It’s rare that a dad and his daughter get to experience something for the first time together.
I’ve got thirty-two years on my first-born, and while I get to experience life anew through her eyes, most of our adventures stem from something I’ve already done. But when President Biden spoke to Congress on April 28, 2021, my daughters and I saw two women sitting behind him: Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Never in the history of the United States have two women sat in the vice president and speaker’s seats. When I told them this, they asked why. When I tried explaining, they gave me blank stares because they live in a world where “first woman to…” is becoming exceedingly rare. But positions still exist and women are still far underrepresented in a variety of industries.
Long before I became a dad, I studied men’s violence and masculine identity. I wanted to better understand how we acculturate boys and young men just as much as I wanted to decrease violence toward women and girls.
Then, I had daughters, and everything changed. The abstract and theoretical conversations I had in class or the headlines of women that were slightly removed from my daily life all crystallized in the form of a tiny baby that needed me to be more than I had ever been. When I took a moment to realize just how much influence I would have over her life, I got scared. I knew I needed to reeducate myself and find a community to help me grow and remain accountable.
This process made me realize how few fatherhood communities existed. So, with the help of my friend, Chris Lewis, we created the Facebook group Dads with Daughters by Fathering Together. Our primary goal is to build virtual communities of support for dads. Despite stereotypes, pop culture, and other messages, dads need community too. We need to brag about our kids, but more importantly, we need a space to be vulnerable and get advice on how to be better dads and know what will happen, and when, in our child’s development.
Members of our Dads with Daughters community have expressed interest in staying home in order to be more active in their children’s daily lives, particularly during the pandemic and with childcare costs increasing, and have left their jobs to be primary caregivers. Others have expressed concern that they aren’t up to the challenge due to a lack of confidence in their abilities or knowledge. But in reality, they have the skills, they just need to translate them into their home life. In other words, if a dad can fulfil their duties in the workplace and take a concept from a brainstorm session to a product on a shelf, then they can get their child out of bed, dressed, fed, and to school on time. The basic principles aren’t that different. Here’s a few transferable skills that dads can take from their workplace to their home:
Project Management — Many of us use Slack, Asana, and a host of other project management tools. We are tasked with overseeing large projects and breaking them down to manageable parts, which is not unlike running a household. Kids have thousands of working parts with school expectations, music lessons, sports practices, and the older they get, the more parents become timekeepers, chauffeurs, and permission slip signers. Having a system that breaks down “time on task” can help to free up more time and avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed.
Team Leadership — Dads that lead teams know that every employee has strengths and weaknesses. To maximize your team’s output, you must manage them and empower them to do their jobs effectively. The same is true of our kids. No, they’re not our employees, but as dads, we learn pretty quickly how best to motivate our kids and avoid tantrums. Using positive psychological practices and incentives work so much better than punitive measures and time outs.
Communication — At work, we have message boards, emails, phone calls, and quick conversations in the hallway, yet all modes of communication are not treated as equal. As supervisors and teammates, we learn how best to get our coworkers to hear what we need from them. The same is true for our kids. Shouting up the stairs to “hurry up or you’ll be late” isn’t very effective for long term behavior change. Screaming threats when they are mid-tantrum won’t stop them from causing a scene in public. Having clear and calm methods for communicating with our kids is essential for everyone’s health and productivity in the home too.
In a world where the only constant is change, with technology changing by the minute, fatherhood won’t keep pace, but we can do our best to prepare. We can recognize that being a “breadwinner” isn’t the only role a father can play. Now, we can take our project management skills and use them to organize morning routines and get kids from pajamas to the front door of the school instead of just brainstorming a product in a meeting. It means we can do the meal planning rather than just the dishes.
Best of all, it means we get to role model what responsible and well-rounded humans we actually can be. We can be more than a necktie and can step up to advocate for our children.