This was post was originally written in Spring 2014.
Just before heading off to the Dad 2.0 Summit, I was asked to speak at Nest In The City. I was to be “the dad” on a program filled with women. I was charged with emceeing the Daddy Diaper Contest, and then taking a break and talking to Dads about my modern fatherhood experiences. These are the notes I worked from to give my presentation.
I don’t know why women continue to get pregnant. I mean I know why, it’s a natural, animal thing for us to do to reproduce. It’s what happens when we have sex, and we all like sex, so I know why women get pregnant, but I don’t know why they go through with it.
Childbirth is a Tarantino movie. There’s so much swearing, and blood, and screaming, only Quentin Tarantino could have devised the madness with which we are all brought into the world.
When my wife was giving birth to our first son, there was a nurse’s aid coaching her on. “Get mad! Get angry! You’re so angry!” as if that was a way to get her to push harder. This was on the second day of trying to give birth to our son, she was exhausted and frankly “get angry” was not the emotion she wanted to have on what was about to be one of the happiest days of our lives.
Eventually my son would be born, and then the night after while we were still at the hospital, my wife hemorrhaged. It wasn’t until hours later that my mom, a nurse, noticed and suggested one of the hospital nurses check on her. She received a transfusion, and pulled through. But it was close.
So when I say I don’t know why women get continue to get pregnant, I can’t understand why a women put themselves through all that, turn to a girlfriend and say “Wow, that was awesome, you should try it.”
That drama was after our first son. Of course we had a second.
You’re Doing It Wrong
I don’t want to scare you with these stories of childbirth and pregnancy, but they happen. They’re real, and you should worry about them. I went to a talk from Chris Hadfield a few weeks ago and all he talked about was how they plan for failure on the shuttle. They work through error after error after error before they launch. Just in case.
I think this is where first time parents learn their habits. That first time you have a child, you are so prepared. And yet at the same time you don’t have a clue. It’s like you’re a rookie astronaut. You have an idea of what to expect, you’ve planned for everything, but at the same time you have no idea about what is going to happen.
You walk out of the hospital and you’ll whisper to your wife, or husband, or partner. “They’re letting us leave with a baby. They’re crazy. We don’t know what we’re doing!”
So you worry and you plan and you’re careful. Everyone is shouting out advice to you from every corner and this is where it gets confusing. From breastfeeding technique, to childbirth plans, to how to swaddle a baby
Aside – did you see the news last week? They’re now telling us NOT to swaddle our babies. If you do it too loose it could cover their face, if you do it too tight they could overheat. We did baby burritos for our boys, they turned out fine.
And then if you put those white noise things in their rooms you could make them deaf because people turn them up too loud.
So you see where this is going. There are so many rights, even more wrongs, and everyone’s right is someone else’s wrong. No matter how much you plan, you’re going to be doing it wrong.
This Is Personal
Parenting is personal. It’s the most passionate you will ever be about anything in your life, because it is all about your kids. The moment they are born, you don’t matter. You will never again, for the rest of your life, be the most important person in the room.
I knew what I meant. My family knew what I meant. The world didn’t. Parenting is a competitive blood sport where your rules need to be everyone’s rules and we do so much projecting of circumstances that they call it The Mommy Wars.
As much as I want them to end, and for us to not have them, I understand why they happen. We love our kids, what we do is right. What you do is wrong. Full stop.
What is Dad 2.0
I just got back from the Dad 2.0 Summit, which was a conference for Dads and Dad Bloggers. Which was fun to tell the border security at the airport. Where are you going? I’m going to New Orleans for a conference. About what? Being a Dad! The looks were priceless.
But when I was there, I met men like I have never met in my life. Passionate men about fatherhood, changing media perception of Dads, and just being around other guys who got it and loved their kids.
Well, it was a conference of mostly Dad Bloggers, and brands. Some mommy bloggers and just Dads showed up. We sat in keynotes about blogging, how to do it better, how to create community, but it was mostly one of those kumbaya sort of things where a bunch of people who care passionately about a topic get together.
We did karaoke on Bourbon St, we rode bikes, went for runs, and we hugged and cried. And this is what it means to be a modern dad, I think. To not be afraid to be who you are, care about what you care about, and tell everyone.
It’s okay to be a stay at home dad.
It’s okay to be a gay dad.
It’s okay to love your kids, ditch the boys, and spend time with them.
It’s okay to put one baby in carrier, and do your daughter’s hair while bragging to your wife.
It’s okay to be a dad that knows how to do laundry, do the groceries and pitches in around the house.
Don’t get me wrong, women still rule the roost, as they do with every species – because sex – but when it comes to the actual day-to-day-to-day stuff around the house. Dads are equals.
Parenting Is A Team Sport
My friend Kenny Bodanis, and I call him my friend now but really I just met him at Dad 2.0, wrote a book called Men Get Pregnant Too, and that’s really what Dad 2.0 is about. That’s what being a modern dad is all about. Many many many men are standing up and saying, I’m a parent. I’m equal. I can do this.
I may do it differently than mom, but we can do diapers, we can hold babies, we can be parents.
It’s a tough thing to convince people about. I remember taking my infant son to a sing-a-long at the local library. The doors were jammed with strollers, and diaper bags, and when I got inside I was the only dad. And I didn’t know any of the words to any of the songs. And they were all looking at me like I didn’t belong.
This is one of those ones where Dads do it differently. It’s like the scene in 3 Men And A Baby. Ted Danson is reading Sports Illustrated to his daughter, but doing it in a sing songing voice. He’s reading to his kid, that’s important. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Berenstain Bears or a Sports Illustrated story, right?
It’s A Mad Men World
What’s happening for men right now is the same as what happened to women 50 years ago. We are trying to break through a ceiling and be treated equally.
When I sat in that sing a long class, I was like the only woman at a board room table with Don Draper and his friends at the other side. I don’t want to go Rosa Parks on it, but you get the kind of idea about how dads can feel like outsiders when we’re trying to be engaged parents.
Take your kids out on a weekday and you’ll get all sorts of condescending “you’re such a good dad,” type looks and comments from people as they secretly wonder why you’re not at work.
While only one in four working-age people now say a woman’s primary duty is to be a full-time caretaker for her family, new research finds that nearly one in two believe a man’s primary duty is to provide financially.
In other words, conventional wisdom says it’s okay for women to branch out into let’s call it ‘traditional male roles’, but people still resist men breaking into ‘traditional female roles.’
So this why we’re still called Mr. Mom. It’s that double edged sword of parenting is equal versus parenting is women’s work. The US Census got into a lot of trouble a few years back for basically declaring that what dads do is babysitting when women are out of the home, while women are considered parents when they stay home.
At Dad 2.0, Josh Levs gave a keynote about his struggle to try and get paternity leave. His wife could have it. If he adopted a baby, he could have it. But as a father he was not entitled to parental leave from his job at CNN. So he’s suing them. It’s so bizarre that if his friend had a baby, and he adopted it, he could have time off. His own child? No. It’s bizarre, but these are the kinds of things we’re talking about when we talk about trying to treat dads equally.
He ha a book coming out later this year, it’s called All In. You know that Sheryl Sandberg book encouraging women to Lean In to their careers and try to have it all, Josh’s book is going to be about parents who stretch out, like Stretch Armstrong and try to find ways to do it all and be respected for it. I’m looking forward to it.
Why I Started DadCAMP
4 years ago, I lost my job.
I had been a radio guy in Vancouver for 17 years and then it all evaporated. I had one son then, Zacharie. he was just 2.
After the initial shock over losing my gig, I took a few days to decompress and then I decided to embrace what was left of the summer and soak up the time with my son. we spent a lot of time riding the SkyTrain to the Vancouver airport to chase what he called machine beep beep.
I loved it. While a radio job is pretty freestyle in that I worked for a few hours on air, the rest of my prep time is whenever I want it to be, so I’ve been around my kids a lot.
But when I was “funemployed” as a friend called it, I didnt have the chain of a job calling my brain away from the time we spent together. I decided to embrace that late summer for a few weeks before I started to look for work again.
Zacharie was just grasping language, he was curious and I had the time to feed that curiosity. I really took an active role in his day to day learning and it was great.
In the fall of 2009 I got a brilliant idea. I’d heard a lot about mommy bloggers and the success that people like Dooce were having simply writing about their kids and I thought – hey I can do that.
Why look for a job when all i have to do is blog the stories of my daily adventures with my son and i could make half a million dollars a year. my wife could quit her job and do sales for my blog and we would be freestyling – just like Dooce.
so in the vain of the cupcake camps, demo camps and bar camps, I decided to start DadCAMP.
Just after I crafted it all up and launched, after I was ready to hang a shingle and beg all the marketers courting mommy bloggers to realize dads are people too, I saw the market was already saturated.
There were hundreds of daddy blogs out there. i was one in a crowd. There were hundreds of daddy blogs out there, there’s probably thousands now. And after having a bunch of playdates and after heading out to dad 2.0, i realized that these were my people. to be around other dads who love their kids and want to change the media message gave me a sense of belonging in the Dad 2.0 world.
So create community. A Facebook group, a blog, a twitter hashtag. Turn to the people sitting beside you today and build a network of people in a similar situation. The networking I’ve done with DadCAMP not only helps me build my blog as a business, but it’s helps me to be a better man / dad / husband.
It’s Hard, And That’s Okay
Parenting will be overwhelming. You’ve got it in you to do it. It’s a team sport. Pick a side and get involved with each other and children will be the most rewarding experience you’ve ever had.
There are no mom jobs, there are no dad jobs, there’s just parenting.
And you both can do it.
In the end, this is all worth it. Trust me.