Fatherhood in an Age of Insanity—by guest blogger Dr. Ali Nasseh

A wise man once said: Father’s Day should be nine months before Mothers’ Day and in some crazy way, this statement makes sense! For men, fatherhood is a byproduct of sex. At least, that’s what evolutionary psychologists tell us. Through the millennia, Children of men have been caused by our sexual instincts as a species and not through rational analysis of the concept of fatherhood. The same goes for other animals. Whether an organism has a one day lifespan like the mayfly or if it lives for a couple of centuries like the bowhead whale , the life of all organisms appears focused on survival, finding a mate, and producing offspring.

samll and big

And quite frankly, if I were a mayfly with a single day to live, I’d also put mating at the very top of my list!  Once that first item is checked off, we humans preoccupy ourselves with the arts, culture, and entertainment in order to fill the remaining hours of the day. Voila! But let’s not get off the subject. Father’s Day is the day we celebrate Fathers. And since I just became a father a month ago and am still a freshman on the subject, I would like to salute those fathers who came before me.

ali nasseh baby micheleroohani

But what are the merits of fatherhood? Other than our biological instinct for sex that results into children, do we have any rational reasons for this act? The project involves so much work and sacrifice that one may wonder what’s the utility of the whole thing. It starts with dirty diapers and ends with a lifetime of anxiety over safety, health, and happiness of our child. An old, Persian expression says, “Children are hard, only for the first one hundred years!”

ali nasseh baby feet micheleroohani

Yet, when a child smiles, learns, and grows, and especially when she pays her parents back with emotional pride, all those sleepless nights and anxieties melt away and the entire ordeal appears worthwhile. Or does it?

father’s day micheleroohani kid in museum

I want to pose these questions to the fathers and others out there, and to those who consciously or unconsciously chose this path. I’d like to ask you to make your case for or against fatherhood in today’s world of dynamic change and uncertain future. Are we leaving a better place for our children, or has our greed and recklessness destroyed our economy and environment irreparably? Is it still a responsible act to bring children into this world given the future challenges?

Dr. Ali Allen Nasseh

14 thoughts on “Fatherhood in an Age of Insanity—by guest blogger Dr. Ali Nasseh

  1. Since this entry was written before all the insanity in Iran, I can’t help but feel for the father of Neda, the young girl who was murdered during the demonstrations last week, and wonder how he feels right now. His Fathers’ Day turned out to be every father’s nightmare. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, and with all those brave parents, whose children remain in harms way for the sake of freedom.

  2. Congradulation on becoming a father. May you be worthy of the title!

    “is it still responsible to bring children into this world?” If there is any hope for the future it will come from parents who are capable of raising children that will make a difference! The world needs fathers who can set examples to be followed.
    The question should be “am I going to be a father who is going to raise a child who can change the uncertain future and bring hope to the world?” My wish for you is that you be one of them since there is no greater pleasure in my opinion.
    My father (a great human being by the way) always says “your child is the dearest enemy that you will have. They will challenge you more than any enemy can but you cant stop loving them”. In any other realm this would be insanity and would need psychological counseling/medication or confinement.

    Gharaz naghshist keh as ma baz manad!

    Good luck!

    Niloufar Daryabegi

  3. Im someone who decided not to have children. My wife and i don’t think there’s much reason to have kids because of all the involved work. We decided that we would rather see the world and enjoy our lives rather than deal with the work and effort of having kids. Our friends think we’re selfish; but I think those who bring children to this world are selfish. There is over population going on so what we do is less selfish than the average family of 4.
    This is a topic no one dares talking about because we are told that having children is normal and good, and not having them means there’s something wrong with the person purposely deciding not to have them.
    Daring post!

  4. Dear Michele & Ali..

    Thanks for this heartwarming post.. and sharing slice of your life.. We have always admired Ali’s thought provoking & insightful comments..

    Congratulations & Love..

    How surely gravity’s law
    strong as an ocean current
    takes hold of even the smallest thing
    and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

    Each thing—
    each stone, blossom, child—
    is held in place
    Only we, in our arrogance
    push out beyond what we each belong to
    for some empty freedom.

    If we surrender
    to earth’s intelligence
    we could rise up rooted, like trees.

    Instead we entangle ourselves
    in knots of our own making
    and struggle, lonely and confused.

    So, like children, we begin again
    to learn from the things
    because they are in God’s heart
    they have never left him.

    This is what the things can teach us
    to fall
    patiently to trust our heaviness
    Even a bird has to do that
    before he can fly.

    – RILKE –

  5. First of all congrats to the whole Nasseh family. It warms my heart when I see so much tenderness in the picture of the baby and the young father.

    I did laugh a bit when you mentioned rationally analyzing the decision to have a child. Despite what we’d like to think, there is actually very little of our lives that is the result of that part of our brains. We’re very well programmed to reproduce. The proof is that if this wasn’t the case we wouldn’t be here today. Of course that doesn’t explain why our birth rates are so low in the developed world. Maybe we’re outgrowing our genes after all?

  6. Thank you Lily, Benjamin, and Entropy for the kind words! I agree with Ben that most our behavior is irrational and somehow driven by emotion. Much like the stock market that appears driven by fear and greed, maybe we too are driven by the balance of rising forces above our trousers’ belt and those that stem from below! But that’s why I was posing this question for our own bloggers, and not from the average Joe! 😉 I hope that most people think before taking a giant step in the same way I hope they think before they say “I do!” while getting married (Hmmm… oops! I’m affraid I just proved myself wrong! 🙂

    But I’m very interested in what Eric says here. Is the conscious decision of having children a selfish act or is it the other way around? I guess the jury is out on this question but I assume that the answer lies in the intention of the decider. If we rear children for our own selfish reasons, to muster up help in old age, or to fulfill our own unrealized goals, etc. then I guess that’s selfish. Interestingly, it’s selfish in the same way that not having children so that we can have an easier life would be. That’s why I wondered if there’s a rational reason behind this endeavor because rationally, it appears that the burden is so great that the project might not appear worthwhile. But I guess, despite all the rationalization, the emotional rewards remains priceless to most, which as Benjamin said, is why we’re all here today and can blog about it. 🙂

  7. I agree Ali that it’s selfish both ways. Although I can say that not doing something for selfish reasons and doing it for selfish reasons may not be the same. Also, everyone who has kids isn’t thrilled about it. I’ve heard both sides. Some people look back and say they wish they didn’t while most say they can’t imagine their lives without their kids. So, mistakes are made too and like Benjamin says it’s not a perfect system. My wife and I are happy with our decision but sometimes wonder if we made the right decision. It’s too late for us and we have now decided that people always think that the grass is greener on the other side.

  8. Eric,
    Many older children need parents. Also, many young adults are pushed out of the system as foster children and need the support of loving parents in their lives more than ever. This also applies to young adults who are leaving orphanages. Adopted children tend to be more grateful than biological children and bring joy and enriching experiences into their adopted parents lives. Eric, it is never too late to become a parent!

    Congratulations to the Nasseh family also!!

  9. Karen, I know what you mean and my wife and I had considered adopting; but to adopt an infant brings back the same reasons why we did not want to have kids to begin with – too much work! We have been part of local mentorship programs though and enjoy giving back and helping children who need our help. We think it’s better this way. I do agree that most kids are very appreciative, more than if they were our own! Are you involved in such programs?

  10. Eric,
    More power to you. This guest blog entry was exactly meant for you, a wise person who consciously elected to forgo fatherhood based on knowing himself and his priorities in life. Reminds me of a line in the movie “Lord of The Rings” where Gandolf the Gray says to Frotto who is about to leave the shire: “All you have to do is to decide what you want to do with the time that is given to you!” Obviously, you have figured this out and although it is the path less traveled, it nevertheless is what works for you. Congratulations for having the courage to trust your own intuition. I can’t say the same for many out there who let culture, religion, tradition, and convention make life altering decisions for them instead of their own free thinking selves.

  11. Thank you, Ali, for a beautiful post.

    Fatherhood has been a dominant theme in my life. At 24, I became a Roman Catholic priest (a capital “F” father). By age 52, I had left the active priesthood (but not the Church), married, and become an adoptive dad, a small “f” father. Twenty years later, my ministry is to “father” people of all ages who wish to join our faith community. Fathering is what I do, and I’ve done it through at least three evolutions.

    With that background, I was attentive during a recent visit to Gdansk, Poland, when I stood at the shipyard gates where the Solidarity Movement began thirty years ago and knocked over the first domino in the Communist block. Our guide mentioned that Lech Walesa was supposed to join his fellow workers in a strike at the docks. He didn’t show up, and the gates were locked from the inside. What his friends didn’t know was that he was at his wife’s side that morning as she delivered their fourth child. Later, he ran to the shipyards and climbed over the wall to join the protest.

    One could reasonably question the wisdom of having another baby who would grow up with neither rights nor freedom behind the Iron Curtain. But, Walesa and his cohorts put their lives on the line to see that his and every baby born in Poland would live in freedom.

    That’s what real fathers do, perhaps not in so dramatic a way, but that’s what we do. It’s who we are. There are still too many places in the world where it might seem senseless to bring a new child into the world. I pray that there are fathers in those places making great personal sacrifices to create a better, safer world for their babies. I stand in solidarity with them.

    I wish Ali and all fathers a belated Happy Father’s Day!

  12. Thank you Al for this very interesting angle to the story. The old adage of children being our future is obviously true not only for us humans but also for all living things on the planet. And like other animals, we also do all in our power to create a stable future for the next generation. This would mean, in theory, that fatherhood is always good. But we humans also do evil things despite being fathers: Hitler, Stalin, and most historical characters who inflicted the most pain upon other fellow human being were also fathers themselves. So, I’m not sure if the argument for having children is necessarily an argument for good. But I do agree, in general, that children turn us into activists for they become our link to a future we suddenly begin to care about. And in this subtle way, they become the engine of our civilization. Unfortunately, some of us care so much that we become blind from reality and the power of our vision for a stable future changes the destiny of others in our way. Thankfully, the majority become better citizens as a whole and that’s why I agree with you that fatherhood is good overall for our society. I guess that’s why the government creates tax incentives for citizens to get married, buy a house, and have children. Probably, that’s also why the president of Chechnya recently gave an afternoon off to all government workers in order to go home and “make the future workforce of Chechnya!”
    Sounds like a perfect afternoon off for me! Now I want to hear Obama articulate those lines to all of us in the US! LOL! 🙂

  13. Well, thanks to Michele who reminded me of this blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, now with two years of fatherhood under my belt, I felt the urge to add another comment here as I feel somewhat better equipped to understand a state I prematurely spoke about two years earlier, but have since come to know in an entirely different light.

    The most surprising aspect of this journey has been the experience of the very special and exhilarating bond that connects the parent to a child, which despite the incredible hardship along the way, can still make the journey a worthwhile ride. I know now that raising a child is as difficult, if not more difficult that I previously thought; but the experience of love and the chemistry of the bond between a parent and a child is something far stronger than I had ever fathomed. And it is this love, this natural elixir, that gives the energy to go on with this seemingly impossible task.

    Furthermore, the growth process of a child is a discovery into the nature of mankind and every day is an experiment into the deep recesses of the human brain and the fascinating way it learns, grows, and evolves in a relatively short period of time. I can simply sum up the past two years by unequivocally stating that humans are truly remarkable beings.

    Insofar as the future, I have become adequately humbled by my past experience to avoid making any more predications about the future at this time. But what I know is that if the past two years are any guide, the next few will surely be as full of surprises and lessons of life that I would gladly cross this rough terrain to simply experience its unknowns.

    One thing is increasingly clear to me now: since every one of us carries genes that give each of us our own uniqueness and take us back millions of years to reconnect to our ancestors, it would be safe to claim that the upcoming journey requires, more than anything else, a great leap of faith. A leap in believing that the lineage that is in each one of us has survived through the eons, dating back to the beginning of time, life and pre-history. And it is this lineage, this survival gene that keeps us alive, thus preserving the continuity of our kind.

    This fascinating path of growth and development is concisely written in the DNA in each one of our cells. And this makes our mind and body akin to a vessel, entangled by the winds of time, but eventually bearing the course of our destiny. I’ve now come to learn that all we can ever do is to hope that we reach our given potential. And that’s truly all I can hope to guide and to provide as a parent to my son.

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