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The Father Factor

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21 Questions with NFI's Newest Board Member: Chris Efessiou [Interview]

Get to know our newest board member, Chris Efessiou, in 21 questions. 

chris_efessiou_headshot_board_memberMr. Chris Efessiou is NFI's newest board member. The author, speaker, radio host and media personality has founded, co-founded, developed, and managed multiple successful enterprises—all the while being an involved, responsible, and committed father. Who is this busy dad and what makes him passionate about serving fathers?

Allow me to introduce to you, Mr. Chris Efessiou:

1) Name and title? Chris Efessiou, PhD

2) Place of birth? I was born and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, and came to the United States at age 18 with the goal to get myself accepted into college.

3) Current home location? My wife Juliana and I live in Vienna, Virginia.

4) Number and ages of children? Juliana and I are blessed with four adult daughters. While three girls are hers and one is mine from a previous marriage, the closeness of this blended family is beyond our wildest dreams. Alexis and Jessica live in Los Angeles, and Hilary and Persephone live in the DC area.

5) What do you do for a living? I am the founder and CEO of SRxA Strategic Pharmaceutical Advisors, a consulting firm providing marketing and education strategy to the pharmaceutical industry.

6) What made you decide to serve on NFI's Board? I raised my daughter as a single dad since she was 7.  She is now 26, a loving, compassionate, unentitled, successful young woman whom I admire. I served as both parents to her and she credits me for who she has become today. I loved the experience and felt that if I could help another father to see the beauty and value of fatherhood, that I could be helping the shaping of a young person’s life. That is what NFI does, and that is why I am honored to serve on its board. 

7) What was your first car? A 20 year old, third hand, 1961 VW bug with half its floor gone and only 3 cylinders firing on any given day. Yet, it was my first set of 4 wheels, albeit barely in place, it got me to and from school and work and to this day, I am supremely proud of it.

scan00158) What was your first job? When I lived in Greece I worked in my father's shop in the summers doing minor repairs. He was an electrician. While I never learned to work with electricity, I was thrilled to have my dad to myself the entire day and to be exposed to his business acumen. I asked questions endlessly, and tried to understand every business move he made and why he made it. It all paid off later in my life.

9) Lamest gift you ever gave your dad? A hug and a kiss. At the time it felt lame and cheap. When I became a father, I realized that it was the best gift I could have given him.

10) Best advice you ever received? "The three ingredients of a successful union between two...humor, commitment & undying love." —Bill Cosby

11) One thing you always carry with you? Pictures of my family on my phone. I make it a point to look through them, particularly on long flights, and reflect upon them. It is also a good opportunity to say "Thank You God" for giving me the good fortune to have this family.

12) One thing you wish you could do more? I am a licensed pilot and love to fly whenever I have the time. I find that instrument flight requires absolute attention to every detail. Flying is the only time I know that I can purge my head from everything else and enjoy the 30,000 foot view. It is a sense of freedom and reflection. I'd love to do it more frequently but other commitments get in the way.

13) Man who most changed your life? My father. He was part dictator and part mentor. I always liked to analyze the way he thought and tried to understand why he made the decisions he made. I loved his innovative spirit and the fact that he could always find a way to accomplish what needed doing. Learning by watching him in my youth, paid handsome dividends in my adult life especially when I first came to the U.S. without knowledge of English and had to compete on the same field as everyone else. Yes, innovation and a can-do attitude work!

14) Thing you’re always telling your children? Find something you love doing, and find a way to make a living at it. Then you'll never have to work a day in your life

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15) Dinner with famous dad: who? why? 
Bill Cosby. He single-handedly formed my early opinions of what kind of father I wanted to be through his book Fatherhood and later his TV show. Above all, he taught me the value of humor. I want to have dinner with him to thank him for what he's done for all fathers and to discuss with him my book CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood. I'd love to know what he thinks of it.

16) Article of clothing every dad should own? An extra light coat in your car. Your wife and kids, especially daughters, would typically under-dress and you'd soon find yourself covering one of them with your own jacket. If you don't like feeling cold, you'd be well served by having an extra one nearby.

17) Book every dad should read? Fatherhood by Bill Cosby, and CDO Chief Daddy Officer - The Business of Fatherhood by Chris Efessiou  

18) Thing a dad should know about money? You can make it, save it, invest it, spend it, or give it away. Every dad should know the value of each, and teach it to his children.

19) Advice for a new dad? Always do what's best for your child, even if that's not the best for you. Always remember that children are smarter than we give them credit for. Don't underestimate their intellect or overestimate yours!

20) The “secret” to being a great dad? Always be emotionally available, and when able, be physically present. Nothing elevates a child's self esteem more than to know that he or she is important to you, and that their importance is acknowledged not by words, but by your actions. Remember, nothing speaks louder than your presence and there is no excuse for emotional absence.

21) To what are you most looking forward? Silly as it may sound, I look forward to the day that my daughter has a child so that I can relive those beautiful memories one more time.

The Affects of an Emotionally Unavailable Dad

I am a woman and the middle child squeezed between two brothers. We were all born in the mid to late fifties. There were a lot of shows on television at the time about perfect families like "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver" that idealized what families of the day looked like. 

We lived in a very nice middle class neighborhood in a ranch style home. This was not our first home, but in this home I was at the age that I could recall events and could describe to you every room in the house. This is where we all predominantly went to grade school and my older brother started Junior High. 

affects of emotionally unavailable dadOur dad always worked and always provided a nice home and furnishings. He always had a job and took care of all of our needs. Mom stayed home because that was the way dad wanted it and she was a terrific housewife because that is where she excelled. Those were the days when the housewives you saw on television were in dresses and pearls vacuuming the carpet and it was pretty close to true at my house as well. Maybe not the pearls but Mom was always in a dress.

It all appears, as do the television programs, that on the surface we had the perfect family. But even though Dad took care of all the necessities of life he was and always has been emotionally unavailable. The only time you ever had conversations with my dad that I can remember was when you were in trouble. And that was not a time you wanted to talk to him, believe me. We were all pretty traumatized by Dad; every time we walked past him we would cringe and my oldest brother got to the place that he would duck and cover because he was always in trouble.

As a girl I longed to be Daddy’s little girl. My dad was a salesman and a good one. He was sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when we were around other people. My mom and dad had couple friends that they would invite over for dinner on occasion. One of them had a little girl that was a few years younger than I was. I am not trying to be mean or vindictive but she was not a pretty little girl. My dad would pick her up and put her on his lap and be so sweet to her. I would look on and wonder what was wrong with me. I would go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. All I would see was me, I did not know if I was pretty but I thought I must not be because Daddy does not think I am.

Over the years I have had great difficulty in relationships because of my relationship with my dad. I never felt worthy of anyone’s love and would bend over backwards trying to please men to get them to love me. I was needy and hurt easily which was not a recipe for success in relationships. I set myself up to be hurt with men that were just like Dad because that is where my comfort zone was. 

I spent a lifetime doing everything I could to win Dad’s love and approval. My brothers were doing the same thing except that after awhile they became angry and had nothing to do with him. They were seeking his approval and I was seeking his love.

My oldest brother and I were talking the other day about Dad. He passed away several years ago now. We were talking about the way he was with grades when we were growing up, if you got an A he would ask why you did not get an A plus. If you got a C or below you were grounded for the next semester, and we all pretty much stayed grounded.

We shared the one time in our lives that Daddy ever said he was proud of us. My brother thought it would be when he graduated college or got his masters degree but it was not. I had some moments in my life when I thought he would break forth in praise but it did not come. My brother shared with me that Dad told him before he passed away what his proudest moment was and we looked at each other and kind of shrugged. In the middle of my brother’s Senior year of high school Dad had gotten a transfer. My brother was a star football player. After we moved it was horrible because we had moved south and it was not long after desegregation had taken place. It was absolutely awful for all of us but especially him.

He got on a bus and went back to our home town and lived with some friends. He finished high school and never called home for help in any way. Dad had said he would not help but we all knew that anyway. Dad told him that this was the proudest he had ever been of him. Not the great accomplishments of his life, just that he never asked for help and he made it through high school. Don’t get me wrong, I can see it making a Dad proud but this typifies my Dad.

Was your dad emotionally available or emotionally unavailable? Why or why not? How has your dad's fathering shaped your view of parenting?

Single White Moms Should Say Yes to Father Involvement

Christopher Brown recently wrote an article for The Huffington Post in response to an article on Slate.com about white, working-class mothers and father involvement. In his rebuttal, he points out not what one person's story is, but what decades of research has to say about the importance of father involvement for the sake of the child.

Chris responds to an article in Slate titled, Just Say No: For white working-class women, it makes sense to stay single mothers by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone as "the latest attempt to devalue the role of fathers."

to working-class white mothersHe says, "Despite decades of research to the contrary, this article implies that fathers are not important to the well-being of children. But it does so in the very pernicious way that has become the tactic du jour of individuals who continue to disregard mountains of evidence on the importance of fathers."

While Cahn and Carbone, writers of the original article, share the story of Lily, a single working-class mom who decided to raise her child without the involvement of Carl, an "unemployed loser who sits around all day drinking with his buddies and playing video games. Lily doesn't want to commit to Carl." Her thinking? Why support herself and her child and risk marrying a guy she can't financially support or trust. 

Chris says to this point:

As the father of two girls, I wouldn't want either of them to date, much less marry, a guy like Carl. And I certainly wouldn't want them to have my grandchildren with him! Selfishly, I look forward to bonding with my future sons-in-law in ways other than playing World of Warcraft.

But what's the problem with taking one story of one woman's life and projecting it onto the bigger narrative of society? Chris continues:

The problem with Cahn's and Carbone's use of Lily's example is that it deflects attention from what children need to thrive: an involved, responsible, committed father. And it symbolizes what marriage has become for so many Americans: a way to fulfill their own desire for finding a soul mate who can complete them and make life wonderful, rather than as a means for raising children who thrive. The authors' tactic prevents us from seeing and discussing the indisputable fact that raising children without involved fathers places them at much higher risk for a range of poor outcomes and causes the ills we see in so much of society.

In their column, Cahn and Carbone "unintentionally reduce the contribution of fathers to that of a bank account," says Chris. And, their focus seems to be on the mother instead of the child. Chris wants readers to take a step back, reflect and ask this question of Lily: "Why did you have sex with this guy in the first place knowing that he is such a loser?" Chris continues, "Not asking this question is another symptom of a reactive culture that would rather argue about what to do after the bomb goes off than what needs to be done to keep it from being built in the first place."

Chris calls for all of us to reflect on and correct the problem with this article and the way of thinking it represents. Ask yourself this question with this article: where is our focus? If the focus is too far on the mother or father, a red flag should go up. As Chris makes clear, "Our focus should be on what is best for children...when fathers are encouraged and educated about being involved, responsible, and committed fathers, children, moms, and dads are better off."

Read the full article from Christopher Brown in The Huffington Post.

Have you read the article? What's your thoughts on what it takes to make a strong family?

 

Prepping for Mom's Night Out

I recently screened the new parenting movie, Moms' Night Out. While laughing my way through the movie, I found myself connecting with one dad trying to get his wife to take a break.

As this post's title implies, there should be a mom's night out on the horizon for your family, too. But, from the intelligence I've gathered, moms feel guilty about leaving and taking a break. So, dad, it's on you to help make the mom in your life happy.

MNO_OfficialPoster-2Whichever parent stays home every day with the kids needs breaks, and often. Emphasis on often. In this movie's case and in my life, mom is home everyday to take care of our kids. This post is meant to prep you, dad, for taking the lead in getting mom away for her much-needed rest. My next post in this series will be all about what to do with your kids once mom actually leaves the house.

I have experienced bliss in my married and parenting life. I've seen it, felt it, I know what it looks like. I've been married to my college sweetheart for ten years (11 years this October). If I was an NFL player, I'd be a veteran. You'd have to listen to me in the locker room. I want you to experience marital and parenting bliss, too. Bliss only shows up for the relaxed. It's funny how bliss works.

I'm suggesting two things for Operation: Keep Your Wife Sane. You must take the lead on giving the mom in your life these two things:

1) The Daily Break

2) The Weekly Break

I implied earlier that I "gathered intelligence"; i.e., I talked to my wife, Tonia. She says, and I'm pretty sure she speaks for all moms ever, one of biggest challenges a mom can face, especially a new mom, is the feeling of guilt about leaving your children. There's always "something else" to be done which often becomes an excuse for not taking a much-needed break.

In the Moms' Night Out movie, we gather from Sean Astin's character that he's "all in" on his wife taking a break, and he rejoices that she actually has a night out planned at the start of the film.

He has things "under control", so to speak, in that he's encouraging her to go out with friends and relax. Imagine the stressed-out mom with the husband who acts weird if his wife mentions needing a break. We don't want to be that dad, right?

Here's some things that, when I'm operating this life correctly, I know work. When I do these things, life is better for everyone in my home and around my home. I promise. Trust me and do these things.

1) The Daily Break: The point of the daily break is that you can't realistically give your wife five hours or more of rest per day. She, like you, has a job to do, and it must be done daily. However, without little nuggets of bliss on a daily basis, your other half may forget what freedom feels like. 

What's my point here? Maybe you're thinking one hour per day is tough depending on the age of your child. But the point here is to give your wife solace daily for at least 30 minutes or more. When she wakes in the morning, she should know that she has this certain time of the day that's hers. She owns it. She can nap. She can fish. She can write a novel. Play Uno. Shower a long time. I don't know what your woman likes to do, but the point is to take small breaks. It's the small breaks that will keep everyone sane in this life.

Try this pro tip: Text your wife this message right now (the earlier in the day the better):

"My Dearest Sexy Pants (or insert your wife's pet name here), I know it's hard out there for a mom. But, I'll be home this evening to make your life easier. Be ready with car keys in hand waiting at the door for me. Once I arrive, kiss me on the face and go directly to Starbucks for at least one hour. Do not try and return to this house before at least one hour is up. My Gold Card is loaded for all that your heart so desires. Go crazy, get a cake pop. I mean, we can handle it, the Gold Card has like $11.13 on it. You're good. I love you. You're welcome. PS: Please, do come back home later."

Yes, it's a long text message. But, trust me and reap the rewards. Tips can be left as donations to NFI.

2) The Weekly Break: This break may or may not be realistic depending on the ages of your children. But, with a 7 and 4 year at my house, I find my wife needs more of a rest/disengagement than just the daily, short break given that she's running one child all over the world and at home with one all day. If weekly doesn't work, you should definitely shoot for monthly.

Girls night out is a real thing, dad. It matters. They usually happen weekly and you should make sure they happen. This can be anywhere from two to three hours. Be prepared. It doesn't have to be any longer if it's happening as often as it should. But this break is less introverted in nature compared to the daily break. I'm assuming that the small, daily breaks are "alone time" for your wife. The weekly break is her time to have fun and look forward to being out with other adult friends every so often.

What was the last thing you did to give your wife a break? Seriously, I want to know, I'm taking notes. 

Follow Moms' Night Out Movie on Facebook and Visit Moms' Night Out Movie online for more. Check out the official trailer and be sure you have May 9th on your calendar to keep the kids.

Are You a Stressed Dad? Learn How to Manage Work & Family Today!

I recently wrote 6 Steps for Stress-Less Living for Manilla.com. In that post I wrote, "If you feel stressed out, it’s your fault." I think I still mean it. Here's why: stress happens. The only thing you can control is how you think and what you do. The following list is meant to be simple. It's meant to remind you of the things that you can control.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Do These 6 Things to Conquer Your Week!

When dad is unhealthy, his child is more likely to be unhealthy. It's the power of example. What you model to your child often comes back to you.

While this is scary, there's a deeper level of scary at play. The health issue is generational. What you do, as a dad, changes a life. How you live and what you teach your child, your child is more likely to teach to his child.

When a dad is involved in his child's life, he can expect:

  • better overall infant health
  • reduction in the likelihood that his child will smoke or abuse drugs
  • more likely to have a stronger vocabulary
  • perform better in school
  • have a healthier weight

Mental health and fatherly involvement is no different. Someone smarter than me said this: the mind and body are one. If you have a problem with your mental health, it will show up in your body. If you have a problem with the health of your body, it will affect your mind, how you see the world and how you treat people.

We need to get serious; not stressed, but serious, about how we can "get back to basics" and find ways to reduce stress and live happier lives. These are a few basics where I easily go astray.

In order to manage work and family, try these six steps to help combat stress in your life.

1) Exercise: We need to be active. I'm so new at this, but coming home from work and sitting on the sofa isn't as relaxing as you think. I haven't yet conquered "the morning workout" so I come home and immediately change into workout clothes. If I don't do this, exercise will not happen. Getting active will change your life. Trust this skeptic, you only think you don't have the energy to exercise. You will have more energy if you can find a few minutes to exercise. You will feel better if you walk or jog for 30 minutes each day. Get outside when possible. Your body and mind will thank you.

2) Eat “clean”: Over the last year, I’ve lost over 45 pounds. I’ve done wrong things and right things. But my diet has been the single craziest thing I’ve learned to manage, some days, eh, some hours!

Your schedule and your diet are often closely linked. The busier you are the worse you may eat. Healthy eating takes planning. Aside from the occasional, weekend Chipotle (not an official sponsor of this post...someone should tell them they can be!), I'm cooking from home. I know exactly what's in my food because I put it there.

One cheeseburger won’t kill you, but if your diet consists of mostly processed or fast foods it's time to change your diet. Force yourself to try new things like raw veggies and peppers and grill everything! I haven't had a burger in months; now I want one!

3) Sleep: I don’t have this one figured out yet. I still blame my daughters for this even though they are seven and four years old now. Shoot for at least six to eight (ha) hours of sleep a night.

Work in a nap of 20 minutes during the day if you can’t get enough sleep. Simply a few minutes of closing your eyes and breathing will do wonders to help reduce stress. I've read where naps allow folks to get twice as much done in one day as folks who aren't nappers. Yes, "nappers" is a word. I just wrote it.

4) Keep Work at Work: Bringing your work home is a fine way to stress yourself and your family. The secreat to how to balance work and family is this: Leave your work at the door. Not really "at the door." If left "at the door" your work may get rained on unless you have a front porch. In which case, you shouldn't bring your work to your front porch.

I've gotten into the weeds, but here's my point: Stop your car in your driveway; do something, anything, to separate your mind from work before entering your home. Home has its own work. I'm terrible at this. If you have tips that work, tell me in the comments, I'd love to know! It's the iPhone that's my ultimate problem. I'm an addict. I must stop!

5) Date your Spouse: No spouse? Find a friend and get out of the house! The point here is to get out periodically and do something you enjoy. Date your spouse or find a buddy and get to dinner, movie...something. For those with spouses, think about this: a guaranteed way to increase stress is to stop communicating or spending time with your spouse. Not that I have any experience at all with increase my wife's stress. Oh no, not me. I'm perfect and always date my wife periodically!

6) Find a Hobby: A hobby will take your mind off of "stuff." Find something that takes your time and energy completely out of work and "stuff." Something you really enjoy. Experiment with photography, running, anything (that's legal) where you can't be thinking about work while you're doing. What's that one thing that when you do it, time flies by? That's probably a great hobby.

The point with these tips is that you can help get your family healthy while leading by example. Learn to how to be an active dad. If you are healthy, odds are good that your child will be healthy. As dad goes, so goes the family.

What's the one step where you need the most work? Talk to me in the comments or using #247Dad on social.

Interacting with Your Tween or Teen: Rational Communication Trumps a Lecture

Almost every parent has experienced the glossy-eyed look teens and tweens give when he or she is getting lectured. While some of the words you are saying may sink into their heads, it's more likely that the child is thinking of other things such as a favorite video game or the new girl or boy in school. It's because you are providing a speech that the child simply finds boring.

Instead of giving a lecture about rules or behaviors, engage the child in rational communication. I say "rational" because you need to have a calm disposition instead of being driven by anger or frustration. By everyone taking a few moments to catch a breath, a more meaningful and productive communication can be achieved. How do you engage a child to communicate rather than standing on your soapbox and wagging a finger?

how to really communicate with your teenInteraction - Communication is a two-way street. You need to know what your child is thinking about the topic in order to know he or she is actually paying attention. By offering a way for children to answer questions or interact within the topic, you are forcing them to think about the subject in order to formulate a response. If he or she is thinking about the material, there is a greater chance that it will become more permanent instead of flowing in through one ear and out the other.

Yes, No and I Don't Know - Instead of asking questions of your children that can be answered with "yes" and "no," ask questions that rely more on a tangible answer. It's too easy to force out a quick one word response to a question. However, it makes the brain work if you ask a question where the answer can be a short sentence or two. As we wrote recently in another blog post titled, What Really Matters to Your Child's Success in School, teaching your child to ask critical questions to you and others is a learned skill and will help your child learn that he or she can challenge others (and think), respectfully, for themselves. If your child falls back on the "I don't know" response, then you need to try harder to ask a question that requires deeper thought. Your child's mind is like a combination lock; you need to keep spinning the dial in order to get it to open up.

Privacy - Depending on the situation, a teen can feel ultimately more comfortable if other family members or friends are not around. Essentially, you could take your teen to a park and have a discussion about any topic, at which point he or she would feel more comfortable than speaking in front of relatives. It's a matter of embarrassing the child and he or she needs to feel safe that they can open up without being gawked at. Make it a private bonding moment that you and your child share that is your own. For instance, you could take your teen to the park with a couple of sodas once per week to discuss anything he or she wants. 

Emotional Status - As mentioned earlier, the emotional status of the parties involved will make a profound impact in how well the communication will unfold. There can be no anger between you and each party must be relaxed in order to think rationally. Depending on the situation, this could take anywhere from an hour to a couple of days. However, the effect on the communication will be more than worth the wait.

When you and the child begin yelling at each other, the communication is over. It turns into a shouting match of each one trying to hurt the other. When the situation escalates to such degrees, then there is no benefit with continuing the discussion. Take a few deep breaths and approach the subject again when you and the child have had a chance to calm down and think about the problem.

Issuing a Challenge to Unwed Fathers

In a scene as dramatic as any in reality television, New Jersey mother Rebecca DeLuccia testified from the delivery room that the father of her child should not be allowed to attend the birth of his child.

She testified via phone before Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed who issued a ruling barring the father, Joseph Plotnick, from the delivery room. Plotnick had sued--after DeLuccia went into labor--to attend the delivery. DeLuccia wanted no part of that.

nj court ruling blocking newborn's dad from delivery roomPlotnick argued that he had a right to bond with his child from the moment of the child's birth. Judge Mohammed didn't agree, although he acknowledged Plotnick's desire was "laudable." In explaining his decision, Judge Mohammed said that the attendance of Plotnick would "invade [Rebecca's] sphere of privacy and force the mother to provide details of her medical condition to a person she does not desire to share that information with."

But the primary reason for his ruling was based on the opinion that "any interest a father has before a child's birth is subordinate to the mother's interests." It was, apparently, the first ruling of its kind ever in the U.S., and it symbolizes the circumstantial and legal challenges that many unwed fathers face in gaining access to their children, one that is all too familiar to the many practitioners and organizations that use NFI's programs and resources to connect unwed fathers to their children and improve the relationships between unwed fathers and mothers. (The good news from the father's and child's perspective is that DeLuccia had no problem with Plotnick seeing his child after the birth.)



As you might imagine, reactions to the ruling have been mixed. Some reactions have been passionate in defense of the mother's or father's rights. What I found interesting, however, is not what was said about the rights of the parents but was not said. No one asked the most important question: Why did this situation arise in the first place?

It arose because DeLuccia and Plotnick conceived a child before they were committed to each other. They had been engaged to be married after they learned of her pregnancy, but then they decided to break it off with very little contact between them leading up to the birth.

Apparently, they didn't like each other much. And it's likely they were ignorant about the fact that the most significant predictor of whether a father is involved in the life of his child is whether he's married to the mother.

No one wants to ask the really tough questions about why we've reached the point where nearly half of all births are to unwed parents. We have to challenge men and women to take responsibility for and think through their actions before they have children, not after.

This challenge must start when men and women are still children and continue unabated until their behavior reflects that they understand the consequences of having children before they're committed to a life in which they raise their children in the same home as they other parent. 



What are practitioners and programs that serve unwed fathers supposed to do about this issue? They might think they have no role in addressing it because they engage these fathers after the fact, so there isn't a need to issue this challenge. I disagree.

One of the most significant challenges I hear from practitioners and programs is how difficult it is to work with fathers who have children by multiple mothers. How are they supposed to get fathers involved with all of their children? Do they have to "pick and choose" which children to become involved with? These are incredibly valid and troubling questions.

The reason to issue this challenge--to help fathers understand how their behavior put them in their situation--is that it's vital to preventing them from continuing to engage in that behavior. It's never too late to help fathers connect the dots.

Is your organization "father friendly"?

Justin Bieber's Missing Something

Former NFI President and now board member, Roland Warren, recently wrote an article in The Huffingon Post titled "The Hole in Justin Bieber's Soul" where he explains what he thinks is missing in Bieber's life...and what us dads can learn from it.

Warren recalls seeing the recent cover of Rolling Stone, which features the shirtless Justin Bieber with the caption, "Bad Boy -- Why Justin Bieber Just Won't Behave."

Upon opening the magazine to find "a series of disturbing pictures of Bieber," he found the following paragraph:

Late on a Monday night in mid-January a slightly stoned Justin Bieber leans back on a couch in a North Miami strip club's weed-scented VIP room, casually accepting lap dance after lap dance... More than once, Bieber pauses mid-grind to lean over and fist bump his dad, a hard-eyed 38-year-old who's always up for some family fun. Jeremy Bieber split with Justin's mom when Justin was a toddler, and wasn't around afterward. But, he has, as of late, accepted the place of honor in his superstar son's entourage. The position comes with perks: Jeremy, a tatted up former carpenter and pro-am mixed martial arts fighter, sips beer while enjoying the overflow from his 19-year-old son's parade of strippers.

justin bieber rolling stone article coverRoland points out that while he's not necessarily "in the 'Belieber' demographic," he has followed his rise from YouTube. Interestingly enough, Warren says of Beiber, "I was drawn to him and I soon found out why: Like me, he was a son who grew up without his father."

Mr. Warren doesn't mix words, writing: "I am a wounded soul and believe that Bieber is too. Why? Because a father's rejection is a deep, and often, unnoticed wound that can fester for years. I know mine did. Only someone who should love you deeply and unconditionally can hurt you deeply by rejecting you unconditionally."

Roland maps out his concerns about Bieber's growing celebrity, based on his decades of personal and professional experience of working with men affected by father absence. Two observations from Roland stand out to me. Warren says:

1) If Bieber had the kind of father who would leave him as a toddler, when Beiber was his most vulnerable, he had the kind of father who would seek to re-enter his life when Bieber was his most successful.

2) Bieber would probably let his father in—regardless how dysfunctional the relationship, and the objections of his mother.

Why did Roland make these two observations? Because as he points out, "there is a pull much stronger than the strongest mother's apron strings that beckons a son from boyhood to manhood. It's the pull of his father's 'presence,' even if his father is absent."

Roland understands from not only his own experience but from countless men he's worked with, that "A son has to make sense of his relationship with his father. He has to determine what it means to be a man...so, a boy's destiny is linked to his father's history."

Roland doesn't just leave us with cultural commentary; no, he provides answers as to what we should do as a community given that Bieber isn't alone. Sure, Bieber's a celebrity, but when it comes to boys who grow up without their dads at home, Bieber has a lot of company.  

What are we to do with the "one out of three kids, two out of three in the African-American community, grow(ing) up in father-absent homes?" 

Roland offers insight into what must be done to "heal the wounds of these boys:"

1) We must acknowledge the wounds exists and their impact on a boy's life. As Roland sees too often, we don't acknowledge the issues. Instead, we act as though, "fathers don't matter."

2) We must acknowledge the link between fatherhood and healthy marriages, because research shows marriage is the best societal glue to connect fathers to their children.

Knowing this information, Roland distills the lessons for fathers like you and I in all of this. There are lessons for the dads reading here that may have abandon their child. But also, there are lessons for the dads reading this who are in the game.

These lessons are discussed thoroughly in the book titled, Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. But for our purposes here, please understand that Jeremy Bieber certainly made a mistake by abandoning his son. But, don't miss the other lessons around this unfolding story. Justin's dad (Jeremy) "has committed other mistakes as well," as Roland writes:

You see, a good father doesn't exploit the hole in his son's wounded soul to enjoy the "overflow" of his son's reckless response to his father's absence. He is careful to be a healer, not an enabler of bad behavior. Moreover, a good father provides, nurtures and guides. He doesn't prey on his child's vulnerabilities and insecurities. After all, there is a long line of folks willing to do this, especially if you're Justin Bieber. You see, Justin Bieber doesn't need his father to be his lap dance pal or pot-smoking buddy. He needs Jeremy Bieber to be a good dad now. He needs his father to grow up, step up, and "daddy up" before it's too late. So, why won't Justin Bieber behave? Unfortunately, the sad answer is just a fist bump away.

Dad, use this story as a reminder, that you and I are just a few decisions away from missing something.

Celebrating 20 Years of Changing Fatherhood: Jerre Fields (Video)

Fatherhood Changes Everything… And We’ve Changed Fatherhood!

20 year fatherhood changes everything

This is a special year for us at NFI. It marks our 20th year of working to “change fatherhood” by ending father absence and connecting fathers to their children.

To celebrate the fathers and families whose lives we’ve turned around, we launched this series of videos, blog posts, photographs, and stories to highlight how our work has strengthened fatherhood since 1994.

At NFI, we know that Fatherhood Changes Everything.

From poverty, to crime, to school achievement, to child abuse – every issue we care about is affected by whether or not a child has an involved, responsible, and committed father. We know that when we connect a father to his child, heart to heart, lives change, communities change, and our entire nation is transformed.

celebrating 20 years of changing fatherhoodThis video reveals how NFI’s programs affect an individual life. This is one story out of many. But each video in this series was created from the book “Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance,” a photography book created by Lewis Kostiner. Lewis spent years going around the country, photographing dads who were going through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations in their neighborhoods. The result was a compelling photo book telling the stories of dads working hard to make their children’s lives better.

In this video, we spotlight Jerre Fields, who attended an NFI workshop in his community to learn how to be a better dad. Read his words or listen to them on the video, they are a powerful if you take time to listen.

Let Jerre's words serve as a great reminder that you, dad, serve the vital role your child needs, that every child needs.

 Can't view the video? Click here.

"My advice to other dads? Get involved with your family. Make sure that you're there with them every day, from the morning through the evening. Just try to keep up with the education. Education is the number-one thing when you're raising your kids, so that they can definitely have a better way of life once they leave the home. Just talking to your kids, playing games every day will help their social skills a lot better once they are able to get out there in the real world. Just all the love you can give them, hugs, just reading stories at night is one of the best things I can see now and maybe in my past." —Jerre Fields (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

How has fatherhood changed you? Tell us in the comments!

It’s Time to Change the Landscape for Dads…

We all have a social responsibility to engage more dads in the parenting process.

Father-absence affects about 24 million children in America, and it’s spreading. It’s linked to higher rates of poverty, failure in school, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, violent crime, ill-health and depression, and ultimately a loss of hope. Our children are growing up in that culture, and that’s recipe for disaster.

dad_convention_bannerIn the last 20 years as a lawyer, consultant, and publisher I have connected with thousands of parents (male and female) who agree that fathers' roles and ability in raising healthy children are so often underplayed and unappreciated.

There is too much divisiveness in parenting, and it has gone on for long enough. My mission is to create an environment of co-operation and respect, involving parents of both genders in a meaningful dialogue.

There is so much conflict and gender divisiveness in parenting, which just has to cease! The question now is how to execute the changes, and by creating a reasoned dialogue I just know that the decision makers will eventually be forced to put the needs of parents and families first! It's a concern to see the messages that are conveyed about dads in the media. 

As a generational issue, in the past, boys were shown how to be a stereotypical man, but never how to be a dad, so there has been a built-in parental disadvantage from the get-go. But this generation of dads wants to give much more nurturing to our children than our fathers gave to us.

So I’m doing something about it…I’m honored that so many amazing parents, nationally-renowned parent celebrities, expert speakers, business owners and national organizations are lending their support to the initiative to support and engage a generation of dads in the parenting process, and the spearhead is the one-day celebration of change, The Every Thing For Dads Convention 2014, on March 15 in Sarasota, Florida.

dadconventionbrandsWhy is this event so important? Here are 10 reasons:

1) IT’S REAL! People love Every Thing For Dads because it's 100% specifically about REAL DADS living REAL LIVES. It’s not a popularity contest about who knows the most, or who has the most popular social media following, it’s about sharing experiences and finding answers.

2) IT’S PRACTICAL. All aspects of the event have a "how to" approach to everyday situations. After all, nothing else can truly prepare you for the surprise and wonderment that is dadhood. We all need work and life balance in our busy lives.

3) IT’S A CELEBRATION! Celebrate your “Dad Factor”! Now 70% of the estimated 64 million fathers in the United States are hands on and want to keep their families first on their list of priorities. That’s a lot of noise...so let’s hear what they have to say!

4) IT’S EDUCATIONAL, YET ENTERTAINING…AND CHEAP! Get a pair of tickets for only $99 each, and if you are low-income or a non-for-profit, further concessions are still available. Turn your most difficult job into the most enjoyable job, for life.

5) IT’S A HANG OUT! Come and celebrate with Star Dads (and Moms) who are also passionate about being great dads and share your stories at our VIP Meet and Greet, Dads Town Hall Q and A, and celebrate fatherhood at the Mega Dads Awards.

6) IT’S A MOVIE! Dads live attendees will be filmed sharing their best dad tips for a documentary project on modern fatherhood.

7) IT’S A CHANCE TO SHARE YOUR VIEWS! Here’s your chance to have a voice - you'll be part of an incredibly large campaign to involve, educate and improve the lives of dads and families without having to shout.

8) IT’S YOUR CHANCE TO FESS UP! Every parent makes mistakes from time-to-time...oh, you thought it was only you? You’ll be amazed just how many do, but just don’t ‘fess up! Here’s your chance to learn, laugh and share with dads who aren’t afraid to show they care...in a very manly way of course (just kidding...real men do cry...really we do).

9) IT’S CHANCE TO LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE! You’ll have a chance to learn about how to communicate in a non-judgmental and inclusive environment.

10) IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING! Every Thing For Dads Foundation www.everythingfordads.com will be coming to town near you, in the most accessible ways, to support, teach and engage dads and families from all walks of life. If dads are taught how to be happy and healthy engaged fathers, children, wives and partners all benefit.

…and let’s face it, if the happiness, healthiness and burgeoning opportunity for advancement of parents and children is not the goal for society, then what is the point of living?

So, dads and moms, please come and support the Every Thing For Dads Convention, and let’s make the decision that opportunity, education and health for 21st Century children and families must come first. Even if you can’t make it, please help this movement, and make sure that you tell other parents that help is here; we’d love to ‘virtually” meet you!.

Tickets are limited, and available at http://www.birthandbeyondmagazine.com/abouttheconvention/ or feel free to message me at mailto:jimmckenzie@everythingfordads.com

Little Eyes are Always Watching You, Dad

When country singer Rodney Atkins’ catchy single “Watching You” climbed the Billboard charts to #1 in 2007, I remember thinking, now there’s a corny little song with a powerful message.  

Atkins claims to have written the song for his own young son, who was then starting to imitate his every move.

In the first stanza, the young boy unexpectedly uses a four-letter word while riding in the car with his dad. In the final stanza, he falls to his knees at bedtime in spontaneous prayer. In the lyrics, the singer questions where the boy learned these behaviors. The child’s response is “I’ve been watching you, Dad. Ain’t that cool?” 

father-son modelingChildren are master imitators. As early as three months of age, you smile, and they smile. They are hard-wired to imitate the behavior of those who care for them.

As they get older, they are able to imitate much more than just a smile. They can, and will, imitate anything they perceive as valuable and are especially prone to imitate behaviors modeled by the ones they love. 

Unfortunately, children don’t discriminate very well between what they should imitate and what they shouldn’t. As in Atkins’ song, they’re just as likely to imitate the bad behaviors as they are the good. And they see everything!  

Little eyes are always watching and always planning on how they will imitate what they see. It’s very cute, but sometimes creepy when they precisely mimic a behavior that you didn’t even know they saw. A swear word that sounds as if it came directly out of your own mouth is the classic example. 

Children have another modeling ability that’s very important to understand. They can witness a meaningful behavior and retain its importance for years without modeling it, waiting for the perfect occasion when it is relevant.  

A preschool child may not be capable of immediately imitating their dad who offers help to a neighbor in need, who loves and pampers their mother, who smokes, or who drives aggressively. This does not mean that when the time and opportunity are right, the child won’t be influenced by what they observed from a loved one.  

The desire to imitate those we love and admire runs deep and lasts a lifetime. I have two adult daughters, 28 and 30 years of age. As they navigate adulthood, I am often surprised to see them imitate the things they witnessed when they were children, but only when, as adults, they get to do for themselves.  

Their imitation is undeniable, from the way they choose restaurants, to the way they talk about their bosses. Ironically, these are not things we have ever discussed, or things that were directly taught. 

The old adage used by some parents, “do as I say, not as I do,” is a useless and hollow phrase. Children aren’t as good at following directions as they are replicating behaviors they perceive to be valuable and relevant.  

Because they love and admire you, they find what you do valuable, and eventually it will be relevant. So, dads, remember that little eyes are always watching, ready to imitate the behaviors they see.  

The fact that they don’t demonstrate the behavior immediately, or in your presence, does not necessarily mean that it wasn’t seen and logged into memory for future use.  

Fathers’ impact on their children is through the moment-to-moment experiences and the modeling opportunities they provide. It’s the common little things that can happen at any time that eventually get translated into behaviors of value.  

Dads, be mindful of your acts. You never know when that four-letter word will slip from your child’s mouth, or when you might pass by their bedroom and see them down on their knees in prayer.

This is a post from David Andrews. David is the Dean of the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, Professor of Education and Public Health, and is author of "My Father’s Day Gift," a powerful story about the influence of fathers and male role models.

I Don’t Exercise for Myself #P90X3Dads

I think if I were single and childless, I would rarely exercise. That sort of attitude, based on what I’ve seen in research, is probably pretty common among men; researchers have found that unmarried men are less healthy than married ones.

Now that I'm 36, I get it; my wife and my son inspire me to take care of myself. Without them, the enormous amount of motivation it takes to work out regularly would be gone.

1491652_487832177999559_937538906_aBut now that I’m married with one son and our second child due any day now, I have the incentive I need to live to a ripe old age.

But do I have the time? For the last four years, I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I don’t.

It is incredibly easy to come up with excuses to not work out. After all, what is more important: spending time with your child or going to the gym or isolating yourself in the basement to get a good workout done?

Fortunately, the folks at Beach Body, led by the incomparable Tony Horton, have “officially retired” that excuse. They’ve done it with the brand new P90X3. 

When I heard about P90X3, I was immediately interested in it because of the very simple and compelling premise that each workout in the 90-day regimen is only 30 minutes long. They call it “muscle acceleration.” 

My wife and I completed the original P90X program right after our first son was born in January of 2010. We LOVED it, and we both got amazing results. I lost 13 pounds and got much stronger and more defined. But the workouts were long; about an hour each, some of them even longer. 

We were able to do it because infants take lots of naps. But toddlers don’t. So, once our son grew up and became a child who always wants mommy’s and daddy’s attention, I pulled the old “I don’t have time to work out” excuse off the shelf.

So, for the last three-plus years, my only work outs have been 15-minute ones, twice a week, where I’d do some squats, pull ups, bench press, and a few other things here and there just to make sure I don’t get completely out of shape. But, as you can guess, it isn’t really working…

Enter P90X3.

The good people at Beach Body – the makers of P90X – have generously donated two copies of the program to the two dad bloggers here at NFI – myself and Ryan Sanders. Ryan and I have just begun the program, and we will document our journey right here on The Father Factor. Two other blogs also received copies of the program – Life of Dad and Dads Matter. Their bloggers will be sharing in this journey, too. 

We are all doing this because we want to be involved, active fathers in the lives of our children and wives for a long, long time. I am doing this because it is inexcusable for me to say, “I can’t spare 30 minutes for 90 days to change my life and change the legacy I leave for my children.”

I am pumped, no pun intended. As I write this, I have just completed the first week of the program. It absolutely kicked my butt in the best possible way. My chest is still sore from The Challenger work out I did on Sunday. But I haven’t felt this good or this confident in years.

We want you to get that same feeling. That’s why we are giving away two free copies of P90X3!

Again, the generous folks at Beach Body have given us two additional copies to give out as prizes. We want to use these as motivation for you to start your own exercise routine, and to tell us about it (on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or the blog comments) using the hashtag #P90X3Dads.

In about a week, we will pick someone at random to win the first free copy, so that he/she can join us as we complete the program. Then, we will do the same at the end of the 90 days for another lucky winner. 

As for me and Ryan, every few weeks we will provide updates here on The Father Factor about how things are going. It is going to get interesting for me. Our second child will be born when I am about a month into the program. The 30-minutes per day philosophy will really be put to the test then. Will I be able to stick with it and still care for my wife, newborn, and pre-schooler? We shall see…

For now, here are my Day 1 photos. I am hoping that on Day 90 I have a smaller stomach, more muscle, and better cardiovascular health. 

 

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. Tell us: who do you exercise for?

 

Day Zero: 'Pressing Play' on Fit Fathering with #P90X3Dads

I'm a husband. I'm a dad. I'm busy. I'm also the guy who quit the original P90X (because of the long workouts, promise). But, I have hope that I can still get fit and live healthy. P90X3 is my newest hope. Follow me as I write about my next 90 days. I'll write on Day 30, Day 60 and hopefully, at day 90, we'll both be more healthy.

IMG_6010

When I first stepped foot in the house that faithful evening with the white P90X3 box in hand, here's how the conversation went:

  • Gabby (my 4yo daugher) was excited and said: "Daddy, what's in that box? Is that a box of donuts?! Yay!"
  • Me: "No, honey. This isn't a box of donuts!"

This short conversation hasn't left my mind over the last few days. You see, I've spent all of her life, all of her older sister's life (who's 7yo) and most of my own life, not exercising AND eating poorly.

I have nothing against donuts. When I'm not following the hashtag #P90X3Dads I'm searching #donuts and #carbs. Sadly, I'm only half-joking.

When I look back over the last few years, I must confess an unhealthy inclination toward diet and exercise has been the norm instead of the exception. 

This "unhealthy inclination toward diet and exercise" led me to obesity.

After visiting my doctor for a routine exam last summer, I weighed 230 pounds. I was obese. Whoa, how did this happen? This couldn't be me.

After dealing with emotions like denile, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression...and then finally...acceptance. I realized a few things:

  • I couldn't blame college (the "freshman 15" or the "sophomore 20" or whatevs).
  • I couldn't blame seminary (where most seem to be obese; sorry, it's just true. We can talk more later.).
  • I couldn't blame marriage (you know it happens, spouses).
  • I couldn't blame daughter number 1 (no matter how sweet "sympathy weight" sounds).
  • I couldn't blame daughter numero dos, even though sympathy weight could also be the excuse.

Well, I guess I could blame all of the above. But, the act of blaming is simply me not taking responsibility for my actions. Blaming others doesn't get me fit and healthy. 

Heck, my wife was critcally sick with both pregnancies. "Sympathy weight" is easy to gain when your wife is on bed-rest and/or hospital-rest for most of the pregnancy. Don't tell me a man can't get pregnant. Sadly, I never delivered my baby.

After getting my blood work back, my doctor kindly let me know, to be 32 years old and at risk for high blood pressure, I was cutting years off of my life with my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.

That was last summer. Since then, I went from weighing 230 pounds to 189. I have basically plateaued with my current situation and am not at my peak weight, I'm hopeful P90X3 is my solution.

I need to drop a few more pounds and add muscle. I need a program that doesn't require gym membership and a bunch of "stuff". I want a quick program I can do in my home with variety between workouts. I'm not trying to get bored. Is this too much to ask?

I write today as someone who has learned to somewhat manage my diet. It's a constant, hourly (nay, minute-by-minute) struggle. But, the missing link to my being overweight now is mostly related to my exercise level. Enter P90X3!

I mentioned I quit the original P90X. While I'm certain that program works for some, my experience based on my limited physical ability, was that going from no activity to one-hour-and-30-minute yoga sessions was daunting.

I didn't last two weeks on the original P90X. Maybe once I'm in better shape, I'll get more use out of P90X!

In case you're wondering, here's what's included with the P90X3 Base Kit (pictured in this post):

  • Sixteen (16) extreme workouts
  • P90X3 Fitness Guide
  • P90X3 Nutrition Guide
  • "How to Accelerate" Intro DVD
  • 90-Day Wall Calendar
  • Three (3) P90X3 Branded Stickers (for laptop, iPad and a mobile phone)

I plan to write four blog posts: Day 0 (this post), Day 30, Day 60 and Day 90. If all goes as planned, I'll show "before and after" photos at day 90. I'll spare you the "before" pictures today. You're welcome! Now, I'm headed to "press play" as Mr. Tony Horton tells me.

Note: No dad was paid for this post. We were, however, given a base kit and two kits to giveaway because the Beach Body folks are so awesome. Tell us in the comments: Why do you want a free copy of P90X3? How would getting fit and healthy make you a better dad? 

 Can't view the video? Click here.

 

The Challenge of Becoming a Single Father

No one goes to the altar expecting to end up divorced, but it's a distressingly common occurrence nonetheless. 

Couples get together with the very best of intentions, full of hopes and dreams, white picket fences, 2.5 kids, or even a penthouse uptown. A life together, a future as a team, and perhaps some little people added to the mix.

father_holding_son_arms_stretchThat's what was running through my head when I walked up the aisle almost 18 years ago, anxious, teary and excited to take the next step in my life with the woman I loved.

Then we had one, two, three children and somehow bringing tiny little people into the mix didn't make our relationship any easier, didn't help us find a common ground and get along smoothly. Every parent knows this, but you have to find out yourself anyway: having a child is hugely stressful on a relationship.

We tried to make it work. We talked, we tried different approaches to parenting, we worked with counselors, we went to workshops and seminars. But that fateful day came to pass where we just realized that, kids or no kids, we were really not making it as a couple and were both perpetually unhappy and resentful.

So we split up. Theoretically, to have a break from each other, but I could read the writing on the wall and started preparing myself for what ended up being a long, contentious divorce. 

Single parenting is hard. Single fathering is even harder.

I suddenly found myself a single dad, with children who were 10, 6 and 3. And while I'd always been an active, involved dad, it was a completely different experience when I didn't have someone to help out if I was getting frustrated, was tired, not feeling well, or just had a vision of things going one way while they were quite clearly headed in another direction.

Like going from tag-team wrestling to having to take on the other opponent solo. Worse, in a lot of situations, far from "having your back", your ex can be eagerly waiting to point out your failings, digging that knife in just a bit deeper, while telling the children "daddy has issues, but at least you have me."

Let me be blunt. It's not easy being a single parent.

I think it's tougher on us men, however, because we aren't raised to nurture and be empathetic. In fact, Western society does its best through a culture of shaming, bullying, crass images of masculinity and dismal media portrayals of fathers to teach us men that we're just not going to be successful parents.

We don't tote babies around when we're little, we aren't the one hired to babysit the twins down the street when we're in our teens, we're instead pushed to physical activities, sports, video games and other activities that emphasize the testosterone factor rather than help us learn how to balance it with the more traditionally "feminine" aspects of humanity.

And so retrospectively, it's no surprise to me that the first year of my single parenthood was damn hard. I had always been the disciplinarian in our household, the one who actually had - and enforced - rules and behaviors. Suddenly life was about a lot more than just being the drill instructor and I didn't know how to handle it. A crying toddler? A grumpy daughter because a boy snubbed her? A boy devastated because he failed to make the winning shot? All new because I couldn't rely on mom to be the sympathetic parent.

It was rocky, and there were definitely moments I look back on with great sadness and disappointment. I could have done better, I could have handled them better. Or perhaps not. Perhaps the journey of man to loving father does require some turbulence along the way.

Interestingly, my ex's household was chaos for years because as a single mom she faced the opposite challenge, that she's wonderfully sympathetic and therefore rarely had rules and certainly hated to enforce them or impose consequences for violations. Her household was a zoo, with no bed times, no meal times, all replaced by lots of mom/kid cuddling and sharing.

Time has a way of healing and improving things, and after almost 7 years of flying solo, I've learned a few things about finding the balance between innate male reactions and the need for a child to have a parent who is present, who is tough when needed but who is also sympathetic. Sometimes a hug and a treat are the best response while other occasions require a time out or extra chore. 

What I will share with any man who is just stepping into this new world of single parenting is to take a deep breath and let go of your expectations. Parenting really isn't about tomorrow as much as it is about this very moment. Rules are good, but their little hearts, their expectations, their dreams are what it's all about, so pay attention. Listen. Don't "fix" things that don't need fixing. And have fun. It took me years to be able to really just relax and enjoy my children. 

And cut yourself slack. It's a tough job, this solo parenting thing. You'll make mistakes, but with positive intention and love, you'll all make it through. If it's going really poorly? Reach out and get some help. No shame in that, brother.

This is a guest post by Dave Taylor. Dave is a Colorado-based father's rights advocate and single father to three fabulous children, now 17, 13 and 10. You can read about their exploits and adventures at GoFatherhood.com and you can get in touch with him at dave@gofatherhood.com.

Q&A with NFI's Newest Board Member: Fred Rege

Get to know our newest board member, Fred Rege, in 13 questions. 

fred_rege_headshot_board_memberMr. Fred Rege was recently named NFI's newest board member. Fred and I sat down ("sat down" meaning "we chatted via Facebook Messenger and Gmail Chat because we're new school"!) to delve deep into the mind of Mr. Rege. Who is this busy husband and father and what makes him care so much about fatherhood?

With this, allow me to introduce to you to Mr. Fred Rege:

1) What's your full name?

Fredrick Rege

2) Where were you born?

I was born Nairobi, Kenya, five minutes after my twin brother.

3) Where do you currently live?

I live in Loudoun County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. It's a great place: work and metro to the east, horses and motorcycle heaven to the west. 

4) How many children do you have and what are their ages?

My wife Esther and I have been blessed with two girls, ages 6 and 5. Before they were born, I wanted at least one boy. Sons are important in my culture, and I drank the Kool-Aid I guess. Looking back, what nonsense! Girls are awesome. I don't think I'd have it any other way.

5) What do you do for a living?

I'm an IT consultant. Specifically, I help large companies manage their website content. My background is in web development and programming, but these days, I'm more into solution design and mobile strategy.

6) What's one thing you’re always telling your children?

With my girls, I say "hard work", and they respond "pays off!". I use it when they're excited and happy about something they've accomplished. I also use it to encourage them to press on when something seems impossible.

7) If you could have dinner with one famous dad, who would it be and why?

Bill Cosby. The Cosby Show promoted involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood so effortlessly. I'd just thank him for setting a good example for so many.

8) What's one article of clothing every dad should own?

A handkerchief. For infants, in a pinch, I'll spare you the details. : ) For toddlers and up, it wipes noses. For teens and up, it wipes away tears.

9) What's one book every dad should read?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. There are so many lessons in there that can be applied to parenting and life in general.  

10) What's one thing a dad should teach his child about money?

Money can be given away, saved, or spent. Taking time to teach these three options to my girls is among my highest priorities as a dad.  

11) What advice do you have for a new dad?

Spend time with other dads (i.e. people in the same boat). It'll be easier to forego Saturday morning tee times when those around you are going through the same life changes.

12) What's the “secret” to being a great dad?

Two words: Be present. The more time you put into being a dad, the better you get at it.

13) To what are you most looking forward in this season of fatherhood?

This may seem morbid. I want nothing more than to have it said at my eulogy, that I was a great dad. God willing, it'd be nice to add "great grand-dad" as well!

Also, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Rege's beautiful family! Please welcome Mr. Rege to the NFI family in the comments section.

fred_rege_board_member_family_photo

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