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Dads do a terrible job of self-care. Here's how to change it

For my family, I can be strong, but that’s where it sometimes ends.
Glen Henry, here with his wife Yvette and their four kids, is the founder of Beleaf in Fatherhood, an organization that empowers dads with positive mentoring. 
Glen Henry, here with his wife Yvette and their four kids, is the founder of Beleaf in Fatherhood, an organization that empowers dads with positive mentoring. Jed Villejo

Growing up as a young man, I remember hearing the words “be strong.” It was like no matter what happened, I was supposed to be stronger than whatever challenges I was up against.

Like so many other young men of color, we were taught weakness wasn’t an option but never taught what to do when we had no strength.

It’s something I’m still learning as a man and a father. As a father, I now teach, I learn, I guide, I pamper, I provide, I mold, I build. I have never been in a position so honorable, exciting, and rewarding. Even when I’m exhausted and feel depleted, I can find the strength and endurance to push forward and parent.

For my family, I can be STRONG, but that’s where it sometimes ends. When it comes to taking care of myself, I have historically done a terrible job. At the end of most days, I am completely exhausted seeking fulfillment in binge-watching television, indulging my late night snack craving, and distracting myself from the priorities of my demanding profession.

Like so many men of color, Glen Henry says he was never taught what to do when his emotional strength flagged.Jed Villejo

For me, parenting itself has been easy — my main focus as a parent has been to make my children feel accepted, loved, and seen. That task in and of itself comes easily to me.

But sometimes, life gets in the way. Life is hard. But that needs to change.

Recently, I took time to really lean into self-care. I meditated, took a long bath, did things I often tell myself I don’t have time for. And what I learned is that we need to bring these moments of care with us 365 days a year. 

New research from Promundo and my long-time partners at Dove Men+Care have proven just how important caring for yourself is but also how it can create a ripple effect for those around you: your children, your partner, your neighbors.

The research found that holistic self-care (everything from meditation to eating well to your grooming routine) leads to men spending 44% more time caring for those around them.

Men who feel more balanced in their lives are 88% more likely to take paternity leave (and we all know how important taking time to be with your children is). As someone who lets self-care fall by the wayside because of needing to care for my family, I’m realizing that taking the time I need to do things that give me peace of mind is only going to help me bring my best self to my family. I deserve this, as do they. And the research proves just that.

I’ve had to be strong for too long; now I need to know what to do when I feel weak. Throughout this tremendously difficult time we’ve had in America the last couple of years, I find that now more than ever parents need to take a minute to reset, reflect, and do what makes them happy. Let us remember that every day. Because care leads to care.

Glen Henry is the creator of Beleaf in Fatherhood and a dad of four.