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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Involved Fatherhood is Good for Fathers

Involved fatherhood is good for fathers. It sure has been good for me.
Involved fatherhood is good for fathers. It sure has been good for me.

We dads know this headline is true. However, if you read most news coverage on why paternity leave and other supports for working dads are important, you’ll usually see the following arguments:

  • Involved fatherhood is good for kids– especially in terms of positive developmental and behavioral outcomes
  • Involved fatherhood is good for women– especially in terms of gender equity and labor force participation

Both of these arguments are completely true and backed up by a library full of research. But they don’t tell the whole story. Have you noticed who is missing? Ok, I’ll just say it:

Involved fatherhood is good for fathers!

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Family Leave Insurance: The Best $28 I Spent Last Year

Family Leave Insurance gives New Jersians good bang for the buck
Family Leave Insurance gives New Jersians good bang for the buck

God, I hate doing my taxes. But as I was compiling my receipts, 1099s and I040s, I saw something interesting on my Fairleigh Dickinson University W2 form. It was a listing of the amount deducted from my paychecks last year as part of New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance program. It was all of $28.

New Jersey is one of three states (New York may be next!) to provide paid family and medical leave. And like California and Rhode Island, this benefit is funded through a small payroll deduction into a state-wide insurance fund. Simply put, everyone pays in a small amount, and then, when one needs a family-related (most commonly a maternity or paternity leave) or medical leave (care for self or for a family member), they can draw from this insurance fund for wage replacement of two-thirds of one’s income, up to $604 per week, during the 6-week leave.

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The Two Things Dads Can’t Do As Well As Moms

Many people believe the stereotype that moms are naturally inclined to parenthood and that dads are less capable parents, despite all the accumulating evidence to the contrary. There are, however, two things dads can’t do as well as moms:

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3 Simple Rules for Stopping the Daddy Wars Before They Start

The “Daddy Wars” haven’t yet heated up. Let’s stop them before they start.

Stop the daddy wars before they start. Support your fellow dads!
Stop the daddy wars before they start. Support your fellow dads! (flickr: creative commons)

Women are under a lot of pressure to be “perfect parents.” There’s so much unfair societal pressure, comparison and judgment of those who do things differently. No matter what moms do, there seems to be some “queen bee” mom or some aspect of the media telling moms they are doing it wrong.

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Respecting the Rhythm of Work and Family

Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family
Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family

One thing I have learned about balancing work and family is that you need to take the long view. Work can take precedent sometimes. Other weeks, family can come to the fore. And it’s ok if you are temporarily out of balance. We need to respect the rhythm of work and family.

In the business world, we call this the difference between Episodic Overwork and Chronic Overwork. It’s ok, and probably necessary for career advancement, to have some weeks in which you burn the midnight oil. Accountants during tax season. Lawyers in the home stretch of a big case. A big client deadline. Passing a certification exam. Promoting a book. Even in nature, high tides and occasional forest fires are good things.

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Real Men Take Paternity Leave

Being there for the first several weeks was so important for my family
My being there for the first several weeks was so important for my family

When I am interviewed about paternity leave, my book, and other “working dad” issues, I always get the question about why, even in companies that provide paid paternity leave, many dads don’t feel they can actually take an extended leave without significant career consequences. My typical answer goes something like this:

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The Key to Work-Life Success: Intentional Choices

“When we consciously think about our actions and how we spend our time, we tend to be more consistent with our priorities. When we are on auto-pilot, we drift from our priorities and towards whatever happens to be most urgent at the moment “

Sometimes I allow 24/7 connectivity to work get in the way of family time
Sometimes I allow 24/7 connectivity to work get in the way of family time

A few months ago, a financial planner gave a guest lecture to students at my university about the importance of smart financial management right out of college. He talked about his own spending habits when he got his first job. As he drove to work for his first day, he stopped along the way for a Starbucks – after all, he had money now, and he deserved a treat. Later that day, his new colleagues took him out to lunch at a local café. What started as one-off decisions quickly became habits.

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