A father’s tough love is the harder job

Jim Blasingame

As the father of an adult daughter and son, and the grandfather of four knucklehead boys (Hurricane, Tornado, Crash and Train Wreck), I’ve learned some things about love. 

All the hours logged as Dad and Poppy have often caused me to contemplate how different are the roles of mother and father, especially in the overt demonstration of parental love. It’s fascinating how the manifestation of this love differs between mother and father—biologically, emotionally and experientially. 

A mother’s love, at once sweet and fierce, is observed in almost all animals, not just humans. No doubt you’ve heard this metaphor: “… as sweet as a mother’s love,” and this warning: “Don’t get between a momma bear and her cub.” I have been a witness to, and recipient of both of these expressions of love, and there truly is no other force in nature like it. 

But it troubles me that there are no corresponding references to a father’s love. In fact, a human father’s love is more often associated with unfortunate references such as, “tough” and “disciplinarian.” And here’s a warning no child has ever heard: “Just wait ’til your mother gets home!”

Could this be why Father’s Day is not quite as big a deal as Mother’s Day? Just sayin’ …

Mothers occupy the pinnacle of parental love – with justification. And not to take anything away from them, but let’s be honest: since a mother’s sweet love is as primal as the miracle of birth, they don’t have to work too hard to deliver it. But there is a uniqueness about a father’s love that deserves a better rap. Here why:

  • Unlike a mother’s sweet love, a father’s tough love does not exist outside of Homo sapiens.  
  • When a father’s parental toughness is called for, especially when applied to an indignant recipient (read: teenager), it requires a love that has found the courage to at once endure an immediate negative response and a willingness to defer gratification – sometimes for years.

No one is more keenly aware of the distinction between the application of these two demonstrations of love than a single parent (especially single moms), where both kinds are required of the same person, perhaps within minutes.

Mothers, please forgive any bias you may detect, but here’s my conclusion about parental love: The only force in the universe that comes close to a mother’s sweet love is a father’s tough love. But the latter is the harder job, and the return on investment almost always takes longer.

Write this on a rock … Happy Father’s Day, Dads. You’ve earned it.

Jim Blasingame is host of the nationally syndicate radio show The Small Business Advocate and author of the multi-award-winning book The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

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