Courage, Acceptance, and Becoming a Domestic Dad

A father carries his young daughter on his shoulders.

As a young father, I am learning hard lessons about what is within my control and what is not. My behavior often indicates that I believe very much that I have the ability to control my two-year-old daughters’ emotions and reactions. Yet, again and again—and admittedly it is usually to my great dismay—I find that I cannot.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr frequently recited a prayer, which evolved, and eventually became integrated into our cultural consciousness as “The Serenity Prayer.” An early version recorded in print in 1937 read, “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”

As I learn to sit calmly within the anxiety of my own flaws and inclinations, I hear the echo of this prayer. Of course, my learning is more often than not stumbling, falling, bruised up a bit, and finding those I love the most—my wife, my daughters—experiencing the undue pressure of my failing ways that are, not only unhelpful, but hurtful.

And so, I lean in and long for the echo in the silence of frustration, shame, insecurity. I listen for clarity. I confess pride, and reflect. As I do, I gain perspective, and I realize that the gratitude I have for my wife and for my daughters is the gift that I cannot—need not—control. That I am becoming a husband and a father. Yes, becoming.

In the humility that washes over the ambitious, young, know-it-all therapist, I grieve over that which I cannot control: my Great Dane’s need to shake her ears to let me know she needs a potty break in the middle of the night; economic storms and uncertainty; my daughters’ tantrums; the twists and turns of life’s way.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross gave me words for my grieving, and so I know that I have long since moved beyond mere denial but that I, nonetheless, find myself wrestling in an anger that indicates a compulsion to control, on the outside, what I have not yet mastered on the inside. Bargaining—“promises associated with quiet guilt.”  Depression—the emotional experience of losing what you had, or thought you had.

And acceptance: the fifth stage of grieving, of dying. As a Christian, these stages of grieving and dying hold a powerful meaning within that war being waged inside of me. There are parts of my volatile self that need to die, and they do. There is an irony in the death of these parts that answers longing but also requires grieving.

There is a turning point when grief gives way to light, to vision, to new life. I have come to realize that this change often blows in slowly, like a breeze carrying an inviting aroma. I have come to understand there is far more at stake than my present comfort and control. Both hurting and healing spread like a fire from heart to heart.

As I come to understand the breadth and depth of that which I cannot change, I do change. I experience beautiful small moments of new life. I experience the possibility of true love—as a husband, and as a father. And I begin, slowly, surely, to understand that changing and healing and growing are not at all about gaining control, but courage.


Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. (1969).  On death and dying.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc.

© Copyright 2011 by Blake Edwards. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ken

    March 25th, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Nice article that has a lesson for all of us. It’s not possible to remain in control of everything but staying hopeful and having the courage to stand the situation is a great deal indeed. What most of us try to do is to take control of everything all the time. And because this is just not possible, we end up remorsing more and more and ultimately our confidence suffers as well.

  • niki

    March 25th, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    it’s not easy to come to terms with the fact that you are not in control of a baby when you have been in control of everything about you at the workplace and have been a successful person. and it is especially tough for men because they are not too used with this child job.

    all in all,it is a good learning experience and may even help in other areas of life like work and other things.

  • Jeff

    March 26th, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    I have been a stay at home dad for seven years now and I can honestly say that it has been the best experience of my life. There has been nothing that could ever replace that closeness that this has left with me and my children and although there have been many days at home when I have had to pray for peace and serenity that does not mean that I would ever change that experience.

  • GARY

    March 27th, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    There is a wrong notion that kids inherently prefer their mother than the father. While this may be true for toddlers due to their need of being fed and other biological factors, there is no denying that even the father can become the ‘favorite’ of the two parents for a kid later on.

    Why this doesn’t happen often is that the mother is the one who is tending to the needs of the child while the father is usually away at work. When this Chanda then so does the kid’s preference.

  • Melinda

    March 27th, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    Being a stay at home anything is not for everyone. There are highs and lows with this job just like there are with others. You may crave adult interaction more than you ever have in your life yet you are there to watch your childs every move. It is fun and stressful, just like anything else in life that you could love but I like so many others would not trade the experience for anything. I am happy to be working outside of the home again as my kids are all in school now but I do think that it helped all of us to have that kind of time together that so many parents and children have to miss out on.

  • Jill

    March 28th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    Domestic mom, domestic dad. No matter who it is it takes all of those things and so much more!

  • iver

    March 28th, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    you are absolutely right for having used the world ‘courage’ in the headline. it takes a lot of courage to come to terms with the fact that something you think as being easy and not too much in your control actually.

  • L Tudor

    March 28th, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    I don’t know why so much stress is laid on these gender issues. Is it so hard to believe that a man can be a good domestic dad?!

  • RON

    March 29th, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    What makes being a domestic dad difficult and needs forage from their side is not just the responsibly and stuff but also the fact that there still are prejudices against domestic dads and this needs to change!

  • Fawn

    March 29th, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    @niki We can’t control things that have free will. All we can do is attempt to influence them positively and hope for the best. And nobody is used to any job because of their sex. Kids don’t come with a manual, and the only edge a woman has is that she can feed her kids with breastmilk.

  • L.B.A.

    March 31st, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    @GARY Even though I thoroughly despise my dad, it’s for reasons outside of him being a man. It all depends on how the kids are treated by either gender and how the parents treat each other. In his case, it was how he treated himself and the bottle he was so fond of.

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