The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?
How about a third way?
I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.
Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.
Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.
When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.
My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.
Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.
As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.
Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.
You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).
So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.
Well, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.
Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, it will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.
This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).
Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting?
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National Fatherhood Initiative is nearing the close of our fiscal year at the end of September. We have a lot of exciting things planned for FY-2013 and we’re looking forward to bringing you more expert advice for dads, fatherhood perspectives on events in pop culture and the news, and practical resources to help you in your fathering journey.
But we can’t do this without your support. We need to raise an additional $20,000 by the end of the month to enable us to activate the plans we have to change the lives of more dads and families next year.
Marvin Charles of Seattle, Washington, (pictured here with his wife, son, and father) is one of the dads whose life has been touched by National Fatherhood Initiative’s work. His example as a role model and his commitment to helping others is impacting dads in his community who need a second chance.
Marvin’s story was captured by Lewis Kostiner, a photographer who traveled around the country at his own expense to meet dads who participated in NFI’s fathering programs through their local communities. Mr. Kostiner’s photographs and the stories of these families are collected in an inspiring book, Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance.
Mr. Kostiner describes the role that Marvin plays in the lives of other dads and his own son:
Marvin Charles [...] spent most of his time keeping tabs on all the fathers and children in the National Fatherhood Initiative program whom he helped in his district. He picked them up and dropped them off and told them how to do this and how to do that. He never looked down on any of them, and his presence helped organize and prepare the children for their everyday journeys and, for the men, fatherhood. His clients struggled daily to survive, and he knew it. He did what he could to help them along. […] Marvin was a real community organizer, in the true sense. He was […] [there] to help kids and their dads. In his son's eyes, Marvin could easily have been elected Mayor of Seattle. Marvin carried his family's picture around with him all day long on his T-shirt, right in front of his heart.
Marvin and the dads he helps represent real-life families whose lives have been changed through NFI's work. These "second chances" are possible because of the support of people just like you.
Will you help us give a second chance to more families in the next year?
Donate $100 or more today and we will send you a FREE copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance.
If you can't donate $100 or more, any amount will make a difference in helping us reach our goal for the fiscal year and start next year on the right foot! Thanks for your support!
Thank God kindergarteners don't need laptops. With my firstborn attending kindergarten soon, clothes and supplies are enough expense. You have no doubt seen the legendary lists of supplies from your child’s school by now. NFI may not be helpful as it pertains to fashion (considering our president has written extensively, and sadly in favor of, the fanny pack!). But as it pertains to tech and gadgets, we can offer our "expert" opinion.
Whether it is gadgets for your university student or middle-school scholar, we are here to help you save a few dollars and use the time to connect with your child. See our ideas below on what to look out for in purchasing the lastest mobile devices in three categories:
The new Dell Inspiron Ultrabook (starts at $649) is one of the new "ultrabooks.” It's ultrathin, fast and is said to have a around seven hours of battery-life. Your child may want this laptop considering the offer of also getting an Xbox 360 with your purchase. Also, with your purchase, the machine comes with Windows 7 but Windows 8 can be purchased for $14.99 when you own Windows 7.
For Mac families, there is the MacBook Air, starting at $999 for the 11-inch model (don’t forget: $949 with qualifying education discount). The new MacBooks come with OS X Mountain Lion, iLife, iWork and all the software your student will need. The 11-inch MacBook Air has an i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage (no hard drive) and at least five hours of non-stop, wifi-using battery life. This makes it one of the lightest laptops ever for carrying around in a backpack with other books all day. The MacBook Air also includes the popular FaceTime HD camera for HD 720p video calling. The Apple Store has Back to School deals that should not be missed. Deals include a $100 iTunes gift card with the purchase. And don't forget to ask about education pricing.
Apple continues to have the market cornered with regard to tablet devices. But depending on your student, you may find Google's Nexus Tablet the right fit.
The new Apple iPad is a powerful and very mobile option. Honestly, dads, the iPad may be a better and cheaper option instead of a laptop for many students. It is the best-selling tablet for many reasons. iPad prices start at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only version and 16GB of storage. Apple’s Back to School deals include a $50 iTunes gift card with new iPad purchase. Remember, education pricing can be used for iPads (same as laptops) because Apple considers this mobile device the same as a personal computer.
If it’s a smaller touchscreen you desire, there is the 7-inch Google Nexus Tablet (which starts at $199 for 8GB) for the student in your house. Consider this option when mobility is valued over storage. It is a great option as long as you have storage elsewhere.
With so many different phones on the market, students can be very mobile and pack very lightly. From taking notes in class, recording lectures or calling parents, phones can be a very useful tool. For some wondering what phone is best for their student, you may find this helpful:
Apple's iPhone 4S (starting $199 for 16GB with contract) and comes with a great camera and tons of features like Retina display. The iPhone also has FaceTime so you can see how your child is doing when each of you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Android lovers also have plenty of good choices when it comes to phones. The HTC One V boasts a 3.7-inch screen, a powerful battery and great camera that rivals the iPhone.
When shopping for back-to-school deals, it is a good time to consider asking for an all-in-one printer when purchasing a computer. Most retail stores will consider adding a wireless all-in-one printer when at the time of purchasing a new computer.
Consider these options and for the student in your family when chosing laptops, tablet devices and smartphones. Dad, get involved in the process of shopping with your child this year. Shopping for the best deal and learning about the best device for your child can be a good time of connecting.
Discuss what is most important and useful in the devices with your child. Even though it is money from your pocket, try making it an enjoyable and teachable experience. Your child will remember these back-to-school shopping days. I haven't forgotten back-to-school shopping as a kid. Please, someone reading this, remind my future self of this post when my daughters ask for laptops. Happy shopping, dads!
What is one gadget the scholar in your family wants this year?
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Did you know that 25% of Americans access the Internet through their smartphones instead of a computer? That means millions of dads are not accessing National Fatherhood Initiative's web-based resources.
We want to deliver our expert fathering advice directly into dads’ hands through a brand new text messaging campaign, but it will cost $2,750 to create and maintain the new platform.
As a reader of this blog, you know how important it is that children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers. You also know that our resources are making a difference across the nation by helping men learn how to connect with their kids heart-to-heart.
We're looking for 110 people to donate just $25 each by August 12 to help us raise funds needed to create this new tool to reach more dads who currently don’t have access to our information. Not only that, but if you are part of that 25% of who prefers to use your phone instead of the computer, your donation will go towards a resource that you can use too!
Will you be one of the 110? Donate $25 (or more!) today.
Our 2012 Military Fatherhood Award recipient had a big day yesterday!
First Lt. William Edwards enjoyed an extra-special lunch yesterday with President Obama (Photo: ObamaFoodorama).
Edwards was then honored at The White House where NFI's President Roland Warren presented Lt. Edwards with his 2012 Military Fatherhood Award. Warren presented the award to Edwards at The White House "Champions of Change" event.
The USA Today reports, Obama salutes Father's Day with military lunch to honor Father's Day and the military.
Obama lunched with two serviceman and a pair of local barbers involved in the administration's campaign to promote better fatherhood.
"These guys are also young fathers, and they're doing great," Obama said during the lunch at the BBQ smokehouse in northeast Washington.
Obama said: "It turns out that with the father being involved, the kids are less likely to do drugs ... girls are less likely to get pregnant. And so that message is something that we want to make sure gets out there."
Watch video of the lunch here:
President Obama does well to point out that involved fathers matter. Absent fathers change everything. From incarceration and crime to teen pregnancy and childhood obesity (See Statistics on Father Absence).
Edwards is an example of an involved father. Lt. William (Bill) Edwards of the U.S. Army is the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award Winner.
Edwards is based at Fort Jackson in South Carolina where he lives with his wife of 13 years, Esther, and their four children. Lt. Edwards uses his musical and cinematic talents to stay connected with his four children before, during, and afterhis deployments. He was deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division Band in 2007-2008 for 14 months in Iraq.
Click here for more information on NFI's Fatherhood Award.
Since WIRED’s June cover for National Geek Dad Day released, some folks have been buzzing about whether the tech magazine is singling out dads too much. NFI praises WIRED for celebrating dads and encouraging intentional time with their kids. The haters just don’t get it.
The current issue instructs dads on "How to be a Geek Dad," by building hovercrafts, making electric play-doh, building forts with broomsticks and string, and basically being the coolest, most amazing dads ever.
But some aren’t happy with Geek Dad Day. Specifically, Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel writes an article titled, “Wired Magazine Can’t Seem to Stop Alienating Women” and thinks the magazine shouldn’t single out and celebrate men, even on Father’s Day.
After Baker complains about the number of female contributors and lack of features written by women at WIRED, she asks, “shouldn't a magazine that markets itself as a general interest publication know better?” Sadly, Baker is fighting her battle on the wrong day in the wrong way.
Father absence is a real problem – it matters. Twenty-four million children in America -- one out of three – don’t have dads in the home. Father absence is linked to poverty, crime, teen pregnancy, and education. Whether a father is absent or present impacts society – for good or for ill.
The father factor in education is one such example. The National Center for Education Statistics says half of all children with involved fathers reported getting mostly A's through 12th grade, compared to 35.2% of children with absent fathers. Any effort encouraging dads to “Grab your safety glasses and your kids…” is worth applauding, especially around Father’s Day.
Do we not celebrate what we want more of, like birthdays and anniversaries? If we want more good dads, we should celebrate them. Father’s Day is not the day to debate gender issues, it’s a time to celebrate dads.
Given the dramatic need for more and better dads, we should celebrate any effort encouraging dads to be engaged with their kids; especially when we see plenty dumb, ineffective and disengaged dads every other day of the year in media. On the other hand, mothers are generally portrayed as competent parents. (Of note, we have not seen Baker address this clear inequality.)
Baker writes that WIRED’s idea of exploring science is great; she only wants it to be for all parents, not just dads. She asks two questions, “Why does it have to be marketed towards dads?” and “Why do publishers seem confused that "girls can geek out too?” Baker continues, “Adult women can geek out, too, which is why covers like these piss off some of the magazine's female fans.”
Baker criticizes WIRED for not engaging all parents; but do we not see fathers missing from media every day of the year? Plus, good fathers are a benefit to mothers. When we celebrate fathers we are helping mothers. Specifically, 93% of mothers agreed (67% strongly agreed) that there is a father absence crisis in this country (see Mama Says).
I disagree with Baker when she writes that the current issue of WIRED should “piss off” women. Of course we need more "geek women." But, getting fathers involved will actually create more geek women. Geek fathers have sons AND daughters. Geek fathers have a unique opportunity to mentor their daughters. Research shows girls with involved fathers score at significantly higher levels than those without fathers (See Father Facts).
The Geek Dad issue of WIRED encourages dads to grab safety glasses and their children, we applaud WIRED and encourage more companies to be creative with involving dads in the lives of their children.
We should celebrate and encourage geek men to be good geek fathers, because they will have geek daughters, who become geek women, who become geek mothers.
Pass me the safety glasses. If being a Geek Dad is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
I was doing some browsing on the Web when I came across a blog entry
from Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale Universitys Prevention Research Center. The entry focused on the fact that men, especially fathers, need to turn a deeper focus on health and weight control. At NFI, weve made several references to the importance of health in men throughout our variety of resources and content
. However, the doctors blog featured a few sentences that made me question just how thickheaded are men about getting healthy.
We know that women are the guardians of the family health. We know that women, wives, mothers tend to do the heavy lifting when it comes to medical care, preventive services and diet, said Dr. Katz in his blog, no doubt sharing a sentiment long shared by many. However, I grew up around men like my grandfathers and uncles who were always on top of their health. Im particularly worrisome about my own health for a variety of reasons, some of which are hereditary.
Much like the meme going around that fathers are clueless when it comes to caring for their babies
, a lot of archaic notions about men continue to be perpetuated. I became especially aware of my health needs after becoming a father. In fact, my peers who became dads all followed suit. How some of us arrived to that point was actually simple: taking care of children is taxing! I remember feeling like everything was hurting while running after my toddler, saying to my doctor that I needed to feel whole again.
I do get Dr. Katzs overall point. As a father of five children and the editor-in-chief of the medical journal Childhood Obesity, he has an obligation to preach to the masses the importance of health. His blog was more so a call to fathers to set better examples for their children. I truly enjoyed his stance on saying that men who find working out and eating better to be feminine traits are acting un-guy like slamming the notion that men can eat and do whatever they want without repercussions.
Dr. Katz is simply urging dads to eat better so their kids will too. The rapid rise in stroke risks in children between the ages of 5 and 14 attributed to obesity is unacceptable. The old adage the apple doesnt fall far from the tree certainly applies in this case. Good health has to start somewhere, and fathers have a responsibility to lead by example.
I may not have been exposed to many men or fathers who were reluctant about staying healthy, but I do know we can all do better in providing a pathway to healthier living for our children by starting with ourselves.
Last night, Justin, my 26 year old son and I were having a conversation about how father absence is affecting his generation. He told me that many of his friends who grew up without fathers are very committed to being good dads. However, he offered that they dont know how to be good fathers. He said that they have zeal without knowledge.
Zeal is an old English word that you dont hear often these days, especially from a 26 year old. But, its a concept that is very contemporary because it means to have an intensity for a cause, an eager desire and enthusiastic diligence. Alas, there is zeal aplenty in our culture today, so having a bit of it for fatherhood is certainly a good thing. That said, I think that my son was on to something by linking zeal with knowledge. Heres why
Early in the week, I spoke at an event and when I finished a guy about Justins age approached me. He told me that he had grown up without a father and he recently had gotten married and was going to be a father soon. He then got a very strange look on this face and said, Everyone keeps telling me that I am going to be a great dad and I really want to be
But, honestly, Im struggling with how they can know this or how I can do this
I never had a dad.
He had zeal without knowledge
So, I sent him an email with links to several of NFI
s low cost products for new dads like, When Duct Tape Wont Work
, an interactive CD designed to improve his understanding of how to help his infant through the toddler years, and 24/7 Dad Interactive
, an interactive CD designed to help him with everything a good dad needs to know, from maintaining a strong relationship with mom to effectively disciplining his children.
I was delighted that this new dad-to-be had the wherewithal to understand his problem and proactively seek help. But, frankly, I am amazed at how many dads, especially ones older than this father, will spend $50 bucks or more to watch a pay-for-view sporting event but wont invest less than $20 for resources, like the ones that I mentioned above, to help themselves become better dads. And, some dads who will spend hours researching and drafting the perfect fantasy football rosteras if it was realbut would consider it a fantasy to join a small group of other dads for just an hour a week for 6 weeks and use the "24/7 Dad Power Hour
" to hone their fathering skills. Of course, these fathers say that they want to be good dads. But, discipline, not just desire, determines a dad's destiny. Indeed, they have zeal but they lack the discipline to get the knowledge.
And, thats a real problem. Let me give you an example to better illustrate this point.
A few weeks ago, a movie called Act of Valor
, which featured the heroics of real Navy Seals, hit movie theaters nationwide. The film was an instant box office hit. In fact, it was the top grossing movie during the opening weekend and continues to do well. No doubt, thousands of dads lined up to see the film. And, I can see why. Here you have a bunch of guys, many who are fathers, doing amazing things that make us proud to be Americans. Plus, lots of stuff gets blown up!
However, heres the interesting thing about the Navy Seals in this movie. They have zeal
lots of it. But, they also have knowledge. Why? Because a Navy Seal without both is dangerous. Hes the type of guy on the mission who would kick a door in, guns blazing, and shoot the hostages and rescue the terrorist! In fact, others in his unit cant count on him to have their backs. So, no one wants this guy on their team. Its too risky. They would just as soon do the mission one man short.
So, am I saying the untrained dads are dangerous? Of course not. But, I am saying that these dads are less effective and are not prepared for the most important mission of their lives--raising their children. This is unacceptable. But, it is also fixable because a guy can learn to be a better dad. Accordingly, if you are a dad with zeal, like that young unprepared dad that I spoke to, I want to encourage you to do as he did. Zealously seek knowledge. Get the resources and training that you need to be the best dad that you can be. After all, being a good dad is the ultimate act of valor.
I can admit to the Father Factor readers that Ive struggled with depression over the years, with therapy and group sessions aiding me through the rough patches. Various things happened over the course of my life that led to my diagnosis, but I tried hard to mask the pain. This is a dangerous practice done by lots of people, especially men. This could prove to be even more troubling if you happen to be a father.
There is a disturbing lack of research showing what being a depressed father does to children in the home until recently. A study undertaken by NYU researchers
found that one out of every four children who are raised in a home with depressed parents soon develop mental health issues of their own. This nationwide study captured data from 7,247 US households where the parents and children all lived. Of that number, 6% of the fathers showed results that suggested they were depressed.
Further numbers in the research paper show other alarming stats: 15% of children with a depressed father showed symptoms; 20% of children with a depressed mother showed symptoms and, lastly, 25% of children living with two depressed parents showed symptoms. Factors influencing the depressive symptoms in parents included poverty, joblessness, and having a child with special health care needs.
Amazingly, this is the first large study done on male depression as it relates to fatherhood although there is plenty research on maternal and postpartum/postnatal depression. One could suggest that men are typically insular with their emotions and cope silently. Another point could be that many men dont even know where to go for resources. When was the last time you saw a mens mental health care center in your neighborhood? Do you know of any outreach groups doing work on a large scale?
I can tell you from my own experience that finding help for my depression was an epic task. I called therapists and counselors who all had many female clients but barely any male patients. Finding groups to talk about my issues also proved difficult, as I scoured the Internet and newspaper classifieds for assistance. Eventually, I did find some help.
It was important for me to move beyond my depression as a father. I know that my child watches every move, so it became necessary for me to make sure she doesnt repeat my mistakes. If we want to make certain as fathers and parents to not pass on bad physical health habits, we have to start including our mental health in that equation as well.Are you, or a father you know, suffering with depression? Do you think fathers pass on bad mental health habits to their children? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us at: @thefatherfactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.
Most parents will agree that taking a small child or children into a grocery store or on a shopping trip can be a test of wills, especially if you have a curious little one. Shelves are enticements to young eyes and hands all too willing to explore and also tear down the displays as they walk by. Theres also the danger of your child hurting themselves darting about all the grownups and not controlling their motions as well. As tempting as it may be to leave your child in the car while you try to quickly shop, its a terrible idea waiting to happen.
One upstate New York man is learning this very lesson
now after leaving his six-year old napping child in the backseat of his car which was still running as he went inside a convenience store this past weekend to grab a drink. An unidentified thief, seizing the opportunity, hopped into his car and took off with the sleeping boy in the back. After a countywide search, the car was found a half-hour later with the boy unharmed and still asleep. The poor little guy was so tuckered out, he slept through the whole harrowing ordeal.
Whatever this drink the father had to snag while leaving his boy asleep in the back of his car couldnt compare to the possibility of him losing his child forever. This is just a bad idea and indicative of an irresponsible parent putting their child in harms way. Naturally, the police are looking to charge the man with child endangerment and rightfully so. What if the thief was violent and hurt his son? What if a chase ensued and the thief wrecked the car with his boy still inside? The variables of the situation are not positive at all. And according to the news story, the family has already suffered tragedy involving a child previously.
I suppose its fine to be impatient at times, but when it comes to your children, a father needs to curb those feelings and remember that the main debt they owe their child is to keep them safe as possible at all times. This is especially necessary when youre out in public with your children and an occurrence of this sort is highly preventable.
As the police lieutenant said who oversaw the case said, People just run inside and figure they are only going to be gone for a couple minutes. I dont care if you have nothing in the car, or your children, lock the car up and bring your kids inside.
Or maybe, just get the items you need from the store later or with another adult to help supervise your children. Makes perfect sense to me.