Michael Lewis on the State of Modern Fatherhood and Work-Family Balance

Michael Lewis may be the best non-fiction writer working today.  From his business-related books (Boomerang, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short) to sports-related books (Moneyball, Blind Side; both GREAT books but WAY over-rated movies), he always nails his subject with both intelligence and humor.

Michael Lewis' memoir on fatherhood, "Home Game" contains his typical wit and wisdom
Michael Lewis’ memoir on fatherhood, “Home Game” contains his typical wit and wisdom

While introducing his highly-recommended memoir, “Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood”, Lewis writes:

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We’re still digging out from Hurricane Sandy, so just a few quick thoughts today

First, please send prayers and any tangible help you can to coastal NYC- my hometown of Staten Island, as well as the Jersey Shore, Southern Long Island, and low-lying areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan are in really bad shape.  People lost their lives and homes, and many are without basic necessities.

All in all, my four days without power and heat is nothing to get worked up about. Everyone’s safe and unharmed and really that’s all that matters.

Luckily, my town had some big Halloween events, including our FANTASTIC PARADE last weekend, so we got to do great stuff like this ahead of the storm, even if trick-or-treating was a no-go.

The storm and my local community’s response to it illustrates a few Fatherhood, Work and Family issues I’d like to highlight.

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My Work-Family Balance Story

After a month or so of writing this blog, I realize that I should have started from the beginning- by sharing my own work-family balance story.  So, please allow myself to introduce…myself…

I’m a very lucky dad!

I’m lucky in that, as a college professor, I have a career with a lot of built-in flexibility in terms of where and when I get most of my work done.  Aside from classes, office hours and occasional meetings and campus events (usually about 15-20 hours a week), all my other work- class prep, grading, research writing, statistical analysis, committee work- can be done from anywhere at anytime- as long as it gets done (my work motto: have laptop, will travel).  I could be grading, preparing, teaching or even writing this blog in my pajamas from the Bahamas, although it is usually from the dining room table.

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Golf: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #1 (or, the post in which I piss off half my readership)

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article.   Time Suck– (n) Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children. (from UrbanDictionary.com) Perhaps the greatest … Read more

On Work and Fatherhood Priorities (with Bill Bryson and Ferris Bueller)

How could I turn down a chance to play catch with him? Work can wait.

Bill Bryson is my favorite author, and puts my writing skills to shame.  His humorous travel writing (e.g., In a Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s African Diary, Neither Here Nor There), memoirs (e.g., The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I’m a Stranger Here Myself), and science/history books (A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home) are all fantastic.  He may have written the best passage about Fathers, Work and Family that I have ever read.   The following is excerpted from “On Losing a Son (to College)” from Bill Bryson’s book I’m a Stranger Here Myself, 1999:

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Parenting Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Periodically, Fathers, Work, and Family will feature a guest post from a working dad relating some of their experiences, struggles and advice.  In this way, we can all benefit from multiple perspectives and start building a community on this blog.  If you’d like to participate, please email me (you can find the email here) and we can discuss what you’d like to share.

The first installment in this series comes from my good friend (and more importantly, loyal blog reader), Neil Cohen, who also has an great blog of his own, Man on Third, to which I highly recommend you subscribe.  Enjoy. 

Neil and Alex
Guest blogger Neil Cohen and his son, Alex.

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My Review of NBC’s “Guys with Kids” (or this is the best our culture can do? Really?)

Gratuitous Father-Son Picture

“Dad as doofus” humor is the backbone of many TV sitcoms, as has been since the very beginning.  Unfortunately, the “batting average” for this easy type of humor is not very high.  There are a few home runs (Homer Simpson or Michael Bluth), some clean singles (Ray Romano, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, et al), and lots of strikeouts (George Lopez or anyone on “Yes Dear”).  And I am not the first to speak out against the lazy TV stereotype of the clueless dad.Very few shows have taken a nuanced look into modern fatherhood and the work and fatherhood conundrum most of us face- “Up all Night” and “Parenthood” are two current shows that do this (I’m sure there are more, but, who has time for lots of TV?).  Considering all we committed, working dads are dealing with, the time seems right for a smart, incisive comedy commenting on our issues.

“Guys with Kids” is not that show. 

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The Onion and Death Star Day-Care: Friday Fathers, Work and Family Humor

(photo from Kalexanderson’s incredible set of Stormtrooper Father and Son photos, used in accordance with user agreement)

What’s a stormtrooper and father to do?  It must be very hard to balance work and family when working in the Death Star.  In response to this, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader have, according to The Onion (the greatest humor and satire site in the internet), opened on-site day care.

Read all about it here:

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In Defense of Those Who Miss Family Dinners (or, In Other News, Don’t Worry About Taking Vitamins)

Doctors and nutritionists have a saying, “it doesn’t really matter if you take vitamins, but it matters if you live your life like someone who takes vitamins”.  Basically, people who take vitamins also tend to eat better, exercise more and think about their health on a daily basis- and this is what leads to better health.  The research on the efficacy of vitamins is inconclusive at best, but the evidence for these other healthy practices is rock solid.

Family time is crucial. Does it have to take place at dinnertime?
Family time is crucial. Does it have to take place at dinnertime?

Similarly, there’s lots of advice and research from psychologists, especially those who study adolescent well-being, asserting that families who eat dinner together gain a wide variety of benefits from doing so.  From an excellent Time Magazine article by Nancy Gibbs:

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Darth Vader & Son: Fathers, Work and Family Friday Humor

From the incredibly funny book, Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown, that my Star Wars-obsessed son bought me for Father’s Day. Some hazards of taking your son to work with you (especially if you work for the Dark Side)…   May the force be with all of you this weekend.  Thank you for your … Read more

Networking for Fatherhood (or, in praise of BEER FIRE!)

My friend and neighbor, Francesco, who is a terrific dad, (and, more importantly, a loyal blog reader!), has a semi-regular tradition of inviting his local guy friends to hang out by the fire pit in his backyard with a cooler full of beer.   We’ve come to calling this brilliant innovation BEER FIRE!  (and I maintain he be nominated for the MacArthur Genius Grant for this revolutionary idea)

Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads
Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads

Beer Fire usually consists of 8-10 forty-something guys, most of whom are balancing interesting and rewarding careers with the rigors of being fathers to young kids, simply getting a chance to relax,  hang out, swap stories, have a few beers, and get to know each other.

Beer Fire is awesome, and I have benefitted greatly from attending- it’s relaxing; it’s fun, and I always learn a little something from everyone I talk to.

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