Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Raising Boys To Become Gentle Men

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When I became a father I was full of excitement, joy and happiness. My wife and I felt well prepared as we had read dozens (it felt even more) of parenting books, we went to two antenatal courses, and we took every opportunity to sit on the sofa and chat about our baby. I hoped this would make me into one of those super-dads (because actually I was quite apprehensive about having a son and all that this might bring up, at first)!

From pre-baby time it was clear to us that we believe in attachment parenting, co-sleeping, feeding on demand and unconditional love. I always imagined me to be a gentle, relaxed and easy-going father. Today, seven years later, I can say that I have achieved some of that gentleness and peacefulness. But it was a long journey and I’m still on it.

When you believe mainstream media, it often seems harder for men to be a great parent. Too often dads are being pictured as the workaholic money machine with no or little interest in his offspring. Is that just a stereotype or a real problem?

When comparing figures, one can definitely see that more women care for their children full time or working in part time jobs to spend more time with their kids, than men. Not all fathers take time off work when their baby is born. There are various reasons for this I believe. One of the main reasons is the lack of positive male role models, taking on an active role within the family.

2014-07-09 16.16.44When I was a teenager I probably considered myself as a nice, friendly and gentle person. But, after a lot of reflecting, I now would say that I couldn’t communicate very well. I did hurt other people’s feelings and I sometimes was very mean as I couldn’t deal with my emotions and feelings. Why is that? I had never learnt to talk about them. Not to my father or another man. I had some very good female friends and it always seemed easier talking to them. I felt heard and listened to; they took me seriously. Still, something was missing.

The search for men who really can open up is not unusual for boys, young men and the older generations as well. I was lucky enough to meet one man (it’s always that one person who can change your life) who I met in my early twenties. He touched my soul and opened my heart. He let me cry and held me tight. For the first time I discovered some genuine, true closeness and real manhood. No games, no masks, no pretending. I could be myself.

From then on I could start my personal journey in becoming a better man, and yes, a better father. To me being better means more authentic, more empathic, more myself. To stop playing a role in order to find appreciation. To stop strengthening myself at the expenses of others. To be confident and clear, without upgrading my ego all the time.

Being masculine is all about hyper-competition, being super-hero-hard and strong. Men are labelled (and often it’s true) with exactly those attributes. And that’s the second key problem: our society. How can we expect gentle and empathic men when we already start treating boys as the stronger gender? Boys don’t cry, they are the emotionless super-heroes, they should “man up”, and certainly they should not play with girls (toys) or dollies. “Their” toys are action figures, fast cars, modern day heroes (fire fighters, police men), monsters, toy weapons and the like. The same stereotypes get applied to them when they turn into men: They are expected to have a lucrative and prestigious career. Men are strong leaders who will govern countries from behind their desks, go to war for our western ideologies, and they… well, they just save the planet. Right?

Yes, I know, in many ways things have changed. More and more men decide to put their families first, take longer paternity leave or even consider working part time to spend greater chunks of time with their families. (And obviously there are women now who are filling these traditional “male careers”). There is a shift in society, away from the ego-driven hard men to “new” men who believe in equality and mutual respect. But it’s still a very long way to go and a minority of men feel able to (or want to commit to) a more active role in family life.

happyWhen I stayed at home to look after our children for about two years, I painfully realised how alone I can feel. Don’t get me wrong. I made many female friends, mainly stay-at-home mums. I very much appreciated their company and I had a great time being at home with our kids. But I also longed for some other men and fathers; to share the experience and to see how they cope and feel. I also think it would do many men good to experience this role of full time carer (even if only for a few days a week); it certainly got me more connected to how I want to be and less focused on outside pressures.
Especially that time as a stay-at-home dad made me realise how important it is for me to give my sons a better start into the beauty and chaos of life. They don’t need a super-dad I pictured to be, but someone real, someone authentic, someone they can trust and talk to. A male person (or preferably a few) who loves them unconditionally – who has (lots of) time for them!

As a start I looked at the way I communicated with my sons: Am I really listening to them? Do I judge them? Are there any pre-conceived ideas I have about how they “ought” to be (because they are boys)? Will they feel respected and loved when I say x, y or z to them/are my actions communicating my love for them?

I also introduced an evening-check-in with my eldest son, who was 5 years old by then. When we are cuddled up in bed and have finished our night time story, we do a ‘check-in’. I normally start off by talking about my day, what I liked and disliked, things which made me happy or sad. I really try to name my feelings. Nothing needs to be covered. Equally important in our talks is being honest. Bloody honest. That includes to apologise. (That’s another thing many men struggle with. I can’t remember that my dad had ever apologised for anything.) I want my boys to see that I make mistakes. I mess up, I say things I don’t mean to say, I lose my patience, I’m unfair. That’s ok, as long as I do the aftermath: reconnecting and apologising. And, yes, kids are so great in forgiving.

The just-before-bedtime-talk is a win-win for my son and me. This way I learn about what’s going on inside him and he sees how I talk about emotions and feelings, that I take responsibility for them and reflect on my actions and words.

Start those talks asap. And carry on. Don’t stop when they turn teenagers. Especially then they need you and your open ear more than you might think.

world changer newI also notice how the culture we live in influences our sons. The other day on our walk through the local park, we watched a soccer match of 9-year-old boys. For many boys sport is an extremely important activity in their life (obviously same applies to girls). As we watched the game my boys and I observed those boys swear, shout, spit, push and make a fall look dramatically heroic (probably copying their professional counterparts). It left all three of us baffled by how much they seem to be putting on adult behaviour. It was difficult to explain why they were shouting so much and hurting each other, well it was nearly impossible. Equally, to make sense of parents on both sides shout and scream their heads off, in quite an aggressive manner. Sports are naturally good for physical health, but what about emotional health? What is it we are teaching boys here? What is competition, pressure, fear to fail doing to our children’s emotional development? One could argue it prepares them for the “hard” world out there, where being ambitious and competitive is valued highly. While I am all for having determination when you really want to achieve something, I believe getting to your aim without making others fail along the way, is preferable.

Don’t get me wrong, not all kinds of sports work like that, but definitely most competitive ones. The game, the joy, the fun and a good team spirit should guide our sons games. In fairness, whether they lose or win (does it always have to be one or the other?) I am confident there are teams out there, who are achieving this, we need more of them!

I want my sons to grow up to become gentle, empathic and kind men. Men who love and respect their partner and children. Men who treat other women, men and transgender with tolerance and kindness. Men who can listen and reflect before they speak. Men who are confident and strong without polishing their ego. Men who truly have something to give. As I am working on becoming one of those, I hope my children will copy and follow me into a more peaceful future.

Read further and get your copy of my book ‘The Empathic Father’

This article was originally published in The Natural Parent Magazine (June 2015)

Interested in more? Enjoy my Love-Letter video to my sons:
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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

How Staylistening Builds Family Connections

connected family

Today I would like to introduce to you Kate Orson. She is a Hand-in-Hand Parenting Instructor (love, love Hand-in-Hand and their philosophy) and will be publishing her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children this year.
I very much love Kate’s writing and I feel inspired by her suggestions and ideas. Here she shares a great post about how Staylistening can support strong family connections. – More links at the end of this post. Enjoy!

One evening when my daughter was 9 months old, my husband came home, and went over to say hello to her where she’d been happily playing on the floor. She burst into tears, and when my husband picked her up she reached out her arms for me.

I was surprised that she’d cried so suddenly. She wasn’t a newborn anymore. It seemed as if she’d been in the world long enough to understand this was her dad, that she was in a completely safe situation. I was right next to her on the playmat too! We had just spent a lovely, connected day together. Why did she suddenly need me so desperately?

Before I learnt about Hand in Hand parenting I would have taken her back in my arms to stop the crying. I would have automatically assumed that was the kindest, most naturally thing to do.

But now my perspective about crying has changed. I discovered that there are two reasons babies and children cry. The first reason is when they have a need, perhaps they are hungry, too cold, or are in pain. The second reason, is to heal and recover from an upset that has already happened.

In our busy, modern, society, it is sadly inevitable that all babies and toddlers will experience some degree of stress or upset. It could be from a difficult birth, medical intervention, or just the daily stimulation from getting used to being in the world.

Crying is a healing process, and there are actually stress hormones contained in tears. The psychologist Aletha Solter calls this the ‘Broken Cookie Phenomenon’ that often babies and toddlers will use a safe, everyday situation as a trigger to heal from

a bigger upset from the past. In these moments all we need to do is to listen and allow this natural healing process to happen.

We can see this phenomenon at work in our own lives. For example the other day I washed my favourite woollen dress on a normal cycle, and ended up shrinking it! I started crying, and quickly realised that the dress was just the trigger for a deeper upset. It was about the build-up of stress before christmas, my exhaustion from parenting, and my work responsibilities. Now the holidays were coming, I sensed the space to let go and relax, and release some feelings.

In that moment when my daughter started crying I knew that everything was fine in the present. My daughter loves her dad, and they have a great bond. So I didn’t pick her up. Instead I moved close to her, and reassured her that she was safe with her dad, that I was there too. He held her as she cried, and we both gave her lots of warm, loving attention. This is what Hand in Hand parenting calls ‘Staylistening,’ which means simply staying in the moment and listening to feelings without distracting or trying to stop them.

After a few minutes my daughter stopped crying. She smiled, started ‘talking’ and pointing things out around the room. She was completely at ease being held by her dad. We had dinner, and my daughter tried two foods she had never tried before, potatoes and cheese! This is often the case, that when we listen to our children’s deeper upsets, they can gain confidence in many unexpected ways.

Babies, and toddlers often choose little everyday moments to ‘work’ on their separation anxiety. They may suddenly have a desperate need to be with one parent. When our baby or toddler has a good relationship with both parents, and there is trust and safety there, then often, these moments, are simply a ‘broken cookie,’ a trigger for deeper feelings. If we listen, then these feelings no longer need to get in the way of our child having a joyful, connected relationship with both parents.

Separation anxiety often appears around bedtime. When my daughter was around 15 months old, she would sometimes start crying in the evening. For example if we were all hanging out in our bedroom, and then I needed to use the bathroom. By this age, I sensed she understood almost everything I said to her. I was pretty sure she understood when I told her I was just going to the bathroom and would be back in five minutes.

I could of tried the quick-fix approach and just dashed off to the bathroom leaving her crying. Or I could of taken her with me to stop the tears. But I knew this wouldn’t help her with her underlying fear about me leaving.

For a few nights my husband and I decided to staylisten during these moments. I would gradually try to leave, and would hold my daughter in my arms, listening to her feelings, slowly waiting until she was happy to be left with her dad. Often after having a big cry about separation she would suddenly flip into laughter, crawling from one parent to the other, as I playfully tried to put her back with her dad.

Then when I told her I needed to use the bathroom she would happily let me go, as if she had forgotten that she’d ever been upset about it. Afterwards she would be in a really happy mood, playing and laughing and enjoying the company of both of us. She had got through all the separation fear, and come out of the other side.

Staylistening has helped my daughter to be happy to be put to bed by her dad or to spend time with him while I work during the evenings and weekends. I can leave guilt free, knowing there’s no feelings of upset hiding beneath the surface. Most times I need to leave her, she’ll give me a big hug, and a smile. We’ve given her the space to be heard.

katephotoKate Orson is a writer, and Hand in Hand parenting instructor. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland with her husband the author Toni Davidson, and their 4 year old daughter. Her book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children, is now available to pre-order here  https://www.waterstones.com/book/tears-heal/kate-orson/9780349410104

You can follow her on facebook here https://www.facebook.com/ParentingByConnectionWithKateOrson/

 


 

 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

How To Create A Straightforward Approach To Losing Your Angry Dad Voice

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I very much enjoy reaching out ot other (dads’) blogs, parenting websites, and parenting coaches. Today I would like to introduce to you Ian Hawkins. Ian is a coach and teacher from Australia, and he supports “…Dads to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best.” Here’s a post by Ian with an intersting take on how you can lose your ‘angry dad voice’. More links and info at the end of his guest post. Enjoy!

A few years ago I had reached a point in my life where I was not happy with where I was at. I was always feeling tired and frustrated, and I was bringing this frustration home to my wife and kids.  Not only was I impatient but when I snapped it was often with an aggressive tone which no matter how soft, felt like yelling to my kids. Even when I was trying very hard to talk quietly, they told me to stop yelling. My angry voice was more than just my voice. It was my body language, it was the look on my face and even though I was trying to talk quietly and calmly there was an edge to my voice that was not sounding kind or loving to my kids. I no longer wanted to see the sadness and pain in my child’s eyes and face after I had overreacted with my angry voice.

And I see the same thing from other Dad’s every day, in the street, on the train, at the shops and particularly at children’s sports. They have unrealistic expectations of their children and have lost focus of what’s really important in their relationship, having that loving connection that your child craves and that you crave. Your angry voice has a negative impact on the happiness and wellbeing of your child and can damage your relationship with them. Should you continue this way as your children grow older, you will end up fighting more and more and worse still, they may end up with a similar issue with anger as they grow up.

Here’s what I have learned. There is another way. By making some changes in your life and by changing the way you approach situations with your children, you do have the power to be able to stay calm and speak in a loving and kind way to your children every single time.

If you get this right you will develop a calm that allows you to speak to your children with a smile and a kind voice, even after the most challenging day of work or play. Your children will love your new approach and be more likely to respond to your requests. Your children will model your behaviour and develop the ability to stay calm and speak in a softer voice as well. As time goes on this calm response and kind voice will become a natural response that comes out with little to no effort and as your children get used to your new approach, you will be pleasantly surprised at the massive improvement in your relationship with your children and overall happiness in your household. 

As with anything that you want to achieve in your life, the best way to reach that goal is to have a plan. It can be very challenging to change a habit and I believe the best way is to have a process to follow so that you know exactly what to do every single time. This process will be specific to you personally so you will need to create one for yourself. The good news is, right now I am going to give you the framework to do just that. Create your own process using my steps below as a guide:

1. Deep breaths.

The first step in your process should always be to pause and take 3-5 deep breaths right into your belly. Step away from the situation for a minute if that helps too. You may need to intervene if there is the potential for something to get broken or someone to get hurt, but most of the time you will be able to take 10-60 seconds to calm yourself first. Also as I have mentioned in previous blogs, deep breathing helps you reduce stress and can immediately stop your natural “fight-or-flight” response. You will be less likely to react with frustration and more likely to stay calm.

2. Be the observer. 

Also in this 10-60 seconds and after you have taken some deep breaths and stepped away physically, mentally step away as well. Be the observer for a second and look at the situation from the outside, as if you were looking on at someone else in the same situation. That is, take the emotion out of it. If you had to suggest the best solution for this situation to yourself, would it involve you using an angry voice, or staying calm and connecting with your child? And further still, is what your child is doing really a problem at all? They are only kids – are they just testing the boundaries or have they made a small mistake or are they just looking for attention?

3. Positive emotion. 

Next look for a positive emotion in your child. You are far more likely to get the result that you want when your action triggers a positive emotion in the other person. This is your child so this will be something unique to you. For example, you could smile and say something that will bring out that positive emotion or even laughter from your child.

4. Aim for connection not aggression.

Think about the type of people you are most likely to do something for. The ones who talk rudely to you?  Yell at you? Or the people who are really nice and speak in a calm and non-threatening way? Instead of towering over your child with an aggressive or grumpy tone, crouch down to their level and speak how you would like to be spoken to by someone you love.

5. Empathise with your child. If they have made a mistake, done something they shouldn’t have or are just plain upset, it is not a time to punish or speak aggressively. Empathise with them so they feel understood. “I understand” is a great way do to that. Tell them that you understand whatever they are going through. For example – “I know you don’t want to stop playing now and you don’t want to go in the shower” OR “I realise you are feeling upset”. And do so with clear boundaries. “I see that you don’t want to go to bed yet. I can also see that you are looking tired, it is your bedtime and you need to get a good night sleep so you are full of energy tomorrow.”

As I mentioned, use these 5 steps as a framework to create your own process to follow. You know your child better than anyone else so create a plan that works for you and for them. Go into as much detail as you need, but not so complicated that you won’t be able to follow the steps in a real life situation. Write it down and don’t be afraid to refer to it as required until you change the habit or are at least until you are comfortable you have committed your process to memory. Good luck, be patient with yourself and remember…..

”Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”Robin Sharma

 

ian hawkinsRead, what Ian says about himself: “I have a passion for personal growth and inspiring others to reach their full potential. With a background as a trained teacher, years of leadership as a sportsperson and coach and over 10 years as a manager at Fox Sports Australia, I have a unique ability to bring out the best in others. After my own growth through the last 5 years of personal development, I decided I wanted to help other Dad’s to rediscover their passion and to inspire their own children to be their best. I pride myself in helping Dads through their transformation into high energy, calm, patient, loving and very happy individuals.”

Connect: http://www.inspireddads.com
http://www.facebook.com/InspiredDads
http://www.twitter.com/InspiredDads

Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Say More YES! To Your Children

Yes

‘Papa, can I pitch up the tent in the garden?’, ‘Can you read me a book?’, ‘Please, I want to stay up a little longer tonight, just five more minutes.’, ‘Is there really chocolate ice cream in the freezer?!?’

I get those and probably a few dozen more (or maybe hundreds?) questions a day from my children. And not only me. All parents, I believe. The crucial point comes now: What do you answer? What do I answer? Sigh. I confess, I too often reply with an excuse like ‘Eeehm, maybe later’, or ‘Let me think about that’ (and not really thinking about it at all), or with a simple and straight forward NO! Full stop.

Often enough my NO will evoke disappointment, sadness or frustration in my kids. Yes, they might understand why they can’t have the ice cream right now, but why on earth is Papa not wanting to have a spontaneous campsite in the garden or isn’t in the mood for the favourite book?

The NO-word is easy to say. I’m the powerful parent and can decide and if I’m busy, tired, annoyed, stressed or simply not bothered many projects end up being dismissed before they even have a chance to take off.

Please, don’t get me wrong. There are very obvious and no-discussion-moments when you and I have to say ‘no’ to our children, to avoid danger and to simply protect them. Hey, that’s why we’re the parent and adult. And sure, children are more content, relaxed and co-operative when they know about clear and understandable boundaries.

No, here and now I’m talking about all those moments where I fired my NO without really thinking or reflecting. Sometimes just for the sake of my own peace and convenience. To get that moment of quiet or to enjoy the one little minute longer being on the sofa. And yes, that’s fine, too. We parents need to keep our sanity. But that doesn’t mean to use a NO as our power tool, or even worse, not take serious those things our children want to do.

We can make that change quite quickly and it doesn’t take too much effort. I started by taking my children’s requests for x, y and z more serious. When they asked me for something like ‘Can you play shop with me?’ and I just felt no desire at all in that moment, I decided this: give them the YES and just play for a few minutes. Honestly, a quick shopping trip to your child’s grocery doesn’t take longer than 3 to 5 minutes. I also asked my other son to join me and he went shopping as well. After a few moments they both were very busy with playing shop, so I could sneak out… I did my ‘duty’, gave a positive response by saying YES (even if I didn’t feel like it), but at the same time benefitted from it as both my sons were engaged in a game they liked and I could go back to – doing nothing.

(By the way, I prefer an honest NO (sometimes inevitable, I think) to ‘in a minute’, at least the child is not kept in the air and waiting. They know what to expect and continue in their game/do something else.)

Another way to show a more positive attitude is something psychologist Oliver James calls “Love Bombing”.

It could work like this: Spend this Saturday with the motto ‘Let the children decide!’ Yes, everything: from when they want to get up in the morning (hey, they might choose to stay in bed until lunchtime, so you have the morning to yourself), then the activities they chose for the daytime, their favourite food, to the point they decide it’s bedtime (agreed, it could be late!).

Oliver James says “I developed Love Bombing to reset the emotional thermostats of children aged from 3 to puberty. It gives your child a very intense, condensed experience of feeling completely loved and completely in control”. He advises to have a go at Love Bombing for a day or two or even a shorter period, followed by daily half hour slots devoted to it. He states that parents report a closer connection to their child and that Love Bombing balances the child’s behaviour and personality (read more about it here).

Of course you would have to negotiate. If your offspring ask for a super expensive day out (yeah, let’s go shopping and then to the fun park and then to the cinema and then to the zoo…), let’s calm them down a bit. Having a fun day, doesn’t mean you have to go bankrupt. We often spend an afternoon doing crafts with our children. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Try to see the day through your children’s eyes. They will love it – and you too!

Do you know the saying: When the children are happy, then the parents are happy too? I think that’s right!

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Why We Need Equal Support For Active Fathers

When I became a full time dad to my young sons, I felt very lucky. I was looking forward to doing this job, despite knowing how tired and exhausted my wife had often been when she was the main carer. I thrust myself into great outings, craft activities, even baking with my cake enthusiastic boys. I would say spending the last one and half years as a full time dad has been extremely rewarding and the changes I and others can see in me are only of a positive nature. However, there were times where I did ask myself whether I just had to live with the fact that my “colleagues” were now, almost exclusively women. Don’t get me wrong, I have made many wonderful female friends, but I also did miss male company here and there, especially being able to share my experiences with someone who was in the same boat.

file0001508134616Gideon Burrows, author of Men can do it too argues: “Today, to be a good dad should mean doing a fairer share of the baby work. Not just the high-profile nappy changes and the bedtime story reading, but an equal share of the slog and the career sacrifice mothers put up with.” The changes in UK paternity leave in 2011 were not met by a huge upheaval and change. Less than 1% of fathers take advantage of additional paternity leave of up to a total of 26 weeks. Reasons for this are complex. Some argue, they simply can’t afford to, others suggest they don’t want to opt out of the role of the man as the main breadwinner or because they are afraid their career might suffer, having lasting effects on their family’s financial situation. I know it is possible for many to reorganise their life to fit a family friendly career, although I do recognise this does require some support. New legislation provides that from April 2015 men and women can share parental leave in the first 12 months of their baby’s life, wanting to make it easier for new dads to take the time off.

I know there are other reasons fathers don’t take up the main care role. When talking to fathers as a coach or in my support workshops, I am confronted with fathers dismayed at how they feel treated by society as an at-home dad. We are doing ourselves a disservice – men, as well as women. The more men seen as full time carers, the more normal this would be and then fewer women would have to fight against the glass ceiling.

Our society is still very much expecting women to stay at home and regard men out and about with their children on a weekday as a novelty or worse as “cute”. Some just look at them with a mixture of pity and suspicion when dealing with the daily toddler struggles in a public domain or entering a playgroup. Yes, who would want this to happen to them? The more confident of men don’t blink an eyelid, while others just feel completely out of their comfort zone.

My wife struggled with suddenly being a mum; she went through a bout of postnatal depression and anxiety. However, there was support for her. She went to those lifesaving baby groups, where mums can sit and chat and by doing that offer the kind of counselling that is hard to come by – someone exactly in the same situation, struggling with the same issues, available regularly and at no cost. There is other support through the NHS, the La Leche League, the NCT etc. And this is brilliant, it’s a support cushion for a very demanding and extraordinary time in each woman’s life.

Equal parenting is the buzz word. No one would argue that the bond between father and child isn’t greatly enhanced by the father spending more time with his son or daughter. And by being more active around the house those household chores that seemed to have doubled since the birth, are more manageable when equally shared. But wait. What about the man’s new role? Is that just magically happening without any support necessary? It’s not exactly the same for men to go to these baby groups and feel the kind of support that women get. And yes, men suffer from postnatal depression too. However, professionals in this field are mostly women which is discomforting for some men.

Where is the emotional support in that big life changing time of a man? Suddenly it is not all so surprising that less men have the guts to commit themselves to caring for their children full time or at least equally share childcare. Where do men get the tools to become a brilliant father? Many men I talk to simply know they definitely don’t want to be like their own father. But how are they going to parent? Without a male role model to guide them, this isn’t such a comfortable place to be.

If we, as a whole society, want fathers to take an active role in raising their children, then we need to support them on their journey. Right now.

This article has been originally published by me in JUNO magazine, No 38, Winter issue 2014

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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

Father Nation: A New Global Library Of Dad Interviews

Father Nation – that’s a big name for a big project. And, yes, Jesse Foster – founder of FatherNation.Com, is ambitious. He wants to create the most extensive library of dad interviews available online. Jesse has started to interview dozens and dozens of fathers from all over the world to present their views and thoughts in his podcast.

I think FatherNation.Com is an awesome idea and I personally have listened to many stories from dads who share their ideas, resources, dreams and tips on how to become a better father. It is amazing how much Jesse has already achieved, given the short time in which his project went online and on air.

I talked to Jesse, who is from Colorado, a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed chatting to him. So, I wanted to find out more about him and his great project. Here is a little interview I did with the guy who normally asks the questions:

FatherNation Banner

Torsten: FatherNation.Com sounds big. What is FatherNation and who is your audience?
Jesse Foster: Father Nation does sound a bit big, but I wanted a name that would encompass dads from a variety of different backgrounds. There are dads out there from Iceland with twin two-year old boys and other dads from the US with teenage daughters, but no matter what stage a dad is in and where he lives, we all are in a sense one nation because we can all relate to each other being fathers. Father Nation is for any dad out there who wants to hear about the experience of other dads and gain wisdom in talking about fatherhood.

How did you develop the idea around FatherNation and where did you start?
I developed the idea after my wife was pregnant with our second. I realised that being a dad was one of my most important “jobs” in life and i myself desired to connect with more dads and become a better father. I started basically researching more about podcasting, and over the course of several months the ideas in my head morphed into what it is today.

Do you have a long-term goal for your project?
I would like Father Nation to be the most extensive library of dad interviews available online.

How many dads have you talked to already and where do you find more dads who come on your show?
I’ve interviewed about 40, and I mainly find them online doing various google searches. It takes usually 5 emails to get 1 response, so I’ve probably sent over 200 requests out to various websites/emails

Who is Jesse Foster? Please tell me a little about you.
Jesse FosterI’m 34 with two children, my son is 2 and my daughter is not even 2 months yet. I’ve been married almost 4 years. I’ve taught English overseas and I love sports, but once I had my first child I became more interested in parenting, obviously. I went to the University of Colorado and majored in Philosophy.

What were, so far, the three most inspirational moments when talking with fathers?
I really enjoyed hearing Ted DiBiase say, “Children don’t always do what you say, but they always do what they see you do” because I’ve found that to be so true so far in my parenting experience. I liked hearing about Tim Olsen remind us that no matter what background you come from and your past, you can become a better dad today. And I enjoyed Devon Bandison tell about taking his son to the NBA draft and that it’s not always what you do together, but just about being together.

Where would you like to see FatherNation in five years’ time?
Wow, in 5 years I haven’t even thought too much about 1 year to be honest, I’m trying to focus on one day at a time and my main goal so far is just to do many interviews for the launch and the first 3 months, after that see how it goes. In 5 years I hope it is a success, I may cut back on the amount of interviews over time but we’ll see, I hope it’s a place where dads can come to hear about the experience of other dads, and a place where dads can find information and resources.

What do you enjoy about fatherhood?
It’s difficult to choose just one thing or two, but I really enjoy just speaking to my son now (he’s only 2) and watching him learn and grow. I haven’t met him, but a man named Michael Pearl has a motto, “No greater joy” because being a father should be a joy, and for me mostly it is.

Anything else you would like to share?
For me, as a Christian, I want to share with my son my values, but I know that sharing is usually not enough, you have to live and practice what you value in order for it to have an impact. I think the same is true for fatherhood, I feel like in starting Father Nation I have put more responsibility on myself to be a better dad, but I think we all know that being a father is a big responsibility no matter what we do. I’d just say focus on becoming a better dad, because I think we all can improve in some ways, and if you are getting better, then at least you are going in the right direction!

Thank you, Jesse, and good luck with FatherNation.Com!

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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Sex And Parenting: Can The Two Of Them Get It On?

AnthonyIn my series about inspirational fathers, I would like to introduce to you Anthony Eldrigde-Rogers. Anthony lives with his partner and their three unschooled children in Italy and he’s interested in many, many exiting things: He has been involved in photography, film making, commercials production, pop videos, producing, directing….marketing PR, environmental projects….writing screenplays…then there was farming fruit and having a restaurant…to name but a few. He has always been interested in people, how people live and make sense of their lives. Now Anthony is working as a Recovery and Wellness Coach…. he trains coaches, and is writing a book (soon to be published), plus various plants for retreats and… you see, the list is long!

I so much love Anthony and his family’s blog which you can find here: www.unschoolingthekids.com

Now, I invite you to read Anthony’s post on sex and parenting and on how creative you can be to find the time for both. Enjoy!

Sex And Parenting: Can The Two Of Them Get It On?

First off a quick warning. I am going to mention s*x in this blog…..you have been warned.

Homeschooling, unschooling, home education. Whatever we call it usually means that children are around a lot. From dawn to dusk. I love it and so does my partner but…….it raises a challenge for the intimate part of our relationship. Before we had children….yes I can remember it well, we had freedom.

You know, get up late, stay in bed all day. Walk around naked all though the house and generally enjoy an open sensuous life.

We don’t do that anymore but not all has been lost. Now, apart from the intense adjustment that twins bring, having a baby is well a game changer. Post birth, about 12 month in and post breast feeding and before the next one came along there was a brief period where things slightly adjusted. But of course it has never been the same again.

I remember when they were all babies and we talked about schooling. Lurking in the back of my mind was the idea that when school started we might have the chance to kick back for a couple hours a day from time to time (us being self employed and all that) and revisit pre baby adult life.

That did work a bit until we stopped sending the kids to school! Then it collapsed.

But it matters. I believe that the adult carers, usually parents or a couple in an intimate relationship, should be the prime focus of family life as this is in the best interest of the children. Mum and Dad happy and singing off the same (ok, similar) hymn sheet means more harmony, balance and good feeling. Equals better for les enfants terrible.

If the wellbeing of the primary relationship is based in part on intimacy, sensuous engagement and good old in the sack lust then it needs to be kindled and kept burning in the grate of desire.
heart

In our house the windows of opportunity are slim and often ill timed. Sure we can get cracking on these things after the kids are asleep but in reality by 10pm I and my beloved are often basket cases. Can hardly string a word to a word to a word. And we long ago learnt to never, ever ever try to have a serious emotional conversation about anything important that we might disagree about after 4.00pm. Disaster. All the gremlins come out for a party.

So that leaves when? Er, early morning? Well our son has been getting up before us for several years now and even if we could set a ‘love’ alarm early enough can we get past the anxiety that he will get up a bit earlier and find us rolling around? So we lock the door right? True but you cannot put a lock on your psyche so a mere knock at the door might come at any time and he might have been standing there for a few minutes before hand!

And this is assuming we got past needing a coffee first thing (yup, I confess I have a major coffee habit first thing. And I know I am a wellness coach so should be on it and I am really). And then what about actually summoning up the actual desire? That can take a while. I am not a robot you know. Can’t just flick a switch and game on!

So late at night is a challenge and so is early am. That leaves the day. When the kids are around all day more or less. And as the girls schedule is different to our sons then only occasionally are they both out. It seems like once a decade.

We resorted some time ago to using hotels. When we just couldn’t find the space at home we would find a babysitter and go to a hotel. Not for the night necessarily. Sometimes we ended driving home at 12pm to relieve said baby sitter.

BED PICThose trips were and are gorgeous. Not only do we get the chance to slow down and chill and just have a bit of quiet but we get to have a conversation for as long as we want without getting interrupted! Yay! That’s adult gold.

So we plan more of them.

We work at it. We have to. Oxytocin rules. Intimacy makes for positive hormones which makes for closeness and good feeling. We adults need this as part of our natural health. We meet parents from time to time who seem to wear the “Oh we have never had a night alone in 12 years since the kids came” badge of honour. Usually, if we share that we do hotels they look righteously envious and irritated with us all at the same time.

But there is a deeper point here I want to end on.

Children learn by watching and sensing what adults actually do and they are masters of intuition. You can’t bullshit them. They glean and code how relationships work from the ones they see. If they see adults making time for each other. Committing to that, smiling, hand holding, being intimate. Looking like you do when you have had a heavenly hour or two just lying in bed and around with your lover. They feel it and know it for what it is. Love between two people in a relationship. If they don’t get it from us where will they get it from? A book? Er um well our son can’t read quite yet. Anyway you can’t read it into your life.

As I grew up I never realised until I was about 12 that adults actually touched each other affectionately. I was astounded! It made my adult to adult explorations rather difficult as it felt weird for a few years. Now I am affection nut. You name it I will hug it. I sometimes kiss things around the house ( to amuse the kids ) but actually quite enjoy it.

So intimacy requited matters. It binds and bonds and shows all without words but with behaviours and actions.

Anthony Eldridge-Rogers is a Recovery to Wellness Coach

He writes for www.unschoolingthekids.com as well as www.recoveryandwellnessblog.com