Category Archives: A Dad’s Role

5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

A fascinating TED talk from Gever Tulley, who runs a school called the Tinkering School where he let’s second graders play with power tools.

His central thesis is that we are too overprotective and that by allowing kids the freedom to explore will make them safer. So, despite the provocative title, this talk is really about safety.

Granted, he doesn’t have kids, but that doesn’t diminish his points.

Where are all the Dads?

Just got around to reading some back issues of Dads and Daughters newsletter, and came away a bit stunned by the tidbit that, of all the research studies child psychology researchers have done in the past 8 years, only two percent of them studies published were devoted exclusively to fathers while 45 percent of those studies were devoted exclusively to mothers. The rest researched both mother and fathers.

Now, I’m not up on all the latest academia reports in pediatric psychology, but it goes without saying that, even to a lay person like me, that two percent number is shockingly low.

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that academics can’t even decide what a father is, or how to define that role.

(University of South Florida’s Dr. Vicky) Phares noted the irony of commonly being asked to define “father” in her research writing and presentations, although never being asked to define “mother.” It appears that the role of the mother is assumed to be filled by the primary caretaking biological mother for most children, whereas the role of the father might be filled by any number of male individuals, such as the biological father (who may or may not live with the child), the stepfather (who may or may not live with the child), or a father-figure (such as the mother’s boyfriend, an uncle, or a grandfather – any of whom may or may not live with the child). Thus, the question is a legitimate one, but it also conveys a lack of consensus about how to define fathers currently.

So, it’s pretty hard to study the effects of a father if you don’t even know who the fathers are.

The article the D&D newsletter refers to is is entitled Are Fathers Involved in Pediatric Psychology Research and Treatment and was a joint study between the University of South Florida and Yale University School of Medicine.

9 ways a Dad can support a breastfeeding Mom

In the absence of the ability for many of us Dad’s to be like Mr B Wijeratne, a Sri Lankan Dad who can breastfeed his children, I thought I would list a few tips on how Dad’s can support Mom’s who breastfeed. Short of doing it ourselves (and apparently with the right conditions we can), there are many other ways we can help make the process go a bit smoother. Here are 9 tips I’ve put together. Feel free to add your own as a comment.

  1. Reevaluate our relationship with breasts. As men, our relationship with breasts is long and complicated. We have probably gone through most of our lives viewing breasts as sexual objects, so adjusting our skewed view of breasts and their purpose is extremely important. The boobies have changed, and it may take a bit of a mind shift to get used to seeing your partner pop them out in public, for example.
  2. Recognize that the physical act of breastfeeding is not easy. Especially at the beginning as Mom’s try to figure out things like positioning, latching on. It seems strange. You would think that something so fundamental to our species survival should be easy. It’s not, at least at the beginning.
  3. Learn all you can about breastfeeding and be her second set of ears. Like all aspects of parenting, everyone has an opinion and a strategy. Help her sort and sift through the information and learn all about tender breasts, engorgement, sore nipples, nursing injuries and cluster feedings. Read The Lactivist (aside: she has a great corporate bully story to tell about her battle with the Pork Board if you appreciate those kinds of stories). There are also, as you would expect, tons of great books out there, including

  4. Support her if she gets discouraged. Especially in the first few weeks, when lack of sleep and hormonal changes can sometimes make new mothers waver in their determination to breastfeed. Be positive and work with her to stick with it. Acknowledge how difficult it is, but reassure her that it does get much, much easier. This is tough because no one wants to feel like they are pressuring their partner to do something they really don’t want to do. Also, as guys, I think we tend to try to find solutions for problems that affect the people we love, when really all they need is a bit of support and encouragement. I almost blew this one and suggested in week 2 that maybe we should try a bit of formula. Fortunately, my wife was committed enough to breastfeeding that she ignored my well meaning advice.
  5. Should someone question any of your reasons or strategies around breastfeeding, be in her corner. Be vocal in sticking up for her with friends and family. We need to step in and run interference, even if/especially if the offender is Mom. Don’t allow your partner to be the brunt of extended family’s critical words about her breastfeeding relationship.
  6. Bring her food and drinks while she is breastfeeding. Grab her a book, the TV remote or the telephone.
  7. Get her some help. Buy her a breastfeeding pillow or a nursing stool. If she is having problems, find a good lactation consultant in your area to help.
  8. Puck up more of the domestic duties. Especially true when the cluster feeds and growth spurts can keep Mom bust for long stretches at a time.
  9. Remind her that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get your baby off to a good start in life, and increase her health and well-being. According to The World Health Organization, “Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness” and “Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.”

Feeling a bit SAHD

Those of you who have read this blog for the past couple of years know that I have been a part-time stay at home Dad, staying home with The Girl a couple days a week. Well, after close to 2 years, my p/t SAHD days are over. I have started work at my new, full time job. Continue reading

51 Ways a Labour Partner Can Help

As the arrival of baby #2 becomes imminent, I thought I would share the following list with other Dad (or partner) to be’s.

Thanks to our doula, Heather at Birth and Beyond, for the following information.

In early labour, you can:

  1. Help her get ready for labour
  2. Encourage her; say that she’s strong and ready
  3. Make her tea or broth to drink
  4. Make her something light to eat
  5. Play cards or watch TV with her
  6. Suggest a shower
  7. Suggest a nap
  8. Remind her to relax and focus

If she is having trouble keeping focused, you can:

  1. Reassure and praise her
  2. Give her an object or picture to look at during contractions
  3. Remind her of the reason she’s here (baby)
  4. Suggest a walk or position change
  5. Ask extra people to leave the room
  6. P lace your hands on her face and breath with her

If her belly hurts, you can:

  1. Remind her to go to the bathroom often
  2. H elp her change positions
  3. With a light touch, massage her lower belly and thighs
  4. If she is having trouble relaxing you can:
  5. Place a hand over her hand
  6. Have her shake both hands in the air
  7. Touch her and remind her to relax
  8. Talk about a relaxing time
  9. Play music that helps her relax
  10. Read to her
  11. Rub her back

If she is too hot, you can:

  1. Wash her face and neck with a cool, wet cloth
  2. Give her ice chips
  3. Fan her face and body
  4. Open a window

If her back hurts, you can:

  1. H elp her change positions
  2. Put a warm cloth or heat pack on her back
  3. Put a cold cloth or ice pack on her back
  4. Apply counter pressure with hands or tennis ball
  5. Sit back to back with her so your backs can press together
  6. Have her lean against the hurt with her own fists
  7. H elp her stand and lean against the wall
  8. Help her get on her hands and knees and rock back and forth

If her legs and arms shake, you can:

  1. Hold her steady so she feel more in control
  2. Use a soft touch or long, firm stroking on her legs and arms
  3. Rub her feet and hands
  4. Put a warm blanket on her

If her contractions stop, you can:

  1. Talk about labour and encourage rest and relaxation
  2. Help her with nipple stimulation
  3. Kiss her
  4. Tell her how strong she is
  5. Make sure she’s drinking water
  6. Suggest a hot shower
  7. Help her take a walk
  8. Rub her back
  9. Take her outside
  10. Make her la ugh

7 Tips for Potential Stay at Home Dads

While the benefits and rewards of staying home with the girl vastly outweigh the downside, there are a few things I wish I would have know about being a stay at home Dad before I walked down this path. In the interest of helping other men decide whether this lifestyle is for them, I offer these 7 tips for men who might be contemplating staying at home.

  1. Lower Expectations. When my wife and I first started discussing reducing my work hours to spend a few days a week at home with the girl, I naively envisioned scenes of the girl colouring away contentedly at her play table while I whiled away the day completing a thousand different projects for a hundred different clients. HA! In retrospect, I can see now why some people had funny little grins on their faces when I told them my plan. They were the parents. They knew better.
  2. Let Dirty Dishes Lie. Just because you are at home with the kids doesn’t mean you have to be a “homemaker”. To me, this is like a complete flipping of traditional family roles – roles that women successfully banished to the dustbins of history long ago. I never expected my wife to have the house spotless and dinner made when I was working fulltime and she was home with the girl, and fortunately she doesn’t expect the same. However, when my adventure began, I was surprised to find myself feeling guilty for not having a meal ready when Mom got home, and it took awhile to lose the guilt associated with having a fireplace mantel coated with dust. That’s not to say I don’t do any housework or cook a meal – far from it. But realize that just because you are at home doesn’t mean you need to revert to the traditional role of a “homemaker”. Being a stay at home Dad, like being a stay at home Mom, is not synonymous with being the primary homemaker. It’s still the responsibility of the entire family to make sure a household runs smoothly.
  3. Routine, Routine, Routine. Oh my goodness, how much simpler life is when you have a daily routine. Everyone knows what is expected, first and foremost the girl. She craves structure, and the days where we deviate from the routine tend to be difficult days. To combat this, we have settled into a rhythm that seems to work for us. We are not ruled by the clock, but we certainly go out of our way to keep the structure of the day similar from day to day.
  4. Plan Events for Outside the House.Much like breaking our routine, the days when the girl and I stay at home all day tend to be hard days. I think this is because the girl needs stimulation. A toddler’s need for stimulation is second only to their need to breath. So I try to plan an outside the house activity every day. Fortunately the girl is at the age where everyday things still feel like an adventure, so sometimes a simple ride on a transit bus downtown and back suffices for her daily adventure. I’ve also found that doing our outside the house activity in the morning makes for an easier transition to nap time in the early afternoon, so most of our activities are morning activities.
  5. Build a Support System.I’ve found that being a stay at home parent can be a lonely, isolating experience, and I think this goes double for men simply because the infrastructure and support is not there for us (yet). Among my friends, there are not many Dads doing the stay at home thing, so I can’t exactly pick up the phone and chat with them when I need a pick me up. I sometimes get lonely. I’ve tried playgroups and find that, while the girl has a great time, they are overwhelmingly dominated by Moms and I am often seen as a bit of an outsider. So, on the days I feel lonely the girl and I will meet Mom at work for lunch, or I sometimes do call up one of the other Moms in our circle of friends for a walk or coffee. But to be honest, this is one I am still working on.
  6. Feed Me! As obvious as this sounds, I can’t believe how long it took me to make the connection between the girls mood swings and her blood sugar level. Toddlers need to eat and eat often. While I am good with 3 squares and the occasional piece of fruit throughout the day, the girl needs a more even flow of food. She is an eating machine and since I’ve figured out that the vast majority of her mood swings are tied to her hunger level, her attitude and moods have really evened out. So the girl eats like a Hobbit – breakfast, tenzies, elevenzies, lunch, onezies, etc..
  7. Slow Down and Live in the Moment. One of the amazing things about the girl is that she forces me to slow down and re-examine the everyday world because the everyday world is so new and exciting for her. We can spend an hour walking around the block, which may sound about as exciting as watching paint dry, but trust me, through a toddlers eyes the world is a pretty interesting place. So I make a point of moving at the girl’s pace. And since I have long ago lowered my expectations (#1) and exorcised my inner homemaker demon (#2), I can free my mind to help the girl separate the red leaves from the yellow leaves on the front lawn.

There you go. 7 lessons learned from the front lines of stay at home daddydom. So, what about you? If one of your buddies came up to you and said “I’m thinking of taking some time off work to stay at home with my kid,” what piece of advice would you give them?

Sporting Behavior

Seems everywhere in the media these days you can’t help but stumble across story after story of parents and their bad behaviour at their kids sporting events.

This one, however, is really poor. A 10-year-old Ontario boy is suing his minor hockey league for $10,000. The boy says he was demoted to a lesser team because of a dispute between his Dad and the league. The details for the CBC site are scant, but apparently the association claims that the boy’s father was “aggressive and confrontational,” used “inappropriate language” and acted in a way that was “inappropriate, unwelcome and unbecoming of a parent.”

If this story has played out the way I think it has, then this dad is using his kid as a pawn in some kind of Napoleonic inspired legal power play between himself and a minor league. The way I see it, a 10 year old doesn’t decide to sue unless their parents put them up to it. So, what kind of message is this dad sending to his son? If you don’t get your way, cry, pout – and sue until you win.

My Dad coached me in minor hockey, and one thing I always appreciated about him was the fact that he never tried to vicariously live out any misplaced NHL ambitions though me. I never felt my Dad’s involvement in my hockey life was for Dad, but rather for me. It sent the message that my Dad was interested in me. And through his involvement and interest, he taught me valuable lessons about fairness, team play and the enjoyment of the sport.

Maybe it is just because it is in the news and popular media so much these days, but I can’t help but feel there has been a swing in the purpose of sports in a young persons life. Have goals like fairness, team work and enjoyment of the sport been sucked out of the world of organized sports for kids? Is the only point of organized sports these days to get kids to the big leagues?

I really want The Girl to be involved in organized sports at a level that is enjoyable to her, but I also worry that we will end up on a team full of Dad’s like Dalius Butrimas.

In the meantime, let’s end off this sport talk on a positive note. A program using basketball to get fathers more involved in their children’s schooling drew more than 125 men into parenting workshops in Rochester, NY. The program seeks to reach fathers of children in city schools who are estranged from their children’s mothers, separated from their children and face a myriad of personal and often legal barriers to being better parents.