The Glorious Return of Beer Fire!

Setting up for Beer Fire!
Setting up for Beer Fire!

A few years ago, my friend and neighbor, Francesco, started inviting dads from our neighborhood to small social gatherings at his backyard fire pit to talk and have a few beers. We now call these meet-ups “Beer Fire.”

I love Beer Fire, and see it as a possible solution for the persistent problem that we busy working dads don’t often develop networks of friends to share their experiences with. As such, my second-ever blog post extolled the virtues of Beer Fire, and a good chunk of Chapter 12 of my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, describes the benefits of informal dad networks and fun social time that Beer Fire and similar gatherings can foster. From my book:

Beer Fire is awesome– it’s relaxing; it’s fun, and I always learn a little something from everyone I talk to. For example, a neighbor and I discussed how much allowance is appropriate for our kids and how many chores our kids needed to do to earn it. In another conversation, I learned about local swimming and fencing programs. I even helped a dad develop a strategy for asking his boss for more work flexibility. The beer was pretty good, too….

Part of the success of Beer Fire is that it is not a formal group. No one distributes an agenda ahead of time, and the conversations flow organically. Yes, we talk about cars, sports and women. But, because the attendees are mostly of the same age group, live locally, and have kids of around the same age, the conversation naturally gravitates to what we all share in common – our careers, our kids, and how we try to juggle it all.

Another part of Beer Fire’s success is that it is represents a “guys’ night out.” We’re not a John Birch Society, the Little Rascals’ “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” or Al Bundy’s “No Ma’am” group (from “Married with Children”). No drum circles or hazing rituals for us. However, I think it is important that Beer Fire is a comfortable place just for guys. This allows folks to open up a little more, and to discuss family issues more readily. I think that because even today’s modern dad sometimes sees “family issues” as a primarily women’s concern, we self-censor our discussion when moms are around. “After all”, we may think to ourselves, “my wife has an even tougher juggle than me. What right to I have to complain?”

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Being a Present Parent: Q&A with Author Dr. Timothy Dukes

The Present Parent Handbook by Dr. Timothy Dukes
The Present Parent Handbook by Dr. Timothy Dukes

All of us want to connect with our children. With all the distractions from work and life, it can be hard to be a truly present parent. Dr. Timothy Dukes’ new book, The Present Parent Handbook, was written to help parents be more mindful in our interactions with our families. Tim was nice enough to answer a few questions for us. Enjoy!

I’ve heard the terms “quality time” and “quantity time” before, but before reading your book, had not considered the importance of “incidental time.” Can you briefly explain what you mean by incidental time and why it is so important for parents?

I am very fond of the reality of incidental time. I might define it as those moment that are not planned, they arise unexpectedly, and invite us into our child’s world or them into ours. Incidental is defined as “falling upon” or “happening to.” Incidental time fosters curiosity, serendipity, play, frolicking, resulting in a “felt-sense of knowing” by both the parent and the child. This “felt-sense” establishes the baseline of fundamental connection. Nothing is planned, duration is a secondary concern, and now in this moment, something unfolds between us that is abiding. Incidental time, holds context for life as is. Life that lives itself and in which, if we are present, we participate.

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On Underhand Free Throws and Work Family Balance for Dads

Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. (creative commons)
Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. (creative commons)

Rick Barry shot underhand free throws. What we working dads can learn from this example.

One of the oddest things about world-class NBA players is that some of them are terrible free-throw shooters. Free-throws should be one of the easiest aspects of the game- the shot is always the same distance and no one is trying to guard you. Even so, some great players, mostly big-men such as Shaquille O’Neal, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, make less than 50% of their free-throws. This means fewer points and a reduced chance to win. In fact, opposing teams have made a habit of intentionally fouling poor free throw shooters near the end of close games, often resulting in the player having to be taken out of the game during crunch-time, hurting their teams chance at victory. The term for this was called “Hack a Shaq.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, there is a better way to shoot free throws than the typical overhead technique. And every player who makes less than 65% or so of his free throws should use it. But they don’t. Why?

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Q&A with Author Joe DeProspero on the Pain and Humor of Fatherhood

JoeDJoe 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?

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Book Excerpt: The Magic of Time Chunks

My book would make a great Father's day gift.
My book would make a great Father’s day gift.

Just in time for Father’s Day, here’s an excerpt from my best-selling book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide.  (Which would make a great gift for yourself or any of the dads in your life!) This excerpt is all about how using time chunks can help keep us focused on family time and free up our mental energy to get the most out of it. It also references Harry Potter. Enjoy!

Regularly Scheduled Time Chunks of Unstructured Activity

A few hours dedicated to a single father-kid activity is better than several distracted twenty minute snippets scattered throughout the day.

When I first started writing this book, for example, Nick would often ask me to play. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I’d set aside my laptop and join him for ten minutes of Wii LEGO Harry Potter. Then, I’d go back to my writing. Invariably, he’d be back asking me to play a half-hour later, and we’d repeat the cycle.

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Being a Successful Parentpreneur. Q&A with James Oliver

Parentpreneur James Oliver
Parentpreneur James Oliver

Through blogging, I’ve met so many friends, including today’s guest, James Oliver. James recently wrote a book about his experiences starting his own company while also being the at-home dad of two young children. His compelling personal story also contains great advice and encouragement for others who may want to become a parentpreneur.

Here’s a transcript of my Q&A with parentpreneur and author James Oliver about his book, his company WeMontage, and juggling entrepreneurship and parenthood.

  1. I love the title of your book: “The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get: You CAN Be a Successful Parentpreneur.” Can you explain how this title inspires you and can help motivate us, too?

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The Fatherly 50 List of Best Employers for New Dads Shows Progress (at the top)

Fatherly compiled a list of the best employers for new dads
Fatherly compiled a list of the best employers for new dads

Yesterday, Fatherly.com released its annual ranking of the 50 Best Employers for New Dads 2017. The list highlights large companies from many sectors that have implemented policies and programs supporting new dads and working parents.

(Disclosure: I serve as an unpaid subject matter expert for this project)

The list of best employers for new dads is especially important for showing what is possible.

  • For employers, this could lead to a “race to the top” in which they compete against each other for top talent by expanding their benefits and changing their cultures.
  • It can show the business community that there is no tradeoff between being a financially successful company and an accommodating employer. In fact, it makes a compelling argument that the two are self-reinforcing.
  • For dads, this list can give us an idea of what leading companies are offering. We can look for employment at companies with similar policies in our job searches. Similarly, we can share this information with our bosses and HR departments and advocate for the expansion of family-supportive programs.

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Small Ways for Dads to Signal the Importance of Work-Life Balance

There are many small ways to signal the importance of work-life balance while at work. By doing so, we advocate for ourselves and support our fellow working dads.

When I am interviewed about the challenges faced by working dads, one of my go-to lines is that, “in many workplaces, it’s not safe for men to ‘out themselves’ as highly involved dads.”

While this statement is sadly still true, I am encouraged by the increasing number of men speaking up about their family priorities while at work. When dads signal the importance of work-life balance, we take the conversation out of the shadows. Sending visible signals reinforces the fact that involved fatherhood important, normal and widespread. We need to ensure that it is recognized as such at our workplaces and communities.

I’ve spent the last few years working with dads and employers on work-family concerns. Many dads have shared with me how they to assert their work-family priorities while at work. Here are a few things they’ve told me. While I recognize not every dad has the security to do all of these, most of us could probably find small ways to support our cause by signaling the importance of work-life balance.

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