When one achieves a certain outward balance in one’s life, one tends to abandon or distance oneself from everything that characterized one’s existence in the whirlwind years before, as if lingering in these pastimes of the past (which one always remembers with a bit of nostalgia) might shatter the delicate veil that now envelops one’s life, tearing it cleanly apart and throwing us back into the welter outside our comfort zone. It is a condition well known, especially to those fathers of families who, over the years, have been forced to replace their favorite activities with a series of wholly unaccountable family and social commitments, which have transformed them to all intents and purposes into the figures of the diligent and responsible fathers that modern society so enjoys. It is as if the previous balance, made up of unpredictability, dynamism, and passion, had been replaced by another kind of balance, more hypocritical and conventional, but immensely useful in maintaining order in one’s marital and family life, restoring to society the image of the model citizen who has now renounced his youthful passions in order to devote himself body and soul to the care and maintenance of his offspring, who will represent the backbone of the society of the future.
A delicate balance
Shifting from one kind of balance to another, for many fathers of families, can be immensely painful. Giving up so abruptly everything that made his heart beat, the unpredictability and vibrancy of his youthful life, runs the real risk of throwing even the most conscientious father into a crisis with no way out, where he begins to ask himself specific questions about his own existential priorities and the real need to bring other members of society into the world, giving birth to children who – at best – will prove to be ungrateful and overbearing towards their parents. These fathers in crisis, so to speak, are easily recognizable: their complexion is dull, they are almost always overweight, with a marked tendency to pudgy, especially in the belly, and they seem to spend most of their free time on the couch, beer bottle in hand, staring blankly at the images transmitted by a television set that has, for some time now, become his best friend. They are perfectly aware of the price of their renunciation, and find themselves in the position of being able to do absolutely nothing (or almost nothing) to make practical changes in their lives.
Other fathers, on the other hand, seem to be in an even worse situation. They have silently absorbed the change of routine triggered by marriage and the birth of their children, gradually getting used to the new variety of their daily commitments. They are seemingly happy fathers, getting up early in the morning to go to work (and to accompany their children) and then returning home in the evening, ready to enjoy some TV show with family members. These fathers have fitted perfectly into the structure of society, of which they are one of the most fundamental and steadfast cogs. The tragedy is that they all continue to suffer silently as if their anguish – always latent – had been temporarily stifled by the whirlwind of their lives. In some cases, these people are so caught up in the rhythms of their conventional existence that they do not even notice their inner suffering. There are, however, certain habits that fathers of families cannot give up under any circumstances. These are dates with male and female friends, even if only once a week so that they do not isolate themselves too much from other relationships or the outside world, and regular sports activities with friends (five-a-side football matches, for example). Another habit that cannot be renounced is personal passions: among the hobbies that dotted your life before marriage, choose one, the most important one, and continue to cultivate it in the present.
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Creating a family without ever forgetting yourself is probably the best recipe for getting closer to the purest form of happiness.