Life is Like a Cup of Coffee …

Have you ever thought about the similarities between life and coffee?

Some people have good cups, some great – while others have a cup that’s bitter, full of yucky grains, or has simply gotten cold.

You could say the same about our lives.

In my experience as a dad and a man, I’ve found that many people think that they’re stuck with whatever cup they’ve been poured. Not true.

We all have the ability to empty out our cup, clean it, and start fresh with a better blend.

Stepping away from the metaphorical and toward the practical, what I’m really talking about is rebuilding our lives. Whether it’s changing jobs, going back to school, improving our health – whatever – there are steps we can take to go from bitter to better.

What about when others try to throw stuff in our coffee?

Sometimes it’s people we can easily avoid, like coworkers or acquaintances that are negative. But sometimes its family, and that’s a situation which becomes much harder to solve.

My youngest son has been throwing stuff in my coffee by waking up every night crying. This has been going on for longer than I can remember.

He’s obviously not trying to throw junk in my coffee – yet in it goes. Since I love him with all my heart, I want to help him, but this is making my waking hours incredibly difficult. From work, to exercise, to growing my speaking career – it’s simply much harder to move forward toward my goals because I’m exhausted.

Even in this case, there is a choice. If I let the circumstances dictate who I am, then I’m simply reacting to my environment and I am lost. If I remain true to who I am as best I can – as a dad, a husband, a writer and a speaker – then at least I’m not throwing more junk in my own coffee. It may not be perfect (yet), but this choice is certainly the better blend.

And remember, you are not alone …

Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 5: Perception & Paradigms

This installment of the Dads are Not Second-class Parents series came about in an interesting way. Back in July of 2008, I spoke about this topic on At Issue With Ben Merens, on Wisconsin Public Radio. Soon after, I received a call from the Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, a state run program. I was asked to be a guest speaker at one of their conferences, and this article is the result.

I recently had the honor of speaking with professionals that are dedicated to helping dads (both in-home and in various programs throughout the state) become better, more involved parents. After all was said and done, I realized this would make a good blog post…

Today I’ll be focusing on how dads are often perceived, drawing concepts from my article, ‘Dads are Not Second Class Parents.’

The question I have for you today is this:

How do we show fathers that they don’t have to be carbon copies of their fathers & grandfathers? How do we turn fathers into involved DADS who ARE ABLE to change a diaper, feed their children, care for them and nurture them. That they are able to teach their kids their numbers, letters, virtues, morality and integrity. Show them compassion.

This is not to say that moms are less capable to do these things — this is just to say that WE are as capable as moms to do them.

We are not a stereotype. Working men whose duty it is to make the money, deposit the checks and the sperm. WE ARE PARENTS. We are modern day dads.

I have been told by a close family member, something that troubled me very much. Let me tell you a little story…

There was a time where I worked from home as a freelance writer. For the first year and a half of my oldest son’s life. I was able to make my own schedule, and spend a lot of time with my son. Day in and day out, I fully shared the parenting with my wife. And I was making good money.

One day, at a birthday party for a cousin, I was speaking about raising my son. I can’t remember exactly what I was speaking about. But what I do remember is being told, “you know Joe, it’s not your job to raise this child. It’s your job to make the money and provide financially. It’s your wife’s job to raise this child.” It was also mentioned that I should be going to an office like everybody else to earn a living, not working from home.

Needless to say, I was VERY, VERY upset by this comment.

Now imagine hearing “you shouldn’t be raising your child,” from family and the community. You turn on the TV and dads, if they’re even around, are bumbling idiots or sitting in the background pouring themselves a cup of coffee – while mom makes the dinner, works a full-time job, changes the diapers, cleans the house and discovers a cure for blindness — all at the same time!

Not only does this insult dads, the ones who actually DO all these things themselves, but it also sets a very low standard for fathers who do not. It perpetuates a problem where everybody loses.

What I’m saying is, when this kind of perception or paradigm BLEEDS in from TV, magazines, society, family — the message is pretty clear. I am lucky enough that my wife has always been supportive and agrees that we should be parenting together. But what about the dad who does not have this type of wife? Who’s surrounded and pressured by old-school thinking?

What else is HE supposed to believe? How can he know any better?

I’m from NY, I’ve been raised in a progressive environment. What about someone who comes from a small town, where these progressive thoughts do not exist? Or the dad who doesn’t know he has choices, because he’s never been introduced to them? How are they supposed to know they have a choice when they’re being told:
MAKE THE MONEY, THAT’S YOUR JOB.

It’s all about perception. How dads are perceived vs. who they really are. Sometimes the perception of a dad — even just calling him a father vs. a dad (there’s a difference) — sometimes this perception causes him to feel isolated AS IF he’s on an island, as if he has no support, because he can’t find any! There are no magazines geared towards dads, no acceptable venue for us to speak about what’s on our minds, what we’re struggling with.

Could you imaging the reaction a dad might receive if he walked into work and told his coworkers that he cried on the car ride in because he missed his kids? What would you think of a man that said this? Would you judge him, or respect him?

It’s the same with women who were prejudiced against for years and years. They weren’t allowed to vote, then they could vote. It was very difficult to become an executive, now their presence as an executive is much more prevalent. Now, although the battle is not over, there is much more equality. But it has taken decades in order for women to reach a point where they can feel somewhat respected and treated equally to men.

Do you think for a moment that women were not capable of voting? Or making executive decisions? Of course they were capable. But they needed a movement to overcome the obstacles laid before them.

Now is the time for an equal rights movement for dads.

This is the main reason I started blogging. It’s why Daddy Brain exists. To help build a community for dads who don’t have one. To let them know that it’s OK to be feeling whatever it is they are feeling. That they are not alone.

You too can do this, if you haven’t already started.

Before we can help dad, first we need to understand him, and what he THINKS his role is. If we can connect with him, the input he receives from us could very well change his life. I’d like to turn this conversation over to you, to discuss what your major problems are in doing this. And what you have found that works well to engage dad and help him take his place as a true parent.

And remember, you are not alone…

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story?

Family Blogs
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The Modern Day Dad Award Goes to David Goldman

This is the first Modern Day Dad Award presented by Daddy Brain.

I was inspired to create this post when I heard the heart-wrenching story of David Goldman, a dad who had been denied seeing his son for over 4 years. It is an unusual story, one which I fear is more common than we might think.

David’s strength, dedication and refusal to give up under extremely difficult circumstances exemplifies what it means to be a modern day dad. 

Before you read the article, I’d like to ask a question. What would you do if your wife took your 4-year old son on vacation to her homeland and never came back?

The following is a reprinting (in its entirety) of the Today Show’s online article about David’s crusade…

After bitter 4-year fight, he finally sees his son again

Dad has ‘beautiful’ reunion with boy whose mother abducted him to Brazil

By Mike Celizic, TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 9:41 a.m. CT, Tues., Feb. 10, 2009

Choking back tears that had been building up for more than four and a half years, a New Jersey father tried to describe the emotions he felt at finally being able to hold and hug his son and tell the boy how much he loved him.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since his birth. It was incredible. Amazing. I got to see my son,” David Goldman told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday by phone from Brazil.

The previous day, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Goldman had finally reached the end of a nightmare that began in June 2004 when his wife, Bruna, left with their son, Sean, for a two-week trip to visit family in her native Brazil. She never came back.

In all the years since, Goldman had traveled to Brazil numerous times hoping to see his son, but all the contact he was allowed to have consisted of a few brief phone calls.

International dispute
A New Jersey court ruled that Bruna had to return Sean to New Jersey for a custody hearing. But despite international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil that upheld the court ruling, Bruna refused to either return or to give up custody of the boy. Instead, she divorced Goldman in a legal proceeding that violated international law, and married an influential Brazilian attorney.

Then, last August, Bruna died while giving birth to a child by her new husband. After her death, that husband petitioned a Brazilian court to take Goldman’s name off his own son’s birth certificate.

Although the system seemed stacked against him, Goldman never gave up. Finally, with the help of Smith, the New Jersey congressman who accompanied Goldman to Brazil, father and son were reunited for a visit on Monday.

“After all this time I got to see him, walk over to him and hug him and tell him how much I love him and how much I miss him and how joyful it was to be with him,” Goldman said.

‘It was beautiful’
He had no idea if Sean would really remember him and how he would greet him, Goldman said.

“I was expecting the worst. And when our arms locked, it wasn’t that way at all. It was beautiful,” he told Vieira, fighting back tears the entire time he spoke.

Sean asked his dad why it took so long to visit him. “That was very painful,” Goldman said. “I saw the anguish on his face.”

What to tell the boy? Goldman was understandably reluctant to tell Sean how his mother first left him and then refused to let him see Sean.

“I didn’t want to hurt him by telling him the absolute truth, so I just said that the courts were making things very difficult,” Goldman said. “I said, ‘Sean, I’ve been here many, many times to try to be with you. The last time I was here I stayed for 10 days and I couldn’t be with you.’ ”

Smith told The Associated Press that Goldman shot baskets and went swimming with Sean during Monday’s visit. Goldman was scheduled to see his son again on Tuesday.

Vieira asked what plans he had for today’s visit.

‘It’s going to happen’

In a later interview with TODAY correspondent Amy Robach, NBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan said that Goldman should eventually regain custody of his son, whose room in Goldman’s Tinton Falls, N.J., home remains as it was the day he left for Brazil with his mother more than four years ago. Filan said that international law and treaties between the United States and Brazil are unequivocal in affirming Goldman’s parental rights.

“You can’t take a kid from one country and hide him another country and say it’s OK,” Filan said. “There’s no question this case should have been decided in a New Jersey court.”

TODAY
In happier times: David Goldman with his son, Sean, and his late wife Bruna.

Filan said she’s looked at the facts from every angle and can conceive of no legal justification or explanation for how the Brazilian courts have acted. According to every law, she said, the man who married Goldman’s wife “has no legal rights to this child whatsoever.” 

She added that the change of administrations in Washington and the personal involvement of Rep. Smith have clearly helped Goldman press his case. Public attention given the case should embarrass the Brazilian government into bowing to the dictates of the law, she said.

“Once one government accuses another government of being in violation of a treaty, it’s embarrassing,” she said.

Filan cautioned that it may still take time for Sean to finally come home to live with his father.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as quick as everybody wants, but I think ultimately it’s going to happen,” she said.

Links to The Today Show’s videos:
Today Video Interview #1
Today Video Interview #2

Stories like this that remind me how lucky I am. I am so grateful for my family.

And remember, you are not alone…

Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek, Part 2

divorce1Welcome back to my interview with Derek, a divorced dad of two.

Click here to read Part 1 if you missed it.

DB: What is it like trying to have a relationship? How much more difficult is it now that you have kids?

Derek: Having a relationship is much more difficult with kids involved. First of all the person that you are dating isn’t really your number one person in your life, your kids are.

If I would have a date planned or the kids have something going on that I want to be at, say a school event, the woman I am dating takes a back seat to them. Of course if the relationship was progressed to a level where the kids have met her and feel comfortable, then she would get an invite to come with me to the event.

So if I choose to be in a relationship then the woman first of all needs to enjoy kids in general and can’t be to needy or jealous of the time that I spend with my children, without her. When I decided to have a relationship after my divorce, I wanted to fined a woman that loved kids — that either had her own kids, or was willing to get to know my kids.

So before anything else I need to know those things otherwise it isn’t going to work. My schedule revolves around my kids, then my girlfriend which makes it hard to have a relationship at times. So planning things can get hard at times especially if it’s spur of the moments things. It also helps to date someone that is in the same stage of life as you are, mainly because they will have friends that will have kids usually around the same age.

DB: Your significant other also has a child. It seems like planning a life together is exponentially more difficult and complicated. How do you do it? Do you have any advice for other divorced dads?

Derek: Right now my girlfriend and I have not done anything together with our kids. So when I have my kids and she has hers we do our own thing. We are currently planning to start doing things together so I would probably be able to answer that question better then.

DB: What is the hardest part of being divorced?

Derek: I would say finances have been the hardest part to manage. With all the money you have to pay the lawyers and your ex spouse it really makes things hard to be able to afford to do certain things. But I would say that is the most stressful, and I will see better days as time goes on.

The hardest part for me is not seeing my kids enough — every other weekend during the school year is not enough! I travel on my non-weekends to see them but it’s a lot of running around on my part, which is very tiresome.

DB: What is the easiest?

Derek: Is there an easy part of being a parent? Regardless if you are married or not? I would say no, but the most enjoyable part is the time I have with them, even if it is not enough.

DB: If you could have the children full time, would you do it?

Derek: Without a doubt I would have my kid’s full time. No question asked.

DB: Do you feel you are still making a substantial impact on your kids lives? Or is your influence undermined by your ex?

Derek: Well to be honest with you I do feel as if I am making in substantial impact on their lives. But I do feel that my ex in some way will always undermine me. It’s really hard because if I don’t ask what is going on with them at her house I will never know. I have been the one to communicate issues that we need to work on with them in both households but she seems to not really think they are big enough issues to concern her.

She always thinks she has the upper hand in everything when it comes to the kids’ issues and what’s best for them.

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I’d like to thank Derek for sharing, and you for reading.

If you have a story or situation you’d like to share, let me know.

And remeber, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Fathers Help Hotline
Child Support Savings
Fathers For Justice

Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek

divorce1One of the main goals of Daddy Brain is to help build community with other dads. Part of this process includes giving dads who don’t have a blog the chance to be heard. It’s always a great honor when a dad agrees to carve out some time in his schedule to share his story with us.

Derek and I have known each other for about two years now, and over the past year or so we’ve become pretty good friends. He’s a divorced dad with two kids (5 & 7 years old), and he’s been divorced since June of 2007. Derek has been kind enough to answer some questions about being a modern day divorced dad. This is his story…

Daddy Brain: Can you describe to me what it was like after you and your ex-wife decided to get divorced?

Derek: It was a relief for me mentally to finally have made the decision…well at that point it was a mutual decision. Every week was different as far as the emotions that I went through, and I second-guessed it all. I wondered if I could do everything on my own and be a good dad.

We set up a schedule for the kids to come see me, every other weekend. The first couple of months, when I would pick up the kids, my ex wife was very angry with me   sometimes yelling or saying certain things about the situation. Of course this made the kids (2 and 4) upset and made for some long rides home by myself with them.

But I stuck with it, almost having to prove to her that I was serious about things and that this was the way it was going to be. I wasn’t going to give in. I made the best of the situation, knowing that someday all of this was going to be well worth it for everyone.

DB: What transpired with the kids? How did you explain what was happening to them? How did your ex-wife handle it?

Derek: The first couple months I traveled up to where they had move to with their Mom, 2 ½ hours away. I decided that they needed to start coming to my place so we set up a schedule and a half way-meeting place for the drop off.

It didn’t go over well with my ex wife but about four months later things were very routine. She handled it awful at first, being very rude with me, making me feel guilty about everything I had done, but over time it got better.

My daughter, 2 1/2 at the time didn’t understand any of it, which I thought was good. But my son understood it all, and asked a lot of questions — but seemed to accept it.

I explained that mommy and daddy loved them both very much but we just couldn’t live in the same house together anymore. I don’t know if he got what I was telling him or not…or if it was the right thing to say, but looking at both my kids now I’m certain that they know mommy and daddy love them a lot despite the fact that we don’t live together.

DB: Do you think you got a raw deal with the divorce proceedings because you’re a man? I have another friend that’s divorced, and he has told me that he felt taken advantage of  both by the system, and his own lawyer!

Derek: My divorce went on forever! One and a half years later I sat in the court room listening to some bullhead judge tell me what was going to happen from here on out…I had 3 different lawyers throughout the whole process because no one would work with me to go after what I wanted for custody for my kids. 

The whole process was unfair and so twisted that it makes me sick to think about it right now! Basically my lawyer did as little as he had too to help me because he knew that the judge wouldn’t go for anything I wanted.

My lawyer told me that to my face and told me that no matter what lawyer I would get it would make no difference.

I fought everyday to try to make 50/50 custody work but in the end I got what most dad’s get: an every other weekend schedule, paying an ass-load of child support, and giving her half of your retirement.

Every case isn’t the same. But some dads deserve more than the “standard ruling” (which some fathers seem just fine with) of being an every other weekend dad!

In the end I figured out, piecing things together that were said from my lawyer and my ex wife, that I was a little puppet from the start and they had all been working together to get this case off their desk and put money in their pockets.

DB: Do you feel that you’re treated differently (by teachers, coworkers, whomever) when it comes to your kids? Are you updated by the kids’ schools?

Derek: Well, I feel that some people are going to have their stereotypes about divorced families in general and there is no changing that.

For instance, one of my daughters pre-school teachers had an ugly divorce 20 years ago; she was also good friends with my ex wife’s mother. She would never talk or make eye contact with me. I thought it was unprofessional but what was I going to do about the way that she felt? Nothing. I know that sometimes people will treat me differently but I know what kind of dad I am.

– – – – 

I’d like to thank Derek for sharing, and you for reading. Click the link below if you’d like to read Part 2 of this interview.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Divorced Dad: An Interview with Derek, Part 2
Fathers Help Hotline
Child Support Savings
Fathers For Justice

Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 4: Dads Need Help Too

This is a video I came across on Twitter. It’s made by a “dude” named Hugh Weber. Although he’s still awaiting the birth of his child, that hasn’t stopped him from beginning the transition “from dude to dad.” His powerful message is a perfect fit with this series…

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You can find Hugh on Twitter, or visit his page @ vimeo.com

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Want to share your own Second-class Parent story? Submit it as a comment and I’ll be happy to highlight you on my blog. Click the widget on the right-side tool bar (near the top) for more info.

– – – –

And remember, you are not alone…

– – – –

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story?

Family Blogs
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Dads are Not Second-class Parents, Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective

A Divorced Dad’s Perepective is written by by guest blogger Derek, dad of two.

 

Derek is a very involved dad who puts his kids first. He is constantly looking for ways to become a better dad and a better man. The story he relates here is one of many instances where the school system has treated him like a second-class parent…

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Without getting too detailed about my situation, I must say that as being a divorced dad I feel I have been treated like a second-class parent many times.

 

I’m a very involved, hands on dad — from changing diapers when my kids were little, to potty training them, to reading them books at night.

 

I believe that there shouldn’t be labels put on tasks when raising your kids, such as “mom’s always cook dinner, unless of course it’s easy mac (and cheese) or dad’s putting something on the grill.” Or doing laundry and grocery shopping to name a few.

 

These were things that growing up my mom would do, and rarely if ever I saw my dad do. He was in charge of the man things around the house and did a good job at that but I believe those times have changed.

 

On my own now being divorced I am forced to “do it all” and doing great with it all. I honestly have most things under control. I always know what my kids schedule is for school and extracurricular actives, I decorate their rooms and make sure sheets are clean, make sure that we all are eating healthy and not taking them to Mickey D’s all the time!

 

And I would be this way even if I were married. It’s called being a parent!

 

What is hard for me is dealing with how the system or people in our society make us dad’s feel as if we should just be a “traditional” dad and not a parent and modern dad.

 

Recently, I called my son’s school and asked if I could have some info about his hot lunch monthly billing (for the last couple months). No big deal right?

 

The first question the lady asks is “now you and your son’s mother are divorced right? And she has primary custody right?”

 

At first I felt like asking: “am I speaking with my lawyer’s office?” I thought better of it! I answered her and she continued talking about how she’d see if see could get that info to me.

 

She could see??? See what? She doesn’t know if I pay for the hot lunch bill or if it’s my son’s mother who pays. She was not telling me what I needed to know. She told me that she would mail me the info…well that was 3 weeks ago and I have not received a thing.

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Want to share your own Second-class Parent story? Submit it as a comment and I’ll be happy to highlight you on my blog. Click the widget on the right-side tool bar (near the top) for more info.

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And remember, you are not alone…

– – – –

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story

Family Blogs
blog