A wonderful letter to Dads, by our CMO Herb Jones.
We all have roles. I know I have many of them — CMO, dad, husband, friend, etc. When I first met with the co-founders at Fracture and we talked about me joining the team, I made one thing abundantly clear: I’m first and foremost a father to four amazing little girls. I explained that everyday from 5:30-8:30pm was “daddy time” and if they could work around that, then we’d have a deal.
Now, almost two years later, Fracture’s grown almost as fast as my little girls but one thing has remained constant: Daddy Time. And man has it been worth it from a father/child relationship perspective — and for my own personal satisfaction. My hope is that somewhere in this post is a small nugget of wisdom that helps you succeed at one of your most challenging and important roles: the role of Father.
Be present (put the phone down).
My oldest daughter is absolutely wonderful. She’s precocious, fun, and uplifting. Once as I walked through the door after a rough day at work, she greeted me with a big hug and a warm smile. Unfortunately, my mind was still at work — buried in various projects, client meetings, and of course my growing task list. That’s when she gave me a big kiss and made one simple, but unforgettable, request:
“Daddy, will you come play with me in my room but NOT bring your phone?”
Wow! My sweet little girl hit me with a gut punch and it hurt. It hurt bad. I realized even though I spent time with her, rarely was it quality time — from her perspective. I was spending time with her and some other distraction — something else that was so important, that I had to take it everywhere. And sometimes when she needed my undivided attention, I was busy staring at a screen instead. I cringe when I think how I made her feel and what kind of example I was setting for her.
I vowed at that moment to be present. To give her my undivided attention and to unplug. Was it easy at first? No way! But she gave me all the motivation I needed — and I hope this gives you the motivation to overcome the connectivity addiction and give your little ones your best.
Put Mom first.
One thing is clear in our household: Mommy comes first. By making this clear, I accomplish two important goals:
- It ensures that regardless of the speed at which life is moving, my wife feels special. Working for a startup is time-intensive, as is being a father of four. It’s easy to let the rip-currents of life sweep you and your spouse out to sea and in opposite directions. By prioritizing date nights, getaways, and special moments in between with my wife I help ensure that we not only survive, but thrive.
- It plays an important role in helping young girls understand how a man should treat a woman. I’m a firm believer that actions teach louder than words. By prioritizing quality time, acts of service, and romantic gestures, I am influencing their paradigm of what a healthy relationship looks like. Sons need this example as well — how else are they going to know how to treat that special someone when they meet them?
I’ll never forget the Saturday afternoon when I absolutely lost control and yelled at my girls for spilling something in our pantry. At the time, I was stressed about something completely different and overreacted. They didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that. After taking a walk, I asked all four of them to sit down on the couch. I then proceeded to apologize and ask them for forgiveness. They were in shock. They weren’t expecting to hear that.
By letting down your guard and showing them that you aren’t perfect and you will make mistakes, you help them develop and learn to love themselves for who they are. Don’t be afraid to apologize to your children.
Don’t forget guys’ night.
Making time for you is vital to being a successful parent. It’s difficult at times but make no mistake: you will be a better parent long-term if you create space for your own passions and interests. My wife and I, in addition to our date nights, give each other one night a week. She has a dedicated “girls night out” and I enjoy one night a week where I get to hang out with the guys. It’s rewarding, fun and gives me a much needed time to accomplish little “Dad” things that I want to do.
Invest in a good camera.
In a world dominated by smartphones, this might sound optional but I can truthfully say that 90% of the photos that I have taken of my children with a smartphone aren’t very good. Children, especially small ones, give you plenty of amazing moments: a shy little smile, a look of wonderment as they try their first strawberry, or a hearty laugh as you do something funny. Unfortunately, many of these moments last only seconds. A good dSLR will give you the tools you need to capture more of these cherished moments.
I personally just switched to an Olympus 4/3 micro format dSLR. It’s compact, powerful and gives me the same quality I was getting from my much larger camera. And, its small size ensures that it goes more places with the family.
Focus intensely on time management.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but time management wasn’t as high of a priority for me early on as a new parent. It wasn’t until I was forced to split time between entrepreneur, father of a newborn, and primary care-taker of a terminally ill parent that I realized that I needed to find a better system or simply drown in all of the various responsibilities that I was facing.
I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system – it’s radically changed the way I manage my time. Most importantly, it gives me the mental bandwidth to focus on the important things versus always being stressed about what I need to do next or what important tasks are falling through the cracks. If you aren’t familiar with GTD, you can check the concepts out in this Lifehacker.com article.
Give them choices.
As far as parenting tools go, this is a biggie. It’s the hammer in my parenting toolbox. Children yearn for independence, and if you aren’t already dealing with that, you will be soon. They want to be “big”, they want to help, and they want to be in control of as much of their own existence as possible.
By involving your kids in the decision making processes of life, you teach them a very important truth: that the choices you make have consequences. Gone are the days where I beg and plead with my children to clean their room. Now I simply ask them what tasks they would rather do (pick up books or toys for example) and then I set a timer. When the timer goes off, the ones that finished get rewarded while the ones that played continue to focus on their task.
Is this easy to pull off at first? No. What this does though is allow you to come alongside of your children in an empathetic way and instead of being forced into the bad guy role (“You took away my TV time”) you get to sit down and share in their disappointment and explain that you also wanted them to have that reward. This also opens the door for conversations about consequences that have a lasting impact on them. Quite simply, it’s amazing.
Give yourself a pass.
This ties into being vulnerable, but it’s not the same thing. Your kids don’t expect perfection. As a matter of fact, you are their ideal parent. Don’t let culture, family or some other external source suck the life out of your Dad experience. You are going to blow it at times, but chances are that you are also going to be a pretty amazing dad — and that’s independent of your professional career, your level of talent or your education.
Dad, just be the best you that you can be. Your kids will love you for it.