and just wait.’
What has being a dad taught you and how has it changed you?
It has taught me more about God’s love and what it means to have God as our Father. It’s a practical life lesson in sin and forgiveness. It really highlights how much we all fall short of God’s love. At times it can be the most challenging experience but it is also extremely transforming. Becoming a dad changes you as a person. I remember when my wife was pregnant with our daughter, a Mothers’ Union member said to me, ‘Get used to worrying.’ At the time we were worried about the fact that Sophie wasn’t growing. And she said, ‘You’re worrying about that now and when she’s born you’ll be worried about something else and then as she’s growing up you’ll be worrying in different ways for the rest of her life.’ It is very true.
What do you most enjoy doing with your children?
Having experiences together and laughing. I love teaching them things. This weekend I was playing on the Xbox with my son and teaching him how to play a game. Then later I was showing my daughter how to ride a pony. On the Sunday we went in to town together and had a really lovely time. Doing fun stuff together and making memories is what I most enjoy.
How does being a dad in the UK differ to the experiences of fatherhood you have seen on your travels and work overseas? What are the similarities?
We’re all people at the end of the day so there are a lot of similarities between being a dad here and overseas. I meet with bishops and their families from around the world and their kids struggle with the same things as any child with a father in full-time ministry does. They miss their dads. In other countries there can also sometimes be a real lack of good quality education that is free. If you want quality, families with money generally tend to send their kids to boarding school and again this can presents difficulties and parents and children miss each other.
The majority of men strive to be a good dad but concepts and cultures differ and it’s hard fighting those challenges. Patriarchy is a big deal in the UK but it’s even more so in some of the countries we work in. In my job it’s just about not giving up.
What are the challenges that dads in the UK face and what are the challenges that dads in the communities we serve face?
Work/life balance is a big one. Time and money frustrations are huge, especially when you don’t have much of either. It’s the same all over the world really. The roles and responsibilities we have can present a series of mindsets that some father’s struggle with.
Why do you think celebrating fathers or father figures is important?
Hypo-masculinity is a problem everywhere, so celebrating the fathers that don’t fall into that trap is important. I also feel sorry for guys who have lost the idea that it’s OK to hug your kids.
What will you be doing this Father’s Day?
I’ll probably be with my dad, who lives over an hour away. We’ll all share a big meal together.
This article first appeared in Families First Summer 2019 edition, pg.42-43