Becoming a Father

My father, Max B Goldblatt and myself circa 1985

Professor Joe Goldblatt

How does one become a good father? As I have often told our now adult sons while apologising for my inadvertent missteps, there is no precise instruction book for effective parenting as every child enters the world with new possibilities and challenges and every loving parent does the very best they can to help nurture their wee bairn.

Shortly after our marriage, Nancy began to wonder if she might be with child. She visited our wonderful GP Dr Michael Newman and following her pregnancy test he told her that indeed we were soon to become parents. I was gobsmacked (surprised) and very skeptical due to our rsponsible family planning. Therefore, I immediately rang his office and asked if we could have a second opinion.

Dr Newmanwisely said that a second or even multiple other opinions would provide the same result and that we should take a walk together to celebrate the good news. We walked hand in hand through the National Zoological Park in Washington, DC and by the time we reached the exit we had accepted both the mystifying and happy reality that we were now parents.

The reason for my concern was that we made our living as mimes performing on the street and due to our limited income we lived in a one room apartment. I wondered how in the world would we ever support our growing family?

When I reported our happy news to the owner of our apartment building she told us that we would have to move because children were not allowed. I was surprised and wondered if this could be illegal discrimination. Upon contacting our local city council representative I soon learned that indeed discrimination among families with children in accomodation was widespread throughout the capital city of the United States.

Our council staff person told us she was looking for a family to sue the city so that the law could be changed. We agreed to be represented by a large powerful law firm and in a few weeks time, a couple of days before Christmas, I received a telephone call from a city council staffer congratulating us with the news that the council had just voted to add “families with children” to the list of protected groups such as race, gender, disabilities, and ethnicity. We had won!

One afternoon I pushed our son’s pram into a nearby park and another father close to my age stopped me and asked if I was the man who had recently sued the city. When I answered affirmatively, he turned to his son who was about the age of our son and said “Well John, this is the man and his son who fought to change the law so you could have a home in this city.” Then he thanked me, shook my hand, and pushed his child’s pram into the park. Since that time in the 1970’s, tens of thousands of children and their families are now entitled to accomodation, if they can afford it, in Washington, DC.

My own father was absolutely my best role model for being an engaged citizen. Perhaps that is where my courage came from when a volunteer was needed to sue the city to change the law to prevent discrimination. Throughout Papa’s long life he was never afraid to stand up and speak out to overcome injustice and I hope I continue to follow his example.

I also hope I have passed along similar values to our sons and now our grand sons. Although I also notice that parenting and fatherhood has significantly changed from my time nearly half a century ago as a young father.

Young fathers today appear to be significantly more engaged with the domestic activities involved with their children. In my time, a father would often tell their bairns even a bed time story, attend a sports or school event, or engage in other recreation with their children. However, today, many fathers are more deeply invested in parenting than ever before in my lifetime. And their priorities have changed as well.

I have discussed with young fathers their priorities and to my surprise and delight their primary focus is upon successfully raising their children rather than being personally successful in their careers. This is markedly different from my generationof fathers who almost universally believed that only through career success could the family enjoy fiscal security and allow the children to attend the best schools and have the best of everything in life.

This has dramatically changed for the better since I was a young father as more and more fathers seek paternity leave and then are happy to work four or fewer days per week so they may be a truly equal partner in parenting. Their values are still focused upon providing a good life for their chidren, however, they also want to be intimately involved in this noble effort.

I often wonder what my own father would think of this development and I believe that he would surmise that things always change from one generation to another due to many external factors such as the economy, education, and much more. He might also say that although there is no perfect manual for fathers to turn to in raising their children. They simply must do the best they can with what they have, just as I discovered that day nearly fifty years ago when I became a father.

Happy UK Father’s Day on Sunday to all those who are beginning or are continuing this noble adventure that is in equal measure mysterious, challenging, and infinitely gratifying. After all, we may only do the best we can. This opportunity has not changed over many generations as we continue to try and become the best father we can be.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. His opinions and views are his own. To learn more about his views visit

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