Ambassadors of Involved Fatherhood

Me, along with fellow ambassadors of involved fatherhood at the National At-Home Dad Network Convention
The ambassadors of involved fatherhood of the National At-Home Dad Network

Say it with me: “Almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.”

Last week, I was honored to be the opening keynote speaker at the 20th Annual National At-Home Dad Network Convention. It was an amazing experience: I met so many fantastic dads, learned a lot,  and made many new friends.

More than any other group, this network of at-home dads represents the front lines of changing the way society looks at involved fatherhood and modern masculinity. Of course, being on the front lines means that these at-home dads face a lot of scrutiny and stigma, and that they get A LOT of really dumb things said to them. Things like:

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Juggling Work and Family During School Holidays

I love spending time with Nick, but school holidays sometimes leave me scrambling
I love spending time with Nick, but school holidays sometimes leave me scrambling

This September has had lots of school holidays for my son- Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur- leaving our carefully prepared family schedule in shambles. Here are some ideas how we can adjust when school’s out.

Like most working parents, my wife and I have come to rely upon our son’s school as an important cog in the machinery that keeps our work-family juggle humming along.

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5% More Fun. A Mother’s Day Salute to My Wife

A mother's day tribute to the best mom I know
A mother’s day tribute to the best mom I know

My friends over at City Dads Group just wrote a great Mother’s Day themed article “What Our Wives Taught Us About Parenting” on their blog. What a clever way to recognize moms and to promote the notion of shared-care parenting. I highly recommend you read it.

Their post gave me the inspiration to write about what I’ve learned from Amy about parenting as a way of recognizing her on this Mother’s Day. Of course, Amy and I became parents at the same time, and had no hidden reservoirs of prior expertise.  But, she’s an awesome mom and I’d be silly not to have learned from her example.

The over-riding lesson I learned from Amy is that everything in life, including parenting, is better with 5% more fun.

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Advice From My Wife: An Excerpt From The Working Dad’s Survival Guide

We are officially 49 days away from the launch of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home! The book is on the presses as we speak, and the wheels of promotion and commerce have begun to spin. I am incredibly excited!

book cover 3Chapter 12 of the book is entitled, “Building Your Fatherhood Network.” In it, I discuss the importance of building and maintaining friendships with fellow dads. The fact is that too many dads feel alone, and it gets harder to make friends as we get older and busier. Regular informal fun time with fellow dads provides a needed social outlet and the opportunity to share advice and support. Great stuff, if I do say so myself. 😉

Not long ago, I was reading a draft of Chapter 12 to Amy, when she made the following comment. It was so insightful that I typed it down, and now it is included in the book. Here goes:

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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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My New Year’s Resolution: Better Work-Family Balance Through Goal-Setting (and a Handy-Dandy Fitness App)

Setting specific, measureable goals could be the key to better work and family balance. Here’s how

We are more likely to spend quality time with family if we set goals and plan ahead
We are more likely to spend quality time with family if we set goals and plan ahead

New Year’s Resolutions Stink

For the past few years, my New Year’s Resolution has been “To get in better shape.” Which, like most New Year’s resolutions, is a lousy, vague “do your best” style goal- these are largely ineffective. In fact, research shows that we are more likely to stick to and reach our goals when they are specific and measurable, when they are difficult enough to require sustained effort but are still realistically attainable, and when they have a deadline.

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Hey Dads: Year-Long Presence Is the Best Christmas Present

Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers. This Christmas, instead of stuff, we should give our kids the opportunities to do more fun things with us. Here are a few ideas.

Regardless of what you and your kids like to do, why not have Santa give you more opportunities to do them together

The best gift you can give your kids is your consistent presence. Happily, instead of buying your kids the latest junky plastic thingamabob they have their eye on, we can use Christmas (or Hanukkah) gifts as a as an excuse to purchase things that create opportunities for time together. Here are a few suggestions:

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“Let’s be good to each other” …and 14 more rules for me and Nick while Amy’s out of town for work

Nick and I just dropped Amy off at the airport- she’ll be in Birmingham and Chicago for most of the rest of the month with the cast and crew of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (thankfully, we’ll all be in Chicago together over Thanksgiving and then Amy will be back in New York for December). This leaves me and Nick home to take care of each other.

With Amy away for work, Nick and I have to take care of each other
With Amy away for work, Nick and I have to take care of each other

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Why Don’t More Men Walk The Talk on Work-Family?

When surveyed, dads overwhelmingly say that they would prefer to share childcare and housework relatively equally with their spouses, and would prefer to use flexibility and parental leave to better balance work and family. However, the data show that while men have made significant progress on both fronts, our actions do not match our intentions–leaving us more “locked into” work and less involved at home than we’d like.

I was lucky that my  career, "paternity leave" experience and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.
I was lucky that my career, employer flexibility and family dynamics were conducive to my being a very involved dad.

There are a few reasons for this mismatch. While corporate cultures and lack of societal support are major problems, it is also true that we sometimes get in our own way. Here’s a quick rundown of the barriers today’s dads face, including some advice on how we may be able to change our situations (future posts will dive more deeply into each topic).

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(insert number) Lessons About Fatherhood I Learned from (insert tv show/movie)

As you can imagine, I read a lot of parenting blogs and websites. If you visit enough of these sites, you will quickly come across posts like “X Things I Learned About Parenthood from Y,” with Y usually being a popular tv show or movie.

You can learn a lot from fictional dads!

There’s no surprise why these are popular: they are fun to read, fun to write, are universal and accessible for a wide audience, and VERY clickable. When a movie becomes a phenomenon, that rising tide lifts all posts- witness the thousands of Frozen-related blog posts last summer- I bet the readership numbers were also really high. Also, because people will be making Google searches for Frozen or Star Trek or the Goonies or even Leprechaun 3 probably forever (especially when the sequels and remakes come out), these posts tend to have a long tail. (Heck, the awesome Jeffrey Brown has made a career of this)

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Catch These Moments While We Can (on the end of “Nicky, the Skunk and the Dinosaur”)

…but then it occurred to me that never again would he be seven years, one month, and six days old, so we had better catch these moments while we can. -Bill Bryson

I'll miss fun times like these while Nick is little...
I’ll miss fun times like these while Nick is little…

My wife Amy was recently in a play in which her character’s family was, after many years, selling their family farm. In one scene, she’s reflecting with her teenaged son about the memories they shared in the house, and she dreamily reminisces about the bedtime stories she had made up for him when he was a young boy. She ends this scene with the line, “I don’t remember the last time I told you one of those stories.”

On this day, as Nick enters fourth grade, I found this line particularly profound. My son is growing up, and there are lots of things I “used to do” with him that he’s now grown out of. But, just like Amy’s character, I don’t remember the last time I did those particular things with him.

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Father-Son Ice Bucket Challenge! (and welcome NPR Listeners)

Like everyone else on the internet, I have done the ALS Research Ice Bucket Challenge!!!  My brave 9 year old son joined me. Here are the videos, and a link if you’d like to join us in making a donation for research into stopping this horrible disease.

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