My dad left when I was four and he has been absent from my life ever since. So growing up and dreaming of one day becoming a father myself, I always imagined that – unlike my father – I would be a loving, caring dad. A dad who was present. But my partner is now 33 weeks pregnant and I find myself struggling to be present as a father (and as a partner).
My attention is all over the place. In between searching for the right daycare or building a crib, I have to prepare my classes, finish up articles, and attend endless meetings for an assortment of various projects that I am behind on. In the quest to be an active and involved dad, I restarted my Dutch course so that I can manage the day to day interactions required of a father living in the Netherlands. This means that in between birthing classes, checkups with the midwives, and visits to the hospital I am learning to conjugate irregular verbs, the rules for which seem to lack any sense or reason.
In the high hopes of raising our newborn in a good neighborhood, my partner and I also just bought a new house, but this has turned out to be a monstrous endeavor as everything needs fixing or renovating. All the while, my aging mom and grandma are back in Japan trying to stay afloat on their own. While I try my best to be supportive of them from afar, I find myself not being there for them either.
At the end of a yet another exhausting day with unfinished tasks leftover on my growing to do list, I finally get to lie down next to my partner and place my hands on her belly to feel our baby dance. In this precious moment of joyful, warm connection, I feel whole and I am right where I am supposed to be. But then I hear water gushing out from one of the broken pipes downstairs, flooding our garage with boxes of IKEA furniture yet to be constructed and I am distracted once again.
These days, I find myself constantly floundering around and not being the ideal father that I always imagined I would be. Yet, there is hope derived from the feeling of unconditional love that pours out of me like water bursting out of a broken pipe. I have already developed this inexplicable urge to be over-protective of our son and I just know in my heart that I will never stop loving him, let alone abandon him.
Mark Kawakami, assistant professor at the Faculty of Law