Joe DeProspero is the author of “A Punch to the Groin: Painful Tales of Fatherhood.” I really enjoyed his honest and funny memoir of fatherhood. Joe was nice enough to answer a few questions about his book, the importance of self-care and the challenges of being a busy working dad of three.
Your book is really funny. And it also reveals pretty personal (and not always attractive) details. Did you have any concerns about writing so honestly? Did your wife?
Not really. Ever since I was a child, writing has been cathartic for me, a way to make sense of the thoughts swirling in my head, no matter how unflattering. I’ve found that my readers connect more deeply with my writing that is intimate, so it’s mutually beneficial for me to be honest. Also, at this point, I have a fairly good sense of what my wife is comfortable with me putting out there. I’m the one who appears incompetent in the book, so I think she was fine with that.
My favorite chapter is “Keys to not favoring your first,” about our tendency to go overboard for our first kid and take a more relaxed approach with the second. Could you tell us about that chapter, and about how successful you’ve been at not playing favorites?
Being a second child myself, I’m especially sensitive to it. I think due to pure exhaustion we tend to take less pictures, pay less attention, and offer less opportunities to any children conceived after our first. My wife is particularly good about maintaining a balance – if I take my older son to a football game, my younger son gets the same one-on-one treatment at another event. But since my older son is more likely to ask for things, the balance isn’t always there. It’s a struggle, for sure.
It seems like you’ve been able to keep a sense of humor around the hard and sometimes frustrating work of being a dad. Do you think the ability to laugh at ourselves from time to time is important? Why?
I had a few of my friends over the other night, simply to throw back a few beers and laugh about our communal histories. One friend, mid-conversation, commended me on “never losing my spirit,” asking me how I was able to remain who I was despite being an active dad. I merely pointed at the table and said, “This. This is how. You guys are how.” Laughter provides a glimmer of hope amidst hopelessness. And the ability to laugh in the face of adversity has reeled me in more times than I can count. It’s a time-honored coping mechanism.
(spoiler alert) The book ends with the news that you and your wife are expecting your third child. How is parenting going now that you are outnumbered? Is a sequel in the works?
Believe it or not, going from one to two kids felt like more of a challenge than going from two to three. Once I had two, I felt like I could have nine (please don’t tell my wife that). After my second son arrived, I was, as I put it, “conditioned for chaos.” So, my daughter being born into our family was just one more drink to fit onto an already blissfully crowded tray. Incidentally, spilling drinks is her favorite pastime.
And when my daughter was born, everyone told me I’d have all this new material for another book. But what they left out of that theory is that I’d have much less time to actually write it. Life is cruel like that, sometimes. It’ll happen eventually, though, when it’s time.
On a more serious note, you balance being an involved dad with a demanding career. Do you have any advice or experiences to share?
The best piece of advice I could possibly dispense is to secure your oxygen mask before helping your child with theirs. In other words, never forget to take care of yourself. Take a day off when you need it. Go to concerts. Follow your dreams.
The most unhappy I’ve been as a parent is when I’ve neglected my own needs, falsely believing I was being noble in the process. It’s not noble. Frankly, it’s stupid. You can’t pour someone a drink out of an empty carton. And naturally, you want to avoid both literal and figurative empty cartons once you became a parent. Although, you’ll likely be creating plenty of empty beer cans.
Thanks, Joe! Readers, what do you think of his insights and advice? Any funny stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
Joe DeProspero is an author, blogger, and producer of the A Parent Chaos podcast. A contributor to The Huffington Post, Parents Magazine, and The Good Men Project, Joe candidly writes and speaks about parenting challenges of the 21 century with a keen sensibility and acerbic wit. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.
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