What makes the difference between a good Marine and a great Marine? When I take the measure of my Marines – their capabilities, their strengths, their weaknesses and their welfare – I use a lot of metrics to form my judgments.
But there are some things, called “intangibles” because they can’t be easily measured, that make a difference. What a lot of people don’t realize is how much we non-commissioned officers sit and think about these intangibles: Are my troops well-adjusted? Are their home lives okay? Do they have a balance between work and life? And for those of us with Reservists: Are they employed? Are they financially stable? Are they moving forward with their lives in the civilian sector?
For my (male) Marines who have families – and that’s who this article is geared toward – I’ve noticed that my most motivated guys are the ones that are happy at home. They’re the ones who work hard to keep their marriage healthy and exciting, and the ones who devote a lot of time and energy towards being active, engaged, loving fathers.
Here are 9 ways that being a great Dad will make you a happier Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine:
- It means a happier wife. Yes, you’re tired when you get home from work. But she’s tired when you get home, too. Taking the kids out for an adventure or even just dinner and a movie gives her a much-deserved break. While you’re out, she’s relaxing, spending time with herself or her friends, and decompressing.
- Gents, let me tell you – when being a more active, attentive father, it is perfectly acceptable to have ulterior motives.
- It means a tighter family that is better prepared for deployment. Children need to get a chance to really get to know you – to ask questions about your job, to understand the importance of your work and to see the world through your eyes. They’ll be better equipped to understand the reasons – when the time inevitably comes – that you have to go away for a year or more. Communication with your kids will ensure that they have the tools to deal with the stresses and changes of your long absence.
- You get to feel smart and accomplished. Especially if you’re of a junior rank, it can sometimes feel like the work that you’re tasked with is not taking advantage of your full potential. But when you sit down with your kids to help them with homework, take them camping and teach them to build a fire, or spend any kind of time answering their inexhaustible supply of questions, you know you’re doing useful work, and imparting a base of knowledge to them that will benefit them throughout their lives.
- It lets you indulge your inner child. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I loved wrestling, playing with action figures, races, pick-up baseball games in the summer and riding my bicycle. The funny things is, I still love doing all of those things. If you have a kid, you can act like an eight year-old all day long and people will just think, “Awwwww, what a great dad.” Little do they know, you’re having just as much fun chasing the ice cream truck, jumping in puddles and giant piles of leaves, and swooping your prized Exo Squad action figures around as your child is. You might have forgotten how great Legos are. Rediscover them.
- Your kids will scare you less. Yes, it’s true. Kids can be scary sometimes. They go through many phases – mood swings, full-on emotional instability (complete with freak-outs), rebellion, flightiness, and more. But if you are active in their lives, always striving to understand them and connect with them, you’ll learn what sets them off, what drives their personality, and how to help them deal with their emotions.
- It lets you set a good example, and instill your values in your kids. You’ll get to teach them leadership, self-discipline, initiative, tact, good judgment and decisiveness. In a country where “self-esteem” has too often replaced actual accomplishment, many children are running wild without any guidance or authority over them and more and more kids are growing up without the positive influence of a father. You’ll be a force in their lives that is becoming rarer and rarer – which will give them a leg up in the world, and will give you great satisfaction knowing that what you have learned, and what you believe, is carrying on to a new generation.
- There is a deep happiness and peace that comes from seeing your child happy and successful. We in the military understand the benefits of hard work! Working hard at being a great dad means raising great kids. It also means being more successful in your profession – because your intangibles are covered, you’re happier, better-adjusted, more ready for what life throws at you and better centered within yourself and your family.
- Plain and simple: Kids need their dads.
Images from Colorado State University and Inmagine.