Hi - my name is Kate; I am a gender expert, writer, and Advisor for the Gender Equality subgroup at Fathering Together. To celebrate Father’s Day and #MoreThanANecktie, I’m talking to 10 dads over 10 weeks about what it really means to be an engaged father. If you like this series, you can read more on gender (in)equality. Website. Twitter.
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Ages of Kids: 6 and 11
I asked every dad I interviewed what they thought about the term “caregiving” as it relates to being a father. Jeremy focused on the “giving” part of this word, and contrasted it with the concept of caretaking. Caretaking, he believes, can be unpleasant and exhausting work, often requiring self-sacrifice. But caregiving is a choice; we do so freely because we want to. Jeremy believes that yes, fathers are caregivers to their kids. But fathers can also practice caregiving in the form of self-care. This is an important piece of caregiving – dads need to take care of themselves, so they can take care of others.
A lesson learned in being a step-dad. Jeremy’s older child is a step son, from his wife’s previous relationship. They have shared custody, but the biological father has residential placement; Jeremy and his wife only have the boy in their home about 10% of the year. Jeremy has learned a lot about being a dad when your time is so dramatically limited. I asked him – what do you do when your son is in your home? How do you ensure that you have a big impact in those short days? Jeremy said they don’t go overboard, they just keep it normal – they do what they do with their daughter all the time: play games, go to the park, read books, cook, go swimming, ride bikes. They show their love by being present and by being a family.
If you want to connect with other dads who are also experiencing custody challenges, check out the Fathering Together subgroup on Legal and Custody Issues.
Advice on time together. Jeremy sees his #1 role as teaching his kids to be intentional with their life. At bedtime he uses empowering questions, asking his kids things like: what was your magical moment today? What did you do today that you are proud of? What did you do today to contribute? And if the kids struggle to answer – he encourages them to get back up and do something right then and there so that they end their day in a positive way. As a parent I know it is often impossible to do this every night – but routines like this can be beneficial, even if just used once a week, or a few times a month.
My favorite quote from Jeremy’s interview: “The biggest gift a dad can give their kid(s) is presence. Show them that they matter by spending time with them. No kid ever grows up and says, ‘My dad was really present when I was a kid and truly loved me, but man - all I really wanted was a Tesla.’”
If you missed the first articles in this series, you can find the others here. And stay tuned for the next Dads Who Care article, which will be posted next Friday, July 2.