At 15 months, my daughter, Elena, has begun to display some real talent with a spoon. She is now able to steer it directly into her mouth without leaving even a morsel of food on her cheek. Sometimes she'll even feed me--last night's offering was mashed carrots--as if to say, "If it's good for me, Daddy, it's good for you too."
Elena's attempt to share her food has special meaning because it's a perfect metaphor for a realization I've had since becoming a dad. While trying to help her grow up a healthy and happy child, I've discovered that she's been helping me live better too. Or to put it more plainly, my daughter has done wonders for my physical and emotional health.
I'm not alone in appreciating these types of benefits of being a dad. "Fatherhood comes with a lot of great health perks, " says Marcus Goldman, M.D., author of The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months (Prima Publishing, 2000). "Not only does it inspire men to take better care of themselves physically, but it also fills them with a sense of purpose that genuinely enhances their psychological well-being."
Research has consistently found that having an involved dad benefits kids. A study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore, concluded that children who have active fathers learn better, have higher self esteem, and are less prone to depression than those who don't.
Now researchers are starting to look at how being an involved dad affects men, and many benefits--both physical and mental--are already clear.