Fatherhood and freedom
ON THE EDGE
An opinion column about current issues in Norway and the United States
Editor’s note: When Assistant Editor Andy Meyer was perusing Aftenposten in search of news for The Norwegian American, this commentary in A-Magasinet by Kaveh Rashidi caught his eye immediately. Rashidi is becoming a father for the first time next month, and Meyer is waiting for his first child to be born in August. In these challenging times, life is renewing itself, as two families both have something very joyous to look forward to. Congratulations to them both!
“You’ve got to enjoy your life while you can,” I often hear. Pretty soon, they say, you can forget sleeping, traveling, eating out, having sex, exercising, and any spontaneous leisure activities.
Not to mention your career, which can no longer be prioritized. Many of my buddies say such things when I tell them that I’m going to be a dad in the spring. “I thought you were a pleasure-seeker, Kaveh, you think you’re ready for this?”
To become a dad is certainly to turn away from one’s own ambitions and desires, or at least to make big compromises with oneself. There’s an idea among us childless men that a fully developed family life can’t be lived in harmony with our individualistic desires. That fatherhood and freedom can’t be combined.
But I don’t buy that idea. I don’t believe that I’ll lose myself and my dreams just because my life won’t be first and foremost about me anymore.
It’s time to think about others first
If anything, it’s time that I prioritize some other people. For 31 years, I have largely thought about myself. My education, my career, my friends, my hobbies, and my choices. I could use a little broadening of my horizons. If that means laying aside some of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed, then so be it. They’ll very likely be replaced with something else that’s good.
Obviously, there will be conflict when personal freedom gets pitted against the family’s best interest, but we all have to use our freedom for something, and for me, a family feels more important than myself.
To be sure, I’ll probably eat these words in a year or two, when I constantly have to reject my own needs and desires. When my body is exhausted and I look back on this life I took for granted. Still, I think the forfeiture of freedom is a small price to pay for an extra meaning in my life. Because in the last analysis, there is an emptiness in me right now, something meaningful that’s missing from an otherwise very good life.
Don’t mourn in advance
Therefore, I answer my friends, colleagues, and family who advise against the hectic everyday of raising a small child, that I’m not worried about it. Even though I think a lot about how my life is going to be.
It will work itself out, I say, and try not to mourn in advance. I just feel lucky to have such a good life, and that we have the opportunity to have a child.
A good lie
It could be I’m naïve and I’m lying to myself. I can’t rule out the possibility that with these optimistic words I’m only trying to convince myself that this child-raising project is wise. Irrational arguments in defense of irrational decisions. If that’s the case, it’s a delusion I’ll happily live with.
Because that kid is coming in May, whether I want it to or not. So it’s break or bear it.
Translated by Andy Meyer
Kaveh Rashidi is a Norwegian physician, author, and public speaker, who lives in Oslo. Rashidi studied medicine at the University of Oslo and became a doctor of medicine at age 23. Since then, he has worked as clinician and is currently a general practitioner at Lovisenberg Medical Clinic in Oslo. He is the author of the 2020 bestseller Kanskje du er frisk? (Maybe you are healthy?).
See also “An interview with Kaveh Rashidi” by Lori Ann Reinhall, The Norwegian American, Oct. 18, 2019
This article originally appeared in Aftenposten, Jan. 24, 2020.
This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.