I was at a baby consignment sale when I overheard a new mom and her grandmother talking about daddies. It was impossible not to listen as we were the only ones in the 6-month girl’s section.

Her grandma said the only outfits you can find today are daddy outfits. She said it’s “all about daddies now” as she rolled her eyes. I thought it was silly, and I was pretty sure she was wrong. Then I remembered how we were absolutely flooded with onesies covered with dad sayings before our baby was born. She only received one mommy shirt, which she quickly outgrew.

I often think of that grandma’s words when I open my daughter’s dresser drawers and come across a daddy shirt. Is there really an abundance of them out there in the world? While I can’t conduct a study to find out, it did make me wonder: if the market is saturated with these clothes, why? Deep down, are we still desperate and longing to make dads part of the story?

According to an annual report from the CDC, between 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88% to 69%. During the same period, the percentage of children living with only their mothers nearly tripled from 8% to 23%.

Any guy can be a father, but it takes a special guy to be a daddy.

The gift of an “I ♥ Daddy” outfit doesn’t magically put him in the picture, no matter how much someone may want it to. A man is a daddy when he’s present, relationship-oriented, and the foundation of his family.

RELATED: Here’s To the Good Dads

A daddy is near and dear to his baby even when that baby is small and still figuring out the world. She may be new, but she knows love when she sees it. Her face lights up as soon as he steps in the doorway after work because he’s formed a connection with her—even after he’s worked almost 60 hours a week. He puts in the time, the effort, for her.

Their relationship is more than diaper duty. It’s late-night serenades with his guitar when she’s fighting sleep. It’s big giggles on the changing pad because he’s more boisterous than Mommy. It’s after hours chart dictation with her on his lap.

Before he’s a good daddy, he’s a good husband.

He supports his wife and encourages her daily. He stays awake while she works late at night even if it means he falls asleep on the couch next to her. Anything so he doesn’t have to go to bed without her.

He reminds his wife of the vows taken on their wedding day when it’s almost 1 a.m. and she’s upset. A good husband is quick and gentle to remind her that he made a promise to her, through the good times and the difficult times, and he is steadfast.

Sometimes he wakes before the sun to tackle the mountain of dishes in the sink. Occasionally he sends his wife to HomeGoods because she really needs to get out of the house. Don’t worry, he’s got the baby under control.

I know what makes a good husband, and ultimately a good daddy because thankfully, I have just that. Sure, he is flawed like everyone else, but he gives his all every day, and he honors God and protects what He’s entrusted him with. (This is apparent when he gets our baby ready for church on Sunday mornings so I can get myself ready. What a hero!)

RELATED: To the Man Who Quietly Holds Us Together: We See You

I don’t think it’s a far reach at all to say his faith in God makes him a great family man. As a Christian, his actions have clear direction. He is tenderhearted (Eph. 4:32) but strong. He’s slow to anger (James 1:19-20) and quick to lend a helping hand (Matt. 5:42). He leads his family in prayer and even discovered very early on that baby’s favorite song, “Resurrecting” by Elevation Worship, calms her immediately, no matter what’s going on or where we are (seriously, try it). He trusts God every day despite any difficulties he faces.

Although our baby has countless daddy shirts, they aren’t the reason he’s present and in the picture in a big way.

The reason is Jesus.

The bottom line is this: A God-fearing man makes a wonderful husband and a great daddy to someone teeny tiny—with or without the “Daddy’s princess” outfit. A baby could be clothed in daddy gear 365 days a year, and it still wouldn’t mean a thing if he hasn’t made Christ the priority of his life. Once that’s clear, investing in a family, and leading them appropriately, comes naturally.

The onesie doesn’t make the dad. Rather, a dad is made by the Holy Spirit living in him.

Previously published on the author’s blog

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Ashley Hill

Ashley Hill is a wife and a new mom who writes, paints, and bakes when she isn't chasing after her little girl. After working in New York City for a period of time, Ashley felt God calling her back to a quieter life in West Virginia where she was born and raised. She writes about motherhood at https://www.raisinbabies.com.

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