We all know the age old tale. Guy gets married, guy has kids, guy packs on the pounds. It's become so expected, it's now celebrated by the term "dad bod." Don't get me wrong, I am very close with tons of guys who have "dad bods", it just isn't my cup of tea and here's why...
We were created to toil, our ancestors were forced to toil, our grandfathers had no choice but to toil through some of the most difficult years our country has ever endured. There is great value for us and our families in hard work. Living a life without some blood and sweat is living half a life. Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States (only man to serve twice) put it this way:
"A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil."
WE MUST ACTIVELY PURSUE TOIL, for in this 21st century, it will not invade our lives on its own. When we purchased our tree farm I had so many people look at me like I was crazy! "Gonna be a lot of work," they said, "That's gonna keep you busy," they predicted. What they didn't understand was the fact that the work and energy required to keep this place afloat was exactly what I was after, the toil I knew I was undertaking was my pursuit! I can honestly tell you, from our days in apartments, to our first house, multiple moves, remodels and landscapes, I've always wanted more. More to learn, more to do, more reasons to exert energy.
Some may believe people that enjoy work like me are crazy, but I can tell you with confidence that people that understand the value of toil are happier and live fuller lives.
You may be saying, "well that's great, but not everyone has 5 acres on which to work." My answer to that is 2-fold. First of all, the size of your acreage is not important. If you have a place to live that you are responsible for managing and maintaining, you DO have acreage and if you don't actively partake in identifying projects and work on that which you inhabit in order to improve it, you wouldn't survive a weekend on 5 acres (which is nothing compared to real farming!) Secondly, toil does not only occur through the completion projects and home management. It must also be pursued through vigorous, consistent exercise. There it is, the dirty word.
In general, people in this country are not toiling and they are not happy. We hear the studies on the News, depression, anxiety, suicide and I could post article after article, study after study but we all know the ugly truth. Sitting around staring at screens, eating unhealthy food and being physically inactive is not only bad for your health, it is bad for your psyche. A few tidbits below, that took 3 unique approaches to study the connection between a sedentary life and depression/anxiety.
Large Study - From the National Center for Health and Statistics: Depression and Obesity in the U.S. Adult Household Population, 2005–2010
• Forty-three percent of adults with depression were obese, and adults with depression were more likely to be obese than adults without depression.
• The proportion of adults with obesity rose as the severity of depressive symptoms increased.
• Fifty-five percent of adults who were taking antidepressant medication, but still reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms, were obese.
International Study - From Reuters:
"A new analysis of previous studies ties too much sitting at the computer or lying around watching TV to a greater risk of depression."
"Based on dozens of studies covering hundreds of thousands of participants, Chinese researchers found that sedentary behavior was linked to a 25 percent higher likelihood of being depressed compared to people who were not sedentary."
Mouse Study - From CityLab and The New York Times:
"...running sparked the creation of excitable neurons that prompt activity, and resulted in a huge new supply of neurons that produce GABA, which has a soothing effect on the nervous system."
"The mice that were active showed more inclination to explore new environments when given the chance, an indication of less anxiety."
"The normal human solution, which is to walk around the world as we work, gather food, and play, is increasingly inaccessible to us. And even when it is not, we frequently perceive it to be inaccessible -Sara Goodyear, citylab.com
The quote above explains so much! It shows, in a quick statement, how we've physically devolved from needing to toil to survive, to an existence where not only is zero toil required to survive, but the pursuit of toil is perceived as inaccessible! Incredible to me.
I personally believe that sedentary people or those who don't enjoy toil, are in a cognitively dissident state where they've forgotten how good it feels to work. If you took them out and worked for an hour, in a driving rain storm, got them covered in mud or wood shavings and then brought them back in and let them get cleaned up and then interviewed them about how they felt, they would feel more alive and positive than they did before the work. Thats a guarantee! Anyone want to volunteer for a study with me? You'll have a blast, believe me.
So how does toil relate to being a dad...
If: Raising kids to the best of your ability takes the same attributes as taking care of yourself to the best of your ability. Doing one increases your ability to do the other.
And: Studies above show (what we already know) that toil, both through exercise and actual manual labor is a factor in being your best mentally and physically.
Then: The pursuit of toil results in better mental and physical health which directly contributes to your ability to be the best dad (and husband) you can be.
If, and, then...ITS A BEAUTIFUL FORMULA that has the power to change the world.
From a philosophical perspective, your dad years SHOULD BE your most organized, most active, most consistent mental and physical years of your life. First of all, you're still young enough that if you take good care of yourself you WILL FEEL GOOD physically, i.e. if you are able bodied your system will respond well to exercise, manual labor and healthy food. Secondly, the process of adding children to your life will add chaos to your house and the best way to manage that chaos is to stay in a consistent, organized, checklist-based routine. The world needs good, strong, hard-working men and you have everything inside of you to be one of them.
• Good, healthy, hard-working men cultivate better marriages, raise more prepared and consistent children - who understand the value of work and achievement - this builds stronger, safer, better structured communities.
• As a man, you were created with near limitless potential and when you became a husband and father you took on the responsibility to cultivate that potential and find out what you're capable of.
• If you will commit to that responsibility, you will feel better about what you see in the mirror which will free you up mentally to have more moments of elation and be continuously enamored by your children. They will blossom before you and your attention to and ability to physically meet their needs will be improved.
Some ways to add toil to your life:
• Yard work, manage your land! Pull weeds, edge, rake, mow, fertilize, plant trees, lay pavers, take pride in what you have, set the pace for the neighborhood
• DIY projects - the possibilities are endless
• If you are able bodied, and since you became a dad you're just not moving much, there are gyms to join, hills to run, you probably have a bike to ride or you could at-home workouts like I do. Start now, be strong, fit, active and capable for your kids! The harder you work, the better you'll feel and when they see you toil they'll want to work too. If you'd like encouragement or recommendations on how you can build an affordable home gym, you can contact me directly! Steve@crushlifeacres.com. One of these days I'll get a post up about the ultimate affordable at home gym.
One of my favorite quotes:
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
Toil is good for your mind and your body.
Toil is honorable.
Toil sets the example.
Pursue hard work and difficult tasks and your entire family will reap the benefits.
Rise. Shine. Crush.