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

sign


 

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!

Follow on twitter: @Father_Nation and Facebook


 

Society

Great Dads Respect Girls And Women

The international UN campaign End Violence Against Girls and Women  started on 25th November. Across the world and the UK events and actions took place to raise awareness and to stand up against violence. The statistics are still shocking: In England and Wales two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner each week. This needs to stop. Now.
I strongly supported the UN and local campaigns by posting, talking, joining charity walks and running events.

Join me in sending this message to all men, women, girls and boys: I will NEVER tolerate any kind of violence or abuse against women and girls. All violence must stop. Now.

Photo: Yesterday marked the International Day to End Violence Against Girls and Women! Across the UK there will be events and actions for the next two weeks to raise awareness and to stand up. Join me in sending this message: I will NEVER tolerate any kind of violence or abuse against women and girls. All violence must stop. Now. Share and watch this space for more...
I talked about the campaign and my work on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Listen to the interview HERE
I also teamed up with Phil Pryer from the LadsanDadsClub.com to show that Great Dads Respect Girls and Women!

Great Dads - LadsanDads and DadsTalk

Thank you to everyone who supported the campaign and to all who work every day towards our goal: no violence – great respect!

sign


 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Discovering Yourself as a Father of Twins

Every time when my wife and I found out that we’re pregnant, I thought about hundreds of different things. Things like: Are we gonna be alright? Am I ready for it? How will the older child respond to the news? How will life change? And so on. But to be quite honest, I never thought about the possibility, that actually two little babies could come into our life. I personally know very few families with twins and somehow it didn’t occur to me that twins could happen to us.

That’s why I find it very fascinating to shed more light on parents, and especially fathers, of twins. I’m glad to introduce you to Joe Rawlinson, who is a father of twins, an author and he also runs the website dadsguidetotwins.com (with awesome podcasts!).

So, sit back and enjoy reading Joe’s story:

Discovering Yourself as a Father of Twins

joe 1It was supposed to be just a normal visit to the doctor. We had found out that my wife was pregnant. This would be our third child.

As was protocol after a positive pregnancy test, my wife scheduled a visit with her doctor. I had gone with her before to these visits for each of our previous pregnancies.

This time is was Christmas Eve and we had two very active toddler boys. I offered to watch the boys while my wife went to her doctor visit.

I drove around in the van with our sons while my wife met with the doctor.

She called me when she was done to let me know the appointment went well. She shared the good news that they had actually done an ultrasound and saw healthy heartbeats.

I was excited that the visit went well but then paused and asked: “Did you say heartbeats? Plural?”

“Yes, we’re having twins!” was her immediate reply.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was shocked. I was in disbelief. I couldn’t process this information. It was so unexpected that I couldn’t fathom it in the realm of possibilities.

I told her I was on my way and hung up the phone.

That night I had a hard time sleeping. My wife did too. The news of twins isn’t something that is conducive to a good night’s rest.

It took a while for the shock to wear off. The mental shock also lead to physical ailments like insomnia, and loss of appetite.

To help recover from the shock and actually do something about our pending twin arrival, my wife and I focused on what we could control.

We started making preparations around the home. We started recruiting others to come and help once the twins arrived.

Little by little we got ready. It is amazing how much comfort you can take in being prepared.

As an Eagle Scout I clearly remember the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. And so it was with us. We got as much ready as we could.

The twin pregnancy was more challenging than that of our two previous deliveries. My wife was on modified bed rest towards the later stages of the pregnancy. This required that we get creative with our daily schedules.

I adjusted my work schedule. We recruited a babysitter to come help with our two boys so Mom could rest.

Little did I know that the challenges of the end of the pregnancy were really practice for the work that was ahead of us.

Frankly, each of our boy’s infant months and required care were relatively easy on me as the Dad.

Yes, I helped the best I could during the day and night. However, since my wife was breastfeeding, my ability to help during the night was limited.

That pattern of parenting all changed with the birth of our identical twin girls. With twins, it is all hands on deck. No one rests. Everyone (at least all the adults) turn into sleep-deprived zombies.

As most twins do, our girls arrived early. 40 weeks is full term for a singleton baby but twins rarely go that far. At 36 weeks our baby girls arrived via a c-section.

We were blessed that our girls were born healthy and didn’t require any time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This meant that Mom and our babies came home from the hospital and we were off on our twin journey.

The first year with twins can only be compared to a foggy hazy blur. Sleep deprivation hung over us like a persistent cloudy day.

I took joy in the little moments with my girls. Often these were one on one during the nighttime feedings.

However, the physical and mental burden of caring for infant twins and still working a day job combined to wear me down.

Good friends of our told us that the first year was crazy. They told us it would be harder than we could imagine.

They were right.

joe 2Despite the intensity of the first several months, we made progress with each passing week with our twins.

They sleep for longer stretches during the night. We figured out their quirks. We learned what worked and abandoned what didn’t.

By the end of the first year, we were in a pretty good pattern.

Looking back on our experience, I realized that there just wasn’t a lot of good information out there for fathers of twins.

So I started to chronicle what I had learned on dadsguidetotwins.com and ultimately wrote a book, the “Dad’s Guide to Twins”, for dads to help them survive the twin pregnancy and prepare for their twins.

Our girls are 6 now and we have moved past the mere survival mode of infant twins. Now, we really have to do our best as parents. Instead of just worrying about feedings, diapers, and sleep, we really have to focus on raising good kids.

As our twins get older, the challenges are different. But there is still great joy in the journey of being a father of twins. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

About Joe Rawlinson:

Joe Rawlinson is the author of the “Dad’s Guide to Twins” and shares tips and tricks for having and raising twins via his dadsguidetotwins.com site and podcast. He also recently founded the Twin T-Shirt Company.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Equal Parenting = Happy Parenting

familyI think to achieve a harmonious home life both partners need to be involved and active in parenting. But the truth is, that in most families either both parents work full time or one does while the other stays at home with the kids. I believe this is not a healthy situation in the long term. Even though both might love what they do, they get too much of one world and not enough of the other.

Yes, it’s a privilege and wonderful being able to spend the days with the kids as well as going out to work (as long as you like what you’re doing). But I find humans are not made for JUST one or the other. There are so many passions, wishes, dreams inside us. So many different things we can and want to do, that just choosing one path makes most of us dissatisfied.

When I am at home with the kids I love playing with them, have the freedom of spending my day as I wish, and they wish, do crafty, outdoorsy things together and have fun. BUT as soon as I do it for the third day in a row I catch myself wishing I had some more time for myself, pursuing things that are difficult to do with the kids in tow. Or just having some space for myself (hey, go to the toilet without being disrupted)!

But equally, when I spend days at work, I love being able to get things done uninterrupted, to be challenged intellectually and spend time with adults. BUT after a few days I miss being with the kids.

It’s a lose-lose situation for both partners. I think many parents want to escape these static roles and realise that we just don’t fit in only one role.

So how can you organise life in a way that you get the good of both worlds without having to move into a caravan and live in the woods? (Although that might actually be a great adventure!)

I think first of all it’s good to reflect on what you need and want. You only have this one life (yes, really! Well, reincarnation might exist, but who knows you might be an ant in your next life…). So, what is it that you need to do, that you have to do? What did you love to do when you were 9 years old?

Once, you have an idea, make sure you include that in your life! Make time, work less, share responsibilities equally. There are many different models out there, finding the right one is not easy, but definitely do-able. It takes courage and it’s scary to go for change, but it’s worth it, always. Only when you are happy in yourself and content with your life, can you also fully be present with your partner and your children, and this is the most important “thing”, don’t you think?

Tell me what you think and whether you have come up with ideas of how to parent more equally!

sign


 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Dads Talk on BBC Radio Gloucestershire

chris baxter and torsten klaus

What an awesome afternoon I had: On Tuesday, 15th July, I met with Chris Baxter from BBC Radio Gloucestershire in sunny Stroud.

We talked about dads, my work for and with fathers, football, Germany and – of course – the campaign ‘Awesome Workshops for Awesome Dads’. It was so nice to chat with Chris. The interview went live in his show next morning.

You can listen to it via the BBCAudioPlayer until Tuesday, 22nd July: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0222c5b
(starts at 01:08:39)

A BIG THANK YOU to Chris, the BBC-Team and all the great people who support my campaign!

Now, you can listen to the interview (and see some photos) on YouTube!

sign

Society

Crowdfunding for Awesome Workshops for Awesome Dads

indigogo post pic

So, time for the serious stuff. This September I’m planning to offer ‘Awesome Workshops for Awesome Dads’ in the South West of England. I’d love to offer these workshops for free (especially to fathers on a low or no income) and to get this started, I’ll need some help. My goal is to crowdfund £500.

The campaign is a all-or-nothing crowdfunding powered by indiegogo. If we reach £500 or more, Dads Talk Community gets the funding – if it’s less, the project will get nothing.

Please take a moment to check it out on indiegogo and I also would appreciate if you share it with as many people as possible. If enough of us get behind it, we can make ‘Awesome Workshops for Awesome Dads – Dads Talk Community’ happen and I can start delivering the workshops from September this year! How awesome would that be?

All information about my campaign, the goal and some nice things YOU could back when donating, click here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/840563/emal

(The goal is £500, so, basically it needs 100 people who are willing to give a Fiver. Not impossible, isn’t it?!)

Thank you and best wishes,
sign