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NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ Team Up to Launch Dads Club™

New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.

National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove Men Care Dads ClubToday’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.

A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (www.dovemencare.com)

“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication. 
 

Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:

  • samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products 
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
  • a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt 
  • a Dads Club™ photo magnet 
  • and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide” 

“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare.  “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.” 

Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at http://www.fatherhood.org/dadsclub. 

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A Working Woman's Response to 'Leaning In' to Fatherhood

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.

balancing work and family can be tricky for both genders“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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photo credit: adesigna

(Video) Moms Should "Lean In" to Fatherhood

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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A Scary Confluence of Trends

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.  

kidweddingkiss resized 600A 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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photo credit: clappstar

Moms Should “Lean In” …to Fatherhood

business woman 320 resized 600The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?  

How about a third way?  

I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.  

Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.  

How?  

Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.   

When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.  

My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.   

Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.   

As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.  

Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.  

You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).  

So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.  

understanding dadWell, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.  

Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, it will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.  

This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).

Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting? 

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photo credit: Victor1558

The Croods and “Leaning In”

It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...  

the croods CDS FirstLook 21 4K RGB v10 1 rgb resized 600Facebook 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.  

For example:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
  4. 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?   

 

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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.

(Video) Putting Fatherhood Back in The Picture

Recently on FoxNews Live, Lewis Kostiner and Juan Williams spoke to Jonathan Hunt, host of "On the Hunt", on how men from all walks of life are working to be great fathers, all because of NFI's programming.

If you can't see the video, click here

The interview centered around the book titled, "Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance" which contains photographs from Lewis Kostiner's travels and meeting with 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.  

Kostiner says he became aware of the national crisis of father absense while attending a luncheon with NFI. He then decided he would take photographs and illustrate how NFI's Programming was helping change the father absence problem in America. 

Juan Williams wrote the introduction to the book and calls father absence, "the human tradegy of our time". He writes in the introduction, "No government can hold a child's hand or read to him at bedtime. No child will ever call a government "daddy". Regardless of a man's job status, or the struggles inherant in every romantic relationship, a child ideally needs two parents."

Juan continues, "we need to be child-focused...let's put the dad back in the picture...that's what Mr. Kostiner's book does."

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(Video) Are Dads the Missing Link in Education Reform?

24 million children without biological fathers in the home. This is a stat we at NFI mention a lot. The number can be so big that it loses its meaning. However, if you take time to break most societal ills down, you find that father absence is a big part of the problem. Fix the state of fatherhood and remedy many ills in society. Education isn't immune to the father absence crisis, both in America and globally.

We recently wrote a column for CNN titled, "The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads". You can read our blog on it here.

Vincent DiCaro, National Fatherhood Initiative’s VP of Development and Communication, recently appeared on FoxNews Live to discuss the father-absence crisis and just how critical a fathers' role is in education. 

Gregg Jarrett interviewed DiCaro on the FoxNews Live show "On the Hunt" about the state of education reform and fathers' roles.

If you can't see the video, click here.

Jarrett points out that America's children seem to be in a deficit compared to other nations and asks the question, "What's hurting education in America?"

1) Children growing up in father-absent homes
DiCaro does well to point out that "The biggest change that has taken place in education over the last generation has nothing to do with schools, but everything to do with what has happened to the family... One in three of our children are growing up without their biological father in the home." 

2) Decline in marriage
Jarrett asks what's to blame for the decline of father involvement; unwed mothers or divorce or both? DiCaro makes clear that both contribute to what ends up being a situation where dad is just not there on a regular basis. DiCaro points out, "Out of wedlock childbirths have gone through the roof. We're at about 40% of all births are out of wedlock." He continues by pointing out that divorce is obviously still at a high rate. But DiCaro also mentions the "general mentality in our country that fathers don't play a unique an irreplacable role in their children's lives."

Jarrett asks about father absence and race. DiCaro makes clear that the father-absence issue is a global one. DiCaro says, "Father absence is not unique to any one community...this is a problem happening across the board." DiCaro continues, "...it isn't just in the United States, there was a global study done from Child Trends called the "World Family Map"; the report found, across the developed world, "children in two-parent homes do better in school than children in single-parent homes and this happens independent of income...this isn't about the haves versus the have-nots in terms of money, but kids who have two parents, and kids who have only one."

Jarrett asks, "do you think the important role that a dad plays in education is underestimated?"

DiCaro says, "Absolutely. Us dads ourselves often underestimate our role. We often think, mom has that covered, she's going to the parent teacher meetings, she's helping with homework, so the kid's gonna be fine. But even if mom's doing these things, it's still critically important for dad to do them as well. You know, dads do things differently. We interact with our children differently. We play a unique and irreplaceable role in our childen's lives, and so we need to be just as hands-on with our kids' education, reading to them every day, helping them with their homework, going to the school, being there, present in the school; a man's presence in a school communicates a lot to his kids and other kids in the school as well.

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PA is 25th State to Standardize NFI's InsideOut Dad®

Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children

nfi logoNational Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.

The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility. The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.

Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children. In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”

Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers -- across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.

"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.

SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.

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Does Having a Family Change the Work-Life Balance Equation?

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.

work life balance

You’re probably aware that more fathers than ever carry more of the load at home while they continue to build their professional careers. As reported in NFI’s most recent edition of Father Facts, the gap between the number of hours that mothers and fathers care for their children and do routine household chores has closed dramatically. While this shift to a more egalitarian household has benefits for fathers, mothers, and children, there’s also a downside for fathers—an increase in stress in the delicate balance between work and family life. Indeed, recent research (also reported in Father Facts) reveals that more men than women report this stress. Many men say that they would trade their current job for one that provides for more work-life balance.  

In light of this research—and my own struggles through the years to juggle work and family life—I was taken aback by Embrace Work-Life Imbalance, a blog post by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic that appeared on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Mr. Chamorro-Premuzic takes issue with studies on the harmful effects of excessive work because they “rely on subjective evaluations of ‘work overload’”. He goes on to say that work overload is only possible if you don’t enjoy and have fun at work and that we should, essentially, stop crying over spilled milk (he refers to people who complain about poor work-life balance as “self-indulgent”) and stop talking about work-life balance or, at the very least, redefine it.    

Intrigued by his proposition, I kept reading to determine whether he has a point. His rationale for redefining work-life imbalance rests on the premise that the key to work-life balance is working hard at something that you enjoy (i.e. are passionate about). He asks the reader to consider five factors that, together, lead to the conclusion that we must “switch on” rather than “switch off” in relation to work. He says that too few people enjoy work. As long as we can engage in work we find fun, the amount of work we do is irrelevant.  

I love my work and have a lot of fun doing it. (My daughters often say that I’m a “professional dad” given my work with NFI.) But while I don’t dispute Mr. Chamorro-Premuzic’s point about the need to embrace work-life imbalance from a general perspective, I wonder whether he would change his mind if he focused on the impact that a family has on a man’s view of work-life balance. (As an aside, many experts on work-life balance consider work-family balance to be a sub-category of work-life balance.) Does the value in embracing work-life imbalance change when a man has a wife and children? Absolutely! Why? Because a family changes the dynamics of the work-life equation. Without a family, work is life for many men because it defines us. The centrality of work in how men define themselves is the foundation for our struggle to balance work and family. When we marry and have a family, we expand our view of what brings meaning to our lives. The amount of work we do becomes relevant regardless of how much we enjoy it. Work no longer holds sway over our lives, and it shouldn’t. It should remain, however, vitally important. We should continue to work hard, embrace it, and enjoy it. But it must not own us.       

What do you think? Do I have a valid point? Share your comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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photo credit: adesigna

The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads

classroom, education, fatherhoodWriting for CNN’s Schools of Thought blog, NFI's Christopher Brown and Vincent DiCaro reveal the missing piece of education reform. Brown and DiCaro point out that "There is no shortage of answers about how to improve our nation’s schools, including more charter schools, school vouchers, standardized testing, lower teacher-student ratios and performance-based hiring, pay and promotion of teachers. However, what we find lacking in almost every debate about education reform is the role of families - especially fathers - and the support they can and should provide to ensure children’s educational success. If parents, educators and reformers are to make a difference in improving children’s educational success, we must expand our definition of education reform."

They continue, "children in two-parent homes were more likely to stay on track in school and have higher literacy, both of which are critical to overall educational success." 

Pointing to research on marriage from Pew Research Center saying barely one-half - 51% - of adults today are married, down from 72% in 1960, the article says, "The decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and the increase in out-of-wedlock births - now 40% of all births - has contributed to the reality that more than 24 million children in America live in homes absent a biological father."

Brown and DiCaro do not write only to complain, but to offer real solutions for educational improvement. They point out several real-life things fathers can do at home and in school to help their children succeed:

  • Attend school and class events, or even spend a day in the classroom—your presence communicates something to your child and to their teachers. 
  • Read to your children every day. 
  • Help with school work. 
  • Don’t let mom do all the work. 
Some believe that school is “mom’s territory,” but fathers are just as important to their children’s educations as their mothers. Brown and DiCaro add that schools can help to create father-friendly environments by:
  • Including posters, reading materials and visual cues that show dads are welcome. 
  • Distribute parenting resources targeted to dads, as well as moms. 
  • Hold seminars for staff members to remind them how important it is for dads to be involved. 
  • Create dad-centric events, like “Dad and Donuts Day” where fathers join children at school for breakfast.

Brown and DiCaro do well to explain, "Changing parents’ and schools’ views of parental involvement are part of education reform. But most importantly, we must also address and reverse the two most disturbing trends of the past half-century - the increase in the number of children growing up in father-absent homes and the decline in marriage. These two issues are inseparable and have a direct impact on our children’s success in school."

Read the full article at CNN's Schools of Thought.

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photo credit: dcJohn

Most Popular Post of 2012 — The Difference Between a Man and a Boy

The Father Factor Blog closes the year by reposting our most popular blog post of 2012! Thank you for reading and connecting with us this year. We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools. Today, without further delay, we give you our most popular blog post of 2012!

Adapted from the original blog: 
You know the guy. He’s a friend of yours. Everyone knows the guy who’d rather play video games 24/7 and live in his parents’ basement. You know, the guy who takes the storyline behind his favorite board game a wee bit too seriously. Yeah, you know the guy, as do I. I think I’ve figured out what makes this guy different from the one not living in his parents’ basement.

difference between man and boy

This difference is explored in Philip G. Zimbardo’s new research and book The Demise of Guys, which reveals things we’ve thought for years, but just haven’t talked about - that guys are “flaming out.”

So what’s behind this research? Zimbardo’s complaining brings great insight into the core issue. Zimbardo says media and education and society at large are the problems. Society is the “major contributor to this demise because [it is] inhibiting guys’ intellectual, creative and social abilities right from the start.” The result is young men with a lack of purpose, basic social skills, who live off of their parents.

While I think Zimbardo’s research does well to reveal the problem, the solution isn’t adapting some societal strategy to make men out of boys by retraining society to not inhibit them. Society has its issues, of course. But the problem, in my eyes, lies with the boy. There’s a difference between a boy and a man. Always has been, always will be. If you have no plan to leave your parents’ house, you’re a boy. If you don’t relate to women as equals, you’re a boy. If you aren’t emotionally able to cherish your wife, you’re a boy. If you play video games 24/7 and you’re not actually designing the games, you’re just a boy without a purpose.

Therefore, I don’t blame media, society or women – I blame father absence.

Boys learn the kinds of behaviors Zimbardo talks about from their fathers. We live in an age of mass father absence. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of three -- live in biological father-absent homes. Two in three African American children live in father-absent homes. Consequently, there is a "father factor" in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. From poverty, maternal and child health, incarceration, crime, teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, education, and childhood obesity – fatherhood changes these issues, for good or ill.

Every generation has its things for which to watch out. Sure, this generation has seen a “rise of technology enchantment” as Zimbardo points out. I certainly have more technology-related temptations than my father did. Each generation has its forms of seduction. This generation’s may be video games and online porn. My father’s temptations may have been print magazines and watching too many sports on TV. All I know is that the temptation to live for oneself will always be with us – it is part of the human condition.

The difference, though, today is that fewer and fewer boys have the stabilizing presence of an involved, responsible, and committed father in their lives to help them navigate a world of temptations and make the transition from self-centeredness to other-centeredness – the transition from boyhood to manhood. The “demise of guys” is really, at its root, the absence of fathers.

Read the original blog post: The Difference Between a Man and a Boy

Which blog post was your favorite of 2012?

photo credit: practicalowl 

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More on The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative. This post is his response to feedback from his original post The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood.

My most recent blog post titled “The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood” generated a lot of feedback, some positive and some negative. I argued that as a society we have rationalized non-married fatherhood to the point that it is no longer a moral transgression. It has become excusable and, thus, we no longer need to worry about children growing up without their fathers despite reams of data that show when children grow up in single-parent homes—the vast majority of which don’t include fathers—it is detrimental to children and our society.

Child at weddingSeveral of the responses we received indicated that some non-married fathers—primarily divorced fathers—took the post personally because they thought National Fatherhood Initiative doesn’t appreciate the yeoman’s work they do to be involved in the lives of their children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. NFI recognizes the contributions of and efforts that all fathers make to be involved in whatever circumstances they father.

Consequently, we offer support, guidance, and resources to fathers and the organizations that serve them without discriminating based on marital status. As I remarked in the post, my argument isn’t that a specific non-married dad can’t be a good father to his children. But when viewed through the lens of our culture and population at large, the conclusion that we have rationalized away the morality of non-married fatherhood is undeniable. It has moved us away from our society's need to address father absence in a preventive manner.

To better understand NFI’s position, it’s critical to separate personal experience and the emotion attached to it from the cultural experience and evidence attached to it. Non-married fatherhood results from one of two situations—an out-of-wedlock birth (e.g. a never-married father) or a divorce. From a personal perspective, I’ll wager that if you’re a never-married father you didn’t intend to become one. Likewise if you’re a divorced father you probably didn’t marry with the intent to divorce your wife and face the challenges that brings to raising children. But if you’re an involved, never-married or divorced dad, I’ll also wager that, against all odds, you have moved heaven and earth to remain involved in your children’s lives. Remaining involved requires a lot of hard work and emotion especially when considering the evidence that non-married fathers, on average, are less likely to be involved in their children’s lives as their children age. Therefore, the negative responses we received are understandable because they come from fathers who are not the norm. These fathers are involved in their children’s lives despite the challenges they face. All of us at NFI applaud their (your) efforts.

From a cultural perspective, however, it is undeniable that our society has become more accepting of non-married fatherhood. As an applied anthropologist, I have studied cultures across the globe and, in particular (surprise, surprise), the institutions of fatherhood and marriage and their symbiotic relationship. As noted in my post, marriage arose as an institution (across the globe) for raising children and serves as the primary mechanism societies use to connect fathers to their children. The evidence that fathers are the parent disproportionately separated from their children when they are not married (and not just in the U.S.) underscores the importance of marriage as the institution that undergirds father involvement. And, yet, I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve encountered in my personal and professional life who are perfectly fine with non-married fatherhood (and motherhood) becoming an acceptable circumstance in which to parent (i.e. a norm). They don’t even give it a second thought. The evidence, however, for the symbiotic relationship between these two institutions is overwhelming. Being married to the mother of your children is the single greatest predictor of father involvement. Quite simply it is much harder to be involved in your children’s lives when you don’t live with them. From a preventive standpoint, one of the best strategies we can implement at the cultural level to ensure that children grow up with an involved father is to see that more fathers are married before they have children.

If you’re a non-married father and you’re still struggling to come to grips with NFI’s position on the relationship between marriage and involved fatherhood, I ask you to consider the following question. If your son or daughter comes to you one day and asks whether it is better to be married to the mother or father of their children, what will you say?

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photo credit: seanmcgrath

The Moral Rationalization of Non-Married Fatherhood

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.  

I’m an avid reader of business articles (e.g. what works in business) because they spark ideas that NFI has implemented to help us effectively pursue our mission. But rarely do I read such an article that helps build my knowledge about the cultural challenges we face in promoting involved, responsible, committed fatherhood. Recently, however, I read an article on research conducted by professors at the Wharton School (the preeminent business school at the University of Pennsylvania) that examines how people react to scandals of celebrities with huge brands, and it provided me with additional insight on how our society has dealt with the crisis of father absence.

Will you marry me?

The researchers conducted several studies on how people react to “moral transgressions” by public figures (e.g. athletes and politicians) and whether they were more likely to react with “moral rationalization” or “moral decoupling” to those transgressions.

In moral rationalization a person downplays the moral transgression. “It’s not so bad,” they say. “Everyone else does it.” Thus, the transgression becomes excusable.

Moral decoupling, in contrast, involves separating the transgression from other acts. It preserves the person’s outrage at the transgression and allows them to believe that it doesn’t affect other parts of the transgressor’s life, profession, etc.

Remember the Tiger Woods sex scandal? (Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you do.) What about the Michael Vick dog-fighting conviction? What has happened since those two athletes came under scrutiny for their transgressions? They’re just as, and perhaps more popular, than ever. 

Forgiveness aside (and I don’t discount the importance of forgiveness), these athletes have probably benefitted from a branding standpoint because of those transgressions. (Note how Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation has seen its donations rise in the wake of him dropping his fight against doping allegations.)

The researchers found that people engage more often in moral decoupling because it allows them to maintain their view that the act was immoral and that it had or has no effect on their performance (in whatever way they perform—on the field, in Congress, etc.). Fans of Tiger and Michael say, “Sure. What he did was wrong, but I see no reason why that should affect whether I’m a fan.”  

So what does this research have to do with fatherhood? Do people engage in moral decoupling when they react to non-married fatherhood? Nope. The reason is that we no longer look at non-married fatherhood as a moral transgression. Consequently, we don’t have to separate a father not being married to the mother of his children from his ability to be an involved, responsible, committed father despite the reams of evidence that marriage arose in cultures across the world in large part to connect fathers to their children, and that it provides the best environment in which to reduce the risk that children will grow up facing a host of risks.

You see, non-married fatherhood (and motherhood, by the way) has become excusable. As we’ve seen a rise in the number of out-of-wedlock childbirths leading to more and more children growing up without fathers, we’ve engaged in moral rationalization rather than moral decoupling. We say, “It’s not so bad. So many people are doing it that it doesn’t really matter.” (You only have to watch one episode of the hugely-popular Jersey Shore or the many other reality shows and sitcoms that celebrate out-of-wedlock child bearing to see my point.)

Don’t get me wrong. My argument isn’t that a specific unmarried dad can’t be a good father to his children. But when viewed through the lens of our culture and population at large, the conclusion that we have rationalized away the morality of unmarried fatherhood is undeniable. It has moved us away from our society's real need to address it in a preventive manner.

Unfortunately, the consequences of this rationalization are a huge burden on our society as noted in NFI’s 100 Billion Dollar Man study. But perhaps even more frightening is that it has, sadly, set the stage for the current debate about whether fathers are even relevant any longer.

photo credit: JakeBrewer

Fatherhood’s In the Genes

A recent op-ed in The New York Times provides dads with more evidence of why they are important to their children.

The article is written from a health perspective – and the science of genetics and epigenetics can be very complex – but the takeaway for dads is this: your behavior and lifestyle choices over the course of your life become “imprinted” on your genes, and, consequently, are passed down to your children and grandchildren.

spermFor example, if you experience a lot of stress, your body responds, the sperm you produce are affected by this response, and then you pass your “stress” on to your children.

Same goes for alcohol or drug abuse, malnutrition, obesity, and several other behavior-related phenomenon.

The lesson – living a healthy, stress-free life will give you a better chance of having healthy children!

The writer points out that, as a result of these findings, dads are now in a position to share the burden that pregnant moms have carried for years – that their health and lifestyle choices were being scrutinized because they were the ones carrying the baby.

It is good that dads will take on this added responsibility, and there are two sides to the coin. While dads will now share the blame for an unhealthy child (“He smoked his whole life before becoming a father and it messed up his sperm!”), they will also be able to share in the credit for a healthy child (“He has been a healthy eater his whole life and it got passed down to his hale and hearty children!”).

There is not much to say about the article other than that, but I was certainly expecting something different when I saw the headline, “Why Fathers Really Matter.” I expected a discussion of the social science research that details the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers play in their children’s lives; I wasn't expecting a science article. But that is because I am not “normal” – I have worked at NFI for 10 years so my expectations about the media’s discussion of fatherhood are probably different than 99.9% of the people on the planet.

Beyond that, I also noticed that the headline could be read in two ways, and I am not sure which one the writer meant. The skeptic in me read the word “really” in the headline this way: the ways that we usually talk about why fathers matter – that they play a unique and irreplaceable role in the upbringing of children -- aren’t the ways that really matter. The ways that really matter are solely in the purview of genetics – dads should be careful how they live because they can pass bad (or good) stuff onto their children.

But again, my 10 years at NFI have tainted me. The other more innocent way of reading the headline is this: fathers really matter and here is more evidence as to why they do.

So that I can sleep well tonight, I will assume that is what the headline means and dream about a world that is increasingly recognizing just how much kids need good, responsible dads.

I think that is a dream we can all share.

photo credit: bhav.bhav

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