This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email.
As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.
“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.
While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.
From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.
I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.
Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.
Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.
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NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live's "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt to discuss mothers and "leaning in" to fatherhood.
DiCaro points out that culture seems to tell mothers that they have to pick between career and motherhood. However, it's a good idea to consider a third option, and "lean in" to fatherhood.
Too often, mothers do most of the share of work in the home and fathers go to work—end of story. Perhaps mothers should consider supporting and encouraging, not discouraging, more father involvement. Several real-life examples are pointed out in this interview between DiCaro and Hunt. There are several ideas worth considering.
For instance, in some cases, moms simply do not trust the father to be involved. DiCaro says moms and dads need to "work together as parents." Moms can sometimes have a way of "knowing and doing all" when it comes to kids and the home. Therefore, in a sense, they set up a situation where they make the father feel he isn't needed. Then, he checks out, only focuses on his career, and does less at home and with the children.
DiCaro says, "If moms recommit themselves, in a sense, to strengthen the institution of fatherhood, it's only going to help them be better at their careers and be better moms."
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The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.
A dangerous crossover has occurred in marriage and childbearing in the U.S.
A recent report called Knot Yet documents the rise in the historic and still-climbing average age of first marriage at nearly 27 for women and 29 for men. This trend has benefitted women in helping them to reach their life goals and, for couples, reduced the risk of divorce. By delaying marriage, many women have had the opportunity to complete college and establish themselves in their careers before marching down the aisle. Research shows that couples who marry after their mid-twenties are less likely to divorce than are people who marry earlier.
While that trend has benefits, there is another trend interacting with it that should put a scare into us all. The age at which men and women have their first child hasn’t kept pace with the average age of first marriage. Women give birth nearly a year, on average, before they marry (25.7 vs. 26.5). It is twentysomethings that have driven the increase in out-of-wedlock births to an all-time high of 48 percent of all births.
As a father of two girls (ages 18 and 15), this is a scary confluence of trends. It increases the risk that my daughters will have children out of wedlock, that my grandchildren won’t have involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives, and that my grandchildren will be at increased risk for a host of poor outcomes.
According to a 2009 report by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans don’t see anything wrong with unmarried childbearing despite their belief that it is bad for society (i.e. it has negative economic consequences). This disconnect between what is right and wrong and evidence is one of the major problems I have seen in my 13 years of work with NFI. As you’ve undoubtedly read many times in this blog and in publications from NFI, there are reams of evidence that having children out of wedlock is, on average, bad for children, mothers, fathers, and our society. And yet, we continue to see more and more children born without the benefit of marriage between their parents, the primary connection that societies have used for thousands of years to connect fathers to their children.
So why does the disconnect persist? A primary reason, as noted in Knot Yet, is the decoupling of marriage and childbearing as most Americans have come to view marriage as a means to satisfy their desire for meaningful, life-long connection instead of as an institution for raising children and what children need to thrive. To be clear, my problem with this view is not that marriage should not satisfy someone’s desire for life-long connection—I can’t think of a better way to create such a connection. But focusing on that aspect of marriage to the detriment of marriage’s primary function of raising healthy children has become a recipe for disaster.
The problem with this view is that it ignores the evidence that human biology, specifically the drive in humans to procreate, has not changed along with that view. As an anthropologist, I’ve learned that the interplay between culture change and human biology is not straightforward. In some cases, it can be positive or, at the very least, innocuous. Take the average height of humans, for example. As humans moved from living in nomadic tribes, where food was scarce and humans lacked knowledge of proper nutrition, to post-industrial societies, with 24/7 access to food and improved nutrition (particularly childhood nutrition), the average size for humans increased. (Much of this increase in height occurred in only the past 150 years.) On the other hand, as humans became more sedentary in post-industrial societies, obesity rates increased as did rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle.
As long as people ignore the simple, indisputable fact that men and women have a biological drive to procreate that does not change—the oil in the water of the new view of marriage’s role in our lives—mothers, fathers, children, and our society will continue to pay a hefty price. Unless the age of puberty miraculously increases, we will continue to see an ever-widening gap between the time men and women start to feel their drive to procreate and the time they put the pieces in place that their children need to thrive—a gap that now spans more than a decade. The sad fact is that girls and boys are more driven to act on that drive when they grow up in homes without their fathers.
What do I tell my girls? I will continue to tell them to delay sex until marriage for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do not only for them, but for everyone else. I want them to know that their actions have consequences for them and for us all.
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- "The hardest part...when you're gone for six months, your family grows without you...you come home to strangers. And then after you get home, if there aren't resources it makes it that much harder." —US Navy Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen.
Approximately 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!
If you can help NFI achieve its target, together we can provide a complete Fatherhood Resource Center for a military base in need!
The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed.
Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.
- Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
- 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.
NFI is running this 10-day campaign ending next Thursday April 4 to help support deployed dads and their families.
You can help. Here's how:
- Visit the Campaign Page and follow the instructions.
- Donate to NFI's campaign.
- Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
- Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.
- Create a personal fundraising page for NFI's campaign.
Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.
Having worked in the “fatherhood field” for nearly 11 years, I have heard, seen, and read a lot about fatherhood. However, I am always surprised that so many of these conversations are disconnected from the one thing that actually makes guys dads: children.
In fact, a friend of mine once asked a room full of “fatherhood experts” what makes a man a dad. There was silence; no one could figure out that the answer is “having kids.” Perhaps it is our modern desire to “self actualize” or find the intimately personal meaning behind our lives’ activities that drives many men to talk about fatherhood almost exclusively in terms of how it affects them. “My blog, my career, my self-esteem, my health, my this, and my that improved when I became a dad!”
However, every once in a while I see something in our culture that gives me hope. While an animated movie may not be one’s first guess for where to find deep wisdom on fatherhood, I was not let down by the upcoming DreamWorks film, The Croods.
The Croods is the tale of the “first modern family” that has to leave the safety of its cave and venture off into an unknown land to find a new home. The dad, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the family’s main guide on their road trip, and the film is filled with profound messages about the important role dads play in their children’s lives.
There is one scene in particular that summarizes the movie’s valuable perspective on fatherhood. The family has just found a large egg to share for breakfast. Each family member – mom, baby, son, daughter, and grandma – takes a sip out of the cracked egg. Then it’s dad’s turn. He turns the egg over and only a tiny drop comes out. Instead of complaining, he shrugs it off and says, “That’s ok. I ate last week.”
While the rest of the theater was laughing, I was nearly in tears. The writers got it! That is what fatherhood is all about. Fatherhood is about sacrificing your own comfort to ensure that your family is comfortable. It is about ensuring that your children are first and you are last.
The “fatherhood framework” that the film beautifully captures is this: good fathers provide for, nurture, and guide their children. In that one line of dialogue, Grug shows us how to do all three. Provide: he led the operation to catch the egg that they are eating. Nurture: he let them eat first. Guide: he showed them the right values through his self-sacrificial act of putting the needs of others ahead of his own.
It may be too much to hope that one family film will change the way we all look at fatherhood. But I am confident that The Croods will serve as a powerful reminder that the only measure of a father’s worth that counts is whether or not his children are getting what they need from him.
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Photo credit: Dreamworks (Grug holding NFI's Fatherhood Award)
This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of the new book Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay on the web and Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Send us an email.
“Blow your nose” is what you tell your child as you hold the tissue to their nose. Somehow, someway, they can’t seem to hold a tissue to their nose on their own even though they can navigate your iPad like it’s an appendage.
“Have you done your homework yet?” gets asked about 10 minutes after the kids get home from school, and they have to report accordingly so that you can understand whether you’re going to have to ask that same question 15 times later in the evening.
“Did you brush your teeth yet” happens every night like it’s a big surprise. You’d think after years of brushing their teeth before bed that you wouldn’t have to ask that question every night. Like it’s a huge surprise to them.
And we wonder where time, and our brain cells, go.
Fathers today are taking on a lot of different roles, discussed ad naseum in many a blog post and news story such that I don’t need to, and won’t, cover it here.
But what happened to YOU?
Do you remember what you were like in high school? In college? Maybe working that first job out of school with little to no real responsibility? A lot of you are thinking ‘Ah, the good ol days’ right now as you hear your significant other call you to the nursery to wipe up spit or to change a diaper.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld, anyone?). But there is.
One of the best things that you can do for your children, regardless of their age, is to bring yourself to the table every day. Not just the guy that can warm a bottle, or wipe that snotty nose, or kiss an ouchie to make it all better. Those are important, BUT…
What about the guy that used to work on cars for fun? What about the one that would watch sports and prove that the word ‘fanatic’ existed for a reason? Where did the trips to the outdoors go to explore creeks barefoot and pick up ‘critters’ that just looked cool?
Your kids need to see that. They need to feel it. They need to participate in it.
Dads, like anyone else, are people. And to a man, we all fulfilled roles in our lives well before we were dads. We had interests that made our heart race (like cars), things that just made us scream till we lost our voice (like sports), and things we did just for the fun of it (like taking things apart). What makes us think our kids shouldn’t see that? Shouldn’t participate in that with us? And who says that girls and boys shouldn’t participate equally when it comes to those things?
Your kids need to understand that you’re dad, and that the role comes with certain responsibilities. But just as importantly, they need to understand that you’re a person. As they become older, and as you can begin to share in those experiences, bonds – different bonds – become forged for a lifetime. Your children will look back fondly with memories of sharing things with you rather than watching from the sideline. The fact that they understand your roles better enables you and your children to connect at a level you can’t get to just by being Dad.
Go back to when you were in high school and college. Write down what you were interested in (the appropriate ones anyway). Pick one of those interests, go get the kids, crack open an apple juice, and tackle the YOU role just as well as you tackle the Dad role.
What makes you come alive with excitement? Tell us in the comment section; you just might make us think of something we can show our kids!
Much is happening at NFI. Sometimes you just have to make a list. Here we go...the stuff you need to know and may have missed while you were busy parenting...
It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made headlines recently by imploring today’s working women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full professional potential.
According to a CBS News story, “If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.”
Much of the response to Sandberg’s idea has focused on whether or not women should try to act more like men, whether it is appropriate for women to “lean in” as much as Sandberg thinks they should, what the future of work-life balance policy is, etc.
I am not going to get into that debate. Rather, I think it is critical that we are honest about the characteristics that many successful women tend to share – they grew up with involved dads.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that strong women beget strong women. I don’t doubt that that is true… to a degree. But what research has shown consistently is that involved fathers beget strong women.
- Children who have involved fathers expressed emotions in non-traditional gender patterns. Girls express more aggression, competition, and less intense fear and sadness whereas boys expressed more warmth and fear as well as less aggression. Also, 3 to-5-year-old children with highly involved fathers had less traditional views of future employment possibilities when they became adolescents than did their peers whose fathers were more aloof.
- A study of 302 adolescent girls showed that those who feel connected with their biological father but have little contact are at higher risk of problematic psychosocial functioning. Poor school behavior also increases for girls with low contact levels with their father.
- Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
- Fathers have a unique effect on their daughter’s tendency towards anti-social behavior. A study of 325 families revealed that fathers who present their daughters with more opportunities and reinforcement lessen the likelihood of their daughters’ poor behavior.
Having recently seen the upcoming DreamWorks Animation Film, The Croods, and then seeing what Sandberg had to say about women in the workplace, I couldn’t help but make the connection to this compelling data.
While you may not think of an animated cavegirl as the poster child for today’s working women, the reality is that Eep (pictured above on her father's shoulder), the young girl in the Croods’ family, drives the film’s plot through her desire to “leave the cave” and find new adventures out in the wide world. And guess what? She had a great dad.
As you may have seen on this blog, we gave Grug a Fatherhood Award™ for his heroic fathering in the film. Sure, these aren’t real people, but they are archetypes that mean something in our culture; the makers of The Croods have tapped into something very real. The reason Eep had the confidence to step out into a dangerous world is because she knew her father had her back. She may have been rebelling, and her father may have seen it as such, but the reality is that she would not have had the foundation to take such bold steps if she didn’t come from a supportive, strong family whose bedrock (Flintstones pun not intended) was dad. Again, take a look at the above data points if you have your doubts.
If a movie, even an animated one set in a fantasy world, is too unhinged from reality it will not be successful. That is why we at NFI believe The Croods is a special movie. DreamWorks is tapping into a truth about what gives children, especially girls in this case, the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Dads are the secret ingredient to “empowering” today’s girls to do their best.
The tagline for The Croods is “the first modern family.” Indeed.
Question: How have you seen this play out in your life as a dad?
Sources:1. Rivers, Caryl and Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Father Figures a Slew of New Studies Applaud Dads.” The Boston Globe 18 June 2000: E1.2. Coley, Rebekah Levine. “Daughter-Father Relationship and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65 (November 2003): 867-875.3. Deutsch, Francine M., Laura J. Servis, and Jessica D. Payne. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.4. Kosterman, Rick. Et al. Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Anti-Social Behavior. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66. (August 2004). 762-778.
Image credit: The Croods © 2013 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This is a guest post by Jeff Hay. Jeff runs The Dad Vibe. Follow Jeff on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
Dad, you are a hero. Period.
You are a hero until you prove otherwise. From the moment you become dad, you are put on a pedestal– it’s up to you to stay on there.
When a child is born, a father is born. But dads soon learn that mom is a baby’s number 1 for obvious reasons; a new baby needs mom. The hierarchy is simple; MOM, then everyone else in the world (the “not-my-moms”).
However, something magical happens for dad when a child recognizes dad from all the other ‘not-my-moms’. “Hey! This guy smells different, talks different, sings terribly, and holds me like a football running back – but he is safe, comforting, and I like this guy. I like him a lot!”
Your children will learn tons from mom, but there are many things they will learn from you. You are critical to their development – you have unique, wonderful gifts to share.
Your children will always look to you for guidance, values, strength, protection, and leadership.
• Dad can pick up anything no matter how heavy it looks.
• Dad can open any jar no matter who else tries to budge it.
• Dad can fix or build anything, no matter how confusing the IKEA instructions appear.
• Dad can survive third degree burns to his face from the BBQ with the broken starter
• Dad’s arms are always the safest place when fear creeps in.
• Dad can do anything. Dad has NO fear.
Can you see how your children see you? 10 feet tall and bulletproof – that is how they view you… do you see it? You slay dragons and aren’t afraid of anything in the closet, under the bed, or in the super dark and scary basement. You can face your daughter’s ex-boyfriends that can’t take a hint.
Your boss may not always want your ideas and experience, but your children do. They need your story and your experience. You are the king of the castle and you have valuable lessons, values, and ideas to teach.
Dad believes in his children and instils in them the belief that they can do anything they commit too – regardless of gender. My children know and recite all my lines, “Boys can do anything girls can do except have babies…”
Your words and action all carry great significance. From how you treat the homeless on the street to the people at the fast food drive thru, and even to how you talk to or about mom – little ears are listening and little eyes are watching your every move. They may not always listen to your words, but they will not fail to imitate you.
You are the anchor…
The team captain…
The ROCK. Please never forget that.
Positivity, values, and inspiration springs from you.
If you could see how your children see you, even for 5 minutes, you would never parent the same way again.
Be Bold…. You are a Hero!!!
Ditch the tights and cape – no dude looks good in those. You don’t need them, you are a DAD and that’s more than enough.
Until next time…
Question: Dad, since you are a superhero, what's your super power?
This is a guest post by Angela Patton. Angela is Founder of Camp Diva, which organizes "Date with Dad"; a father-daughter dance connecting fathers to their daughters while in prison. Follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
I was searching the internet one day for images of fathers and daughters dancing and came across a picture of a father and daughter at a dance that looked like it was from the 60s. It reminded me of something I knew all too well…father-daughter dances are nothing new. They’ve been going on for decades, centuries even. I remember attending one with my own father when I was a little girl. So I asked myself, what makes our (Camp Diva’s) dance so different? What’s so special about the Date with Dad Dinner and Dance?
1) How it began?
One day, I was having a conversation with my girls in Camp Diva. One shared how smothered she felt by her father’s attention, while another shared how much she wished her father, who she hadn’t heard from in years, would pay her any attention at all. This led to a deeper discussion about their various ‘daddy issues.’ And while they all had different relationships with their fathers, they all wanted better ones. So I asked them how they thought they could help themselves, and other girls, develop healthy relationships with their fathers. The reply: “a dance!” So the “Date with Dad Dinner & Dance” began with the girls doing much of the planning. They spoke. We listened. In the end, we gave them what they said they wanted…quality time with their fathers.
2) We Have Fill-In Dads!
A single mother in Rhode Island complained her daughter was prevented from attending a father-daughter dance. Well, not to worry, Date with Dad has Fill-In Dads! Among the 20 who attended our first Date with Dad in 2008 was a girl whose father was deceased. After helping to set up for the event, the husband of one of our volunteers saw the girl, walked over to her, and asked her to dance. He ended up hanging out with her for the entire evening. Both had a great time, and he volunteered to come back the following year—starting a tradition of “Fill-In Dads” at the Date with Dad. Not having a father or father-figure doesn’t exclude girls from attending.
3) We Go To Prison!
One year, one of the Camp Diva girls told the others she would not be attending the dance because her father was incarcerated. So the girls suggested bringing the dance inside the walls of the city jail! They wrote a letter to the sheriff, the sheriff said yes, and so began “A Dance of Their Own,” which gave 18 incarcerated fathers the chance to connect with their daughters outside of normal visiting hours—minus the glass wall and telephone—enabling them to hug and hold their daughters. No one is left out of the Date with Dad experience.
4) It is Open to ALL!
Traditionally, many father-daughter dances are attended by members of a certain organization, or students in a particular school, of a certain age group. But Date with Dad invites girls, and women, of every age to attend; thus, bringing together women and girls of various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, from different areas. Younger girls also get the chance to see older women with their fathers, modeling what they hope will be their future relationships with their own fathers. An equally diverse group of men also come together, from blue collar to professional, single and weekend dads, as well as full time/married dads. Again, the men have a chance to network and connect with each other, and share their trials and triumphs as fathers.
5) Our Partnerships
We don’t want fathers and daughters to come to the Date with Dad simply to eat, dance, and be entertained. We want to help them connect with each other, heal their relationships, and get them going in the right direction. We want to connect them with community resources to help them strengthen their relationships. To that end, we have cultivated partnerships with various organizations committed to providing that assistance. In addition, we utilize the Richmond Fatherhood Initiative’s “Inside-Out Dads” curriculum for our “Dance of Their Own.” The fathers in the city jail go through the program before and after the dance. Our partners have also fostered within us the desire and opportunity to help others to replicate our model and make changes in their communities. Our next stop: Norfolk, Virginia. It is our hope to expand nationally, as well as internationally, as the issues connected to fathers and daughters are universal.
So you see Date with Dad is not just any father-daughter dance. It’s more than a dance, more than an event. It’s an experience. It’s part of an ongoing conversation between fathers and daughters, or at least the start of one, and it is making a difference!
See Angela's TedxWomen Talk about "A Father-Daughter Dance...in Prison":
Question: How do you connect best with your child?