Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mama Says Help!

In a recent research study from parenting site, American moms were asked what they think is the best thing about being a mom today. By a wide margin, they chose "Men expected to share in childcare responsibilities." (Read the whole study here). But moms also report that they find work-family balance their most challenging issue as a mom.

These results both reflect the changing nature of the American family - moms still find it hard to effectively balance the demands of home and work, and they are grateful for those involved dads who make it easier for the entire family to navigate this tricky topic. NFI came across many of the same themes in our recent Mama Says survey - sounds like moms are telling us something!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is Everybody Really Fine?

Everybody's Fine, a new Robert DeNiro movie, opened a few weeks ago. Here are the details.

Here is a synopsis of the film: A widower who realized his only connection to his family was through his wife sets off on an impromptu road trip to reunite with each of his grown children.

The title of the movie is a reference to what his late wife used to say to him whenever he asked about how his kids were doing. She would say, "everybody's fine," and he would move on without getting more details.

I had the opportunity to pre-screen the movie before it came out. For the most part, I thought it did a terrific job of showing how fathers, through their emotional absence, can let their children's lives pass them by. DeNiro's character, despite providing materially for his four kids, knows little about them, they know little about him, and he has no real relationships with any of them.

There were some very poignant moments throughout the film that realistically show the pain and problems that father absence causes both children and their dads.

However, the final moments of the film contradict the message that the first 90 minutes so effectively communicated. His surviving children all show up to his house for Christmas, and as they are all sitting around the dinner table, DeNiro's character says, "For the first time, I can honestly say that everybody's fine."

The problem is that two of his grandchildren were sitting at the table facing the exact same problem his four children had - they were growing up in situations that would not allow them to know their fathers!

So, they establish throughout the film that when children and their fathers lack a good relationship, it causes problems. But then at the end, we are told that two children growing up without their fathers are "fine."

I don't get it... If you have seen the film, I would love to get your thoughts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Drunk 4-Year-Old Steals Christmas Presents

The headline sounds like a bad joke, but it is actually a real and terribly sad news story. You can get the details here.

Hayden, the four-year-old whose parents are getting divorced and whose father is in jail, apparently runs away often looking for his father. The mom said, "He runs away trying to find his father. He wants to get in trouble so he can go to jail because that's where his daddy is."

That is heartbreaking on so many levels. It gives a real world example of the "intergenerational cycle" of crime (parent goes to jail, child more likely to go to jail). It shows how the "father wound" can run deep and embed itself very early in a child's life. It is also especially heartbreaking that the boy is trying to re-create a happy Christmas in his home by taking other people's presents -- he knows if his daddy was home, then he would be having the same fun time as his neighbors whose daddies are still home.

It is depressing to think how this child may act out when he is a teenager.

Just another sad reminder of why father absence is so destructive to families and communities.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Coach & T.J.

Today's Washington Post ran a fabulous story about Broad Run football player T.J. Peeler. The only consistent part of his pre-HS years was the chronic instability of his family's living situation and his constantly changing educational situation.

Enter basketball coach John Costello and family who, over three years ago, volunteered to let T.J. live with them because he decided what he really wanted was some stability in his school situation. T.J. became a true part of the family, and for a kid who has never met his biological father - Coach Costello became living breathing evidence of what a father should be. The final lines of the story were perhaps most compelling:

"I just see Coach Cos and he has a steady job and a family, a family that loves him, and they have a lot of chemistry, they always talk," Peeler said. "I just want a family and kids, that's it. I just want to be a man and take care of my kids. Because I love being around kids and I just think it'd be great to have my own home to come to and have my kids and tell them to do their homework."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Of Princesses and First Ladies

In Roland's latest Washington Times column, he explores the idea that "a good father helps his daughter find her prince without kissing all the frogs" and how this is played out in Disney's upcoming movie, "The Princess and The Frog."

He also points out the father factor in the President and First Lady Obama's strong marriage.

You can read the full article here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Good Can Come From a Recession?

More time with family and stronger relationships...that's what.

I recently saw a poll* showing that four times as many people said their relationships got better, rather than worse, due to the recent recession.

Apparently, cutting back on kids' extracurriculars, staying and eating in, and spending more time together has brought us closer. It has forced us to slow down, spend and expend less, and look inward and homeward for fulfillment and entertainment.

Hopefully we'll all be able to keep this perspective when things pick up - slowing down and really noticing each other shouldn't just be a "hard times" habit.

*This poll is referenced in a recent TIME Magazine article: "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting." Interesting read...another post for another day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why do dads think they are replaceable?

Check out this video of Roland C. Warren, NFI's president, discussing why dads think they are replaceable at the release event for Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mama Says What?

Today at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., NFI released Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering. Go to to find out what moms really think about dads...