Championing healthy relationships

and sexual wellbeing

What is a father?

This Sunday marks my 4th Father’s Day as a father. Looking back on this time, sitting here with two kids and a wife, I have pondered to myself what makes a good father?

But even before venturing on to asking the question of what makes a good father, with the emphasis being on the adjective ‘good’, I must answer an initial question of what constitutes a father?

So, what makes someone a father?

We could at this juncture simply answer this question by reducing fatherhood to its biological components i.e. a father is the person who provided the sperm to fertilize an egg. However, though this definition is not false, we still are left with a sense of wanting or requiring more. Surely, the bare biological aspects of conception are not sufficient to give us a definition of a father as we have all experienced or known of people who have acted as fathers to those whom they have no biological connection with.

So, we can at this point place an additional, if not separate definition of father, to include a person who has a parental right and legal duty to look after another. Yet still, there seems to me something missing, as even with the acknowledgement that being a father is not just down to biology, the additional aspects I have added seem to restrict fatherhood into a legal duty, something that a person is legally bound to be.

I think what is missing is the voluntary aspect of being a father, we could therefore say that a father is a person who wilfully gives themselves to the care and raising of another. I think this final definition allows for the widest inclusion of the word father. It will therefore include those who raise children who are biologically theirs, those who raise children to who they have no biological relation, and those who care for adults in a father-childlike relationship.

Now we can move on to the question of what makes a good father. I ask myself this question because I’m aware that a person can be, even with the definition I have given, a father yet not a good one. And when we think of Father’s Day, we associate it with a celebration of thanksgiving to those in our lives who we see as our fathers. Therefore, the notion of a good father is inherent within Fathers’ Day.  

As a Christian, I take my understanding of what it means to be a good father from my heavenly Father, but I imagine that some of the characteristics of fatherhood I share are somewhat universal amongst us as people, religious or not. When I read the Bible, the things that stand out for me regarding the fatherhood of God towards us are caring, nurturing, protecting, giving, guiding, ever-present, welcoming and loving. These are just a few of the characteristics I take to be definitional of being a good father.

When I look at my experience as a father and what my own father is like with me, I realise that these ideals are sought after but never achieved with perfection and I’m ok with that because I know that perfection is not a requirement to recognising the love that a person has for another.

I hope that all those who are fathers, in whatever capacity whether biological, through adoption, fostering, mentoring, or any other, will recognise and be recognised for their care, nurture, protection, and love they have shown towards those they father.

Happy Father’s Day.