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Navigating Fatherhood: A Journey of Raising Daughters and Overcoming Mental Health Challenges

In this episode of the Dads with Daughters podcast, we welcome Cordan James, the newly appointed executive director of Fathering Together, a 501(c)(3) organization that is the host of this podcast. 

Cordan James is a father of three, one of whom is a daughter and he opens up about his journey into fatherhood, sharing his excitement upon learning he would be a father to a girl. He recounts his preparations, both financial and mental, and the steps he took to ensure he was ready to provide and protect for his family, emphasizing the importance of mental health in his journey as a father. Cordan reflects on his past experiences as an army veteran dealing with PTSD and the importance of maintaining his mental well-being as a parent.

The conversation also discusses fears that fathers often experience in raising daughters, with Cordan acknowledging the fear of failure and the concern about maintaining a strong bond as his daughter grows older. He highlights the significance of intentional parenting and creating a unique connection with his daughter. Cordan elaborates on the special activities and shared experiences that have strengthened their bond, from touching moments and engaging in activities to volunteering together as a family.

The discussion further explores how Cordan balances the demands of work, running his own business, and being the executive director of Fathering Together while prioritizing his family and centering his life around them. Cordan’s approach to work and family life allows for effective balance and aligns with the organization’s mission.

Cordan shares his journey into the Fathering Together communities and the impact they had on his perspective of fatherhood. He attributes his decision to become the executive director to the example set by other fathers and the dedication to fatherhood that he witnessed within the community. He discusses his vision for the organization, emphasizing the importance of equality, breaking the stigma around fatherhood, and supporting fathers in being intentional in their roles. Cordan underlines the significance of fathers knowing they are enough and having a support system to drive positive change in the perception of fatherhood.

In conclusion, Christopher acknowledges the ongoing work required to change the perception of fatherhood and praises Cordan for stepping into the role of executive director to lead the organization into its next phase. The episode is a testament to the importance of fathers’ roles in parenting and the community’s dedication to supporting one another on this shared journey.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of the Dads With Daughters podcast, we invite you to check out the Fatherhood Insider. The Fatherhood Insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual, and most are figuring it out as they go along. The Fatherhood Insider is full of valuable resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, step-by-step roadmaps, and more you will engage and learn with experts but more importantly with dads like you. So check it out today!

TRANSCRIPT

Christopher Lewis [00:00:06]:

Welcome to Dads With Daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads, resources, and more to help you be the best dad you can be.

Christopher Lewis [00:00:16]:

Welcome back to the Dads with Daughters podcast where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughters’ lives, raising them to be strong, Independent women. Really excited to have you back again this week. As always, every week, you and I are on a journey together. We have an opportunity to be able to Talk together, work together to be able to support each other in this journey that we’re on in raising daughters. Such an important journey, such an important job that we all have in being fathers of daughters. And I love being able to sit down with you every week, to be able to have these conversations, to be able to work with you and talk to you, to hear from you About the things that you are dealing with, the struggles that you’re dealing with, whatever it may be. Every week, I also love being able to bring you different guests. People that are walking this journey alongside you or have resources that’ll help you to be an even more engaged dad, A better father in the end.

Christopher Lewis [00:01:16]:

And this week, we’ve got another great guest with us. Corden James is with us today. And Corden is the brand new executive director of Fathering Together. We’ve been talking about Fathering Together for years, And Fathering Together is the five zero one c three organization that this podcast is a part of. And Corden joined our organization, Okay. Actually, quite a while ago, but joined us as the executive director just recently. And we’re gonna get to know him a little bit more. But first and foremost, We’ve got to get to know him more as a father first, Cordan, thanks so much for being here today.

Cordan James [00:01:52]:

Absolutely. Honored to be here, Chris.

Christopher Lewis [00:01:54]:

It is my pleasure having you here today. I love being able to talk to different dads about the experiences that they’ve had. You got 3 kids, one of which is a daughter. I wanna go back in time. I wanna turn that clock all the way back to that 1st moment that you found out that you were going to be a father to a daughter. What was going through your head?

Cordan James [00:02:10]:

I was excited. I’ve always wanted to have my daughter. Just as soon as I found out, I, you know, I started the books and finding out all I could about raising a girl. First of all, just having a baby, period, and what my goals and responsibilities are. And then, you know, from that kind of plan in my legacy as far as being a father to her, getting myself set up and financially stable and my mental health in the right place. And yeah.

Christopher Lewis [00:02:33]:

When you said that you needed to get your mental health in the right place, talk to me about that. What did that what does that mean to you, and what did you have to do to prepare yourself?

Cordan James [00:02:40]:

Well, Chris, I am an army veteran. I, you know, spent 5 years active duty army. So when I speak of mental health was really making sure that I had my anxiety in check, my PTSD that I experienced at war and just from life, being able to just find my calmness, find my spirituality, And, you know, I think most of all, just being able to to be present for fatherhood. You know? There’s no there’s no workbook when it comes to raising children, Raising a daughter. I’m used to raising boys, and I think that’s a it’s a different approach raising a daughter.

Christopher Lewis [00:03:14]:

As a veteran, as someone that has dealt with PTSD. There are other dads that are dealing with that as well, and some may have Dealt with it and and really worked through it. Others may have set it to the side and are still working through it themselves. Talk to me about the journey that you had to go on and what you had to do to prepare yourself and get through, Like you said, in getting yourself mentally ready, but to work through that PTSD that that you Have in your life. And I say have, because I know that it’s a constant journey. But talk to me about what you had, what you have to do on a daily basis, On a regular basis, what you had to do prior to your daughter being born to be able to work through that PTSD.

Cordan James [00:04:03]:

Absolutely. I think coming home from Iraq, it started off with Therapy. Being able to meet with my VA therapist on a regular basis, setting that up. I would say another important thing for me was, fitness, Being able to to check my health, being on a regular workout schedule, and, you know, some of the other things like doing things for myself. I think after serving in the military, you know, there’s 1% of us Serve in the military, so it’s not like I’m able to walk around every day with people that who share the same experiences as I do. So that, you know, that vetting myself, Finding security within my own self, getting on a great schedule that took care of me first before I’m able to pour out for my children and my my partner at her mother, you know, that it took reading some books on how to how to speak to children, you know, on how to to get to their level, to bring a level of understanding. The normal development of a child was important for me to understand. Right? Having anxiety and PTSD.

Cordan James [00:04:57]:

Sometimes, you know, screaming from a child can be very triggering. When you’re not able to control the situation, you’re not able to calm my child down. Those are things that I faced as a father.

Christopher Lewis [00:05:07]:

So in having this in your life And having this as something that you’re constantly working on. How do you talk to your kids about PTSD And what you’re dealing with, because mental health is not easy to talk to anyone about, but let alone when you live with individuals or have people in their life and they don’t understand what’s going on. So how do you or how have you Been able to talk to your kids about this so that they understand it and that they understand what you’re going through.

Cordan James [00:05:38]:

I think probably the one of the most pivotal times for me was In waking up with my child, kinda had a rough start to to the day, and I was having a very rough time commuting with her. And I had just looked looked in the very back of the seat, and I told her, hey. Hey, baby. Daddy’s gotta process something, and it’s gonna it’s gonna look differently than what you’re used to seeing, but I feel like I’m gonna cry. And at that time, I had I had found out about Emotional freedom techniques or tapping. And so I had let her know that if daddy’s gonna process something, that I’m okay, but I’m gonna tap and let these emotions out. And I went through that. She asked if I was okay.

Cordan James [00:06:12]:

I ended I did end up breaking down, having some tears and some some calming affirmations to reassure myself that I was in a safe place And that I was okay. And I think the you know, we talk about modeling as a parent, modeling the behavior of processing my emotion. Right? I set aside time to process it. I did my tapping, which is my self care, right, caring for myself. You know? And I think where most paid off was a few weeks later, I remember hearing her get frustrated, and, I looked over at her, and she actually began to do the exact same tapping that I was doing. And so I think, you know, she’s 9 now. I wouldn’t say that she necessarily understands PTSD, but she does understand that when there is an emotion, that you process That you feel it so you can heal it. And I think that’s been the most powerful thing between us.

Cordan James [00:06:57]:

It’s improved our communication styles. It’s improved my ability to say that I’m Sorry for overreacting or or projecting something that I may be feeling onto her. So it’s made for a great communication the older that she gets.

Christopher Lewis [00:07:10]:

Talk to a lot of dads about having daughters, and one of the things that I hear from a lot of dads is that there are fears When it comes to not only fatherhood, but especially fears when it comes to raising a daughter. Now you said earlier that You knew how to raise a son, but that you needed to learn about how to raise a daughter. So as you think about Fear. Can you think about raising your daughter? What was the biggest fear or is the biggest fear that you have in raising your daughter? You know,

Cordan James [00:07:39]:

I think in all the conversations with other fathers, I think I would have to Echo the fear of failure. I remember some work that we did together a couple years ago, Chris. We asked, what would you not want your children to say about you or about your parenting? Right? And I think being able to be there so, you know, I would never want my children to say that I wasn’t there, that I wasn’t present, that I constantly use these opportunities to teach Instead of to get to know them, the fear of failure with her, I think, comes from I think everybody loves to tell me that As your daughter grows older, that she’s gonna fall away from you, that there’s going to be this huge disruption in life and she’s not gonna like you. And I think as a young father, that was very daunting That this relationship could dwindle as she gets older. I think it really put it in the perspective of the work that I’m doing with her today, and I call it work because it’s very intentional with her. From the way that I speak to her to the way that I stand around her when she was smaller. She’s kinda tall now. She’s 9 and she’s 5 foot.

Cordan James [00:08:36]:

So she comes to the bottom of my chin. But as she was younger, you know, it it took me getting down to a knee. They say, you know, getting down to their level as you are the Parent, get down to their level, and they might hear you a little bit differently and better and and receive what you’re saying more. Little things like that helped me soften my approach with her gave me I you know, it allowed room for more play, more discussion, for more ways to connect, whether it was painting nails together or Playing in the park or our favorite thing to do is literally walking on curbing, walking on the sidewalk and the very you know, the little curves. I don’t know why, but we’ve just always had this little special moment. We can do that for hours and just laugh and, you know, just connect with each other.

Christopher Lewis [00:09:16]:

Now you have 3 kids. Each one of them is completely unique. They are different points in their lives, and you have to do what you can do to be able to develop those unique relationships With your kids, what do you do to be able to create that unique bond with your daughter?

Cordan James [00:09:32]:

I think that’s a great question. If I had to look on a day to day, I say, Especially now, it’s a habit of finding a way to connect with her no matter what. And whether it’s when I pick her up from boys you know, if we start in the morning, I take her to boys and girls club. As soon as we wake up, it’s very intentional with Hey, baby. How did you sleep? We get our cuddles in. We’re very big cuddlers. So, you know, that’s something that’s part of our security is is Touching and hugging and kissing and yelling I love yous and the music choices, having little dance parties. Those are constants in our home.

Cordan James [00:10:02]:

That is just part of our Family culture now. So when I say connecting, especially as she gets older nowadays at 9, it’s I hosted a sleepover last week. She had her best friend over and, you know, I had a girl’s night with them, and then we had a great morning the next day. Their friend left, but Just providing creating new spaces for her to grow. It might be asking something very specific about her day. Definitely don’t allow for just the, how was your day? Oh, it was good. Well, I wanna know a little bit more, so I’m gonna ask some questions that are open ended and and joke with her and and find some commonality. I think, at this point.

Cordan James [00:10:38]:

I appreciate the ways that we connect, and I appreciate the way that it comes back as well. She’s definitely a little mama. She’ll if dad’s sick, she’ll look after me. If sometimes she wants to Feed dad while we’re eating dinner. She wants to feed me fries or something along those lines. So just those beautiful ways that I would never expect her to do those things for me, but she has it in her heart and in her soul. Other things we’ve done to connect is, like, community service. A few years ago, we faced a divorce Together and the separation of that in different homes and coparenting schedules, and I found that volunteering together was our biggest Connection.

Cordan James [00:11:15]:

I didn’t have the money in the world to be able to take her to to do everything, but we would go to churches and volunteer our time, setting up pantries, Feeding the homeless, litter pickups. She got very involved in my own work as a mover or even as a mentor. She’s been present for all my mentorships And business meetings and and thrills so forth.

Christopher Lewis [00:11:38]:

Sounds like special bonds and special times and definitely an opportunity to be able to make those connections and memories that will last for a lifetime, which is always exciting and important. You’re really busy. You’re a busy guy. You have got a lot of things going on. You You’re running a business. You’re now the executive director of Fathering Together. So there’s a lot of things that you’re gonna have to balance, a lot of hats that you have to wear. How do you balance work and raising your kids?

Cordan James [00:12:04]:

It’s interesting because if we look at the history of Korten James and fathering together, So about 2019 is when I processed my divorce, and 2019 is when I also found Dads With Daughters. So it has very much led me to be this executive director. And I say that from the sense that since I joined fathering together, I’ve centered family first. My life today as a entrepreneur and now as the executive director of of Fathering Together, my family is still the center, more so today than it ever has been. I worked more corporate America, and it never fared well. I was always the father that would be present for my daughter didn’t go to dentist without me. She didn’t go to doctor’s It’s without me being able to pick up from school or if there’s a sick day, I’m present for it. I would say so Over the few years, it’s been a I’ve been able to center around my kids.

Cordan James [00:12:56]:

As a as a entrepreneur now owning my own business, I can take the day off. We can take a mental health day today. She’s 9 now, so she can come to work with me. I have plenty of opportunities where she comes to work with me on a Saturday for a couple of hours and move some boxes my customers and tells my employees that she’s the boss of them because her dad’s the boss. So just, again, centering family first has has always been the priority, and finally being able to make that come true amongst the fears of not being able to. As a father, again, somebody who has to provide and protect, You can’t just drop the job. You can’t take large risks that may cost you your time with your children. So it’s definitely paid off over these last few years.

Cordan James [00:13:38]:

Now it’s I’m I’m home when I want to be with enough time for her and I. My evenings are set aside and I, and, it couldn’t be a better feeling.

Christopher Lewis [00:13:48]:

You started getting into your journey with dads with daughters, dads with sons, fathering together. Talk to me let’s go back to 2019. What was going on that led you to the communities? What how did you find out about the communities, and how did you get involved first as you were joining our communities?

Cordan James [00:14:10]:

Honestly, I think I might have connected with Brian somehow on Facebook. I don’t know if we actually talked to each other or if I found Dads With Daughters first. I’m pretty sure he invited me into Dads With Daughters. And from there, we became friends and talked more, and I finally was able to meet you. And, You know, I think it was just when I look at Dads With Daughters, the Facebook group, I don’t even know how many thousands of people were in that. So it was very it was very grassroots. There was new projects. I think we were starting off with Dove Men’s Care.

Cordan James [00:14:41]:

I always recall the self esteem project that we did with them, which was kinda like my 1st intentional thing with my child. I think we talked a lot about fathers knowing their legacy as far as careers, But what is your legacy as a father? So I think it was all those conversations that brought me to a deeper understanding of who I really want to be as a dad. Not just My child’s here, and we’re gonna go day by day. But just an intentionality to my thought process, the way that I speak, and it drives everything of who I am as a dad today. So just great conversations, the groups, more conversations with Brian, watching you and Brian raise your daughters who are older than mine. I think for once in my life, I actually had like minded individuals when it came to fatherhood. Fathers who, you know, intergenerational, who knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. Being able to hear their mistakes and their triumphs Gave me a better perspective on what I wanna do and how I wanna be.

Christopher Lewis [00:15:38]:

So you’re sharing that. Now over the years, you got more involved. You Started to engage with other people. And at some point, you decided that you wanted to take that next step to, be considered for the executive director role. What made you decide that you wanted to take this larger step To lead the organization into the future.

Cordan James [00:16:00]:

I mean, this sounds cliche, but first of all, the example that you and Brian set as fathers has always been motivational, inspirational to me. In my work since 2019, I’ll be you know, starting my own businesses and becoming a youth and family mentor, teaching social emotional learning, and And learning peer support and having I think it was you know what? I think it was it was a lot of the leadership opportunities that Brian and you gave Within the group, from different speaking engagements, the different panels, the workshops that we held, just and then just to find that there’s more fathers, there’s new fathers, there’s Other fathers out there that are looking for much of the same. So I think this vision today of having our school based chapters and our community chapters And our online our virtual presence and our in person presence just makes sense. Fatherhood is definitely again, My life my number one is fatherhood, and then my work comes second. And I think being able to not only teach and learn alongside other brothers Has been good for my mental health. I think today as the executive director, it’s beautiful just as you know, whether it’s different post within the group of dads looking For support or whether it’s a a children’s issues or child support or just basic support for the day to day grind of being a father, It’s the narrative that we continue to talk about. Just wanting to push that further and further into new areas, into new homes, And being able to mix with mothers as a lot of my work before as a youth and family mentor started off with mothers who typically didn’t have fathers present. It’s just that dedication to fatherhood realizing that the work that we do today matters.

Cordan James [00:17:40]:

And I think on a global level, we’re creating Spaces and making changes for things that we may never see happen. But it takes all of us at the table to have these conversations. So hats off to you.

Christopher Lewis [00:17:51]:

I appreciate you say saying that, and and it’s definitely been a labor of love for Brian and I. But, definitely, as You step into this role, and now that you’re in this role, and as you look at the organization and you have a vision in your mind Where you are hoping to lead the organization and work with the board of fathering together to lead it forward. What is your vision. Where are you leading the organization, and what are you hoping that fathering together can do In the future

Cordan James [00:18:20]:

It’s about equality, I think, at this point. We are at the table with mothers and fathers, speaking about our rights, Speaking about the roles that we have in the home, I would love to continue to see fathers understanding their roles alongside their partners, Alongside their children, again, it’s the intentionality of being a father that I most enjoy with this this vision of fatherhood is fathers who are intentional in what they’re doing, fathers who are supported. Also, this vision of being able to break that stigma around fatherhood that we aren’t just breadwinners. I love that you guys are are so extravagant on that point, That we are more than breadwinners, that we are more than our suits and ties, that we are more than our careers. I think it’s important that fathers know that they’re enough, That they have all that they need, and I think a support system to change excuse me. A support system to support these new changes It’s just the pinnacle of what fatherhood needs.

Christopher Lewis [00:19:13]:

Definitely have a ways to go. There’s not a right answer here, but it’s definitely 1 step at a time and we move forward Just as that in regard to the fact that, you know, we have to we have to do the good work. We have to Build those relationships, build the connections, and be able to move the organization forward. And I appreciate that you were willing to step forward to lead the organization into the next phase of its existence. It’s important for an organization like this to have different thoughts, different ideas, different Perspectives that can be shared by so many, and we work very hard to have a very diverse board that that we can utilize to be able to help us do that too, and I know that you’re gonna be able to help us in so many different ways. Now we always finish our interview with what I like to call our fatherhood five, where we ask you 5 more questions to delve deeper into you as a dad. Are you ready?

Cordan James [00:20:07]:

Yes, sir.

Christopher Lewis [00:20:08]:

In one word, what is fatherhood?

Cordan James [00:20:10]:

The first word that came to mind was leadership. I feel that on a daily basis, whether it’s starting the day getting her off Or just when she’s asleep at night, knowing that she’s feeling loved and safe and that she’s had a good day, that she’s educated, And she has a beautiful relationship with her mother, and we have a beautiful co parenting relationship. Yeah. I think on a daily basis, I feel The sense of accomplishment in raising her.

Christopher Lewis [00:20:37]:

If I was to talk to your daughter, how would she describe you as a dad?

Cordan James [00:20:41]:

I would think she would say her dad is a goofball. I don’t think she takes me too serious these days. I think she would say that she knows that she’s loved, Does she know she can always come to her father?

Christopher Lewis [00:20:53]:

Fires you to be a better dad.

Cordan James [00:20:55]:

You know what? I have again, I have to bring this back to fathering together. It’s the fathers in fathering together. When I log in Every day, several times a day, and I see the 127,000 dads we have in Dads with Daughters, and I read through the you know, I approve the post. I think it’s great that we get approved the post because I get to see them first, so that’s always a gift. Once it’s approved, you know that there’s gonna be a unanimous amount of support. There’s gonna be different opinions, but that is always gonna be respectful. And I think I look forward to to seeing more fathers, to hearing their stories As those challenge me to be a a more calmer father, to be a more intentional father, they challenge me to be more present, and that’s all I can ask for.

Christopher Lewis [00:21:34]:

Given a lot of piece of advice today. As we finish up today, what’s 1 piece of advice that you’d want to give to every dad?

Cordan James [00:21:41]:

One piece of advice I would Give to every dad would be to take care of yourself. Look out for you look out for yourself. I think I think we have to get back to having a healthy outlet. You know, I think oftentimes we’re on this go you know, I always think about how I’m always on as a father. I’m always tuned in to my kids. I’m always working for my kids. I’m finding new ways to support my partner in raising our children or duties around the home, And I think a lot of dads that I see need a moment to take care of themselves, whether it’s, you know, a good gym routine, their spirituality, Being able to talk to a therapist, being able to have a good friend around to listen to you, to call upon, to rescue you at times as a man, Take care of yourself.

Christopher Lewis [00:22:27]:

Oh, Cordan, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for being here today, for sharing your journey with your daughter, but also Thank you for stepping up and being willing to step into the executive director role for Fathering Together. We’re really excited To have you on board, to have you a part of fathering together, and to lead the organization forward, and I wish you all the best.

Cordan James [00:22:49]:

Excellent. Thank you so much. It’s been an honor to be here. It’s an honor to lead forward fathering together, and I look forward to what we continue to do more of.

Christopher Lewis [00:22:57]:

The fatherhood insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best Dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual, and most dads are figuring it out as they go along. And the fatherhood insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, Step by step road maps and more. You will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly, dads like you. So check it out atfatheringtogether.org. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the Dads with Daughters Facebook community, there’s a link in the notes today. Dads with Daughters is a program of fathering together.

Christopher Lewis [00:23:40]:

We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week, all geared to helping you raise strong, empowered daughters And be the best dad that you can be.

We’re all in the same boat, And it’s full of tiny screaming passengers. We spend the time. We give the lessons. We make the meals. We buy Add in presents and bring your a game because those kids are growing fast. The time Buzz by just like a dynamite blast calling astronauts and firemen, Be the best dad you can be. Be the best

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Christopher Lewis


Christopher is the co-founder of Fathering Together and the Chief Information Officer. He is the father of 2 daughters that are now in their tweens and teens. He started Dad of Divas, a blog to share his own personal experiences in being a father in 2007 and in 2018 started the Dads With Daughters Facebook Group to allow dads to connect, learn and grow together. He works in Digital Media on a daily basis, but also has over 20 years of experience in higher education administration.

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