Friday, September 30, 2011

Be Courageous, See Courageous!

Over the last month, we have told you quite a bit about the film Courageous. Today it finally comes out in theaters.

We strongly encourage you to go see it with your family, keeping in mind that it is rated PG-13 for some scenes involving drug trading and gangs, with some intense action (the dads are police officers, so the action is perfectly in keeping with the story).

The film has one of the most uplifting and inspiring messages about fatherhood you will find on the big screen; and it is very entertaining, moving from funny to tear-jerking without a hitch.

The church that produced the film, Sherwood Baptist Church, also produced Fireproof and Facing the Giants. While Courageous is a Christian-themed film, it has a message that can resonate with all fathers and families - when dads have the courage to step up and be great dads, it makes all the difference in the world to families and communities.

You can buy your tickets in advance online by clicking here.

If you still are not convinced to go see the film, watch the opening scene of Courageous below (click here to see video online)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Do involved fathers = smarter, better behaved children?

According to findings from a recent study from Concordia University, the answer to that question is yes. Compared to children whose fathers were absent, the study found that children who had present and actively involved fathers had higher IQs and demonstrated fewer behavioral problems.

Erin Pougnet, the study’s author, noted that programming for fathers is an important application of the findings of this study:

Programs that teach fathers positive parenting skills and that are attractive and accessible to families from a range of socioeconomic strata, "could go a long way to enhance children's later development."

Another expert in child research, Dr. Mariana Brussoni of the Child & Family Research Institute and University of British Columbia, noted that many programs neglect to specifically focus on fathers:
It is crucial for policies and programs to consider how they can support fathers to remain involved in children's lives. Many of the existing programs are more focused towards mothers and their needs, which is undoubtedly important. However, fathers cannot continue to be relegated to a secondary parenting role.

These statements are no surprise to us at NFI. We’ve long recognized that fathers take a different approach to parenting than mothers and need resources that are specifically designed for them. In fact, this matches what dads and moms are telling us in our national surveys, Pop's Culture and Mama Says:
  • Almost 50% of dads felt like they did not have the skills to be a father when they first became a dad
  • "Lack of knowledge about how to be a good father” ranked highly on dads’ list of obstacles to good fathering
  • 1 in 3 moms also agreed that the “lack of parenting resources specifically designed for fathers” is a significant obstacle to dads’ parenting

That’s where NFI comes in. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources and the #1 trainer of organizations and fatherhood practitioners. Here’s just a few of the highlights of our work to make sure dads have the resources they need to help them be involved fathers:
  • NFI offers over 100 resources designed specifically for fathers (brochures, fathering handbooks, curricula for fatherhood programs, etc.)
  • We have distributed over 5.8 million fatherhood skill-building resources
  • We have trained over 7,600 fatherhood program practitioners and over 3,500 organizations on how to deliver fatherhood skill-building programming to dads
  • Independent, third-party evaluations of our fatherhood curricula have shown statistically significant increases in pro-fathering knowledge, attitudes, and skills

You can learn more about the fatherhood skill-build resources we offer at our FatherSOURCE™ Resource Center. Ultimately, we strive to provide the very best skill-building resources for fathers because, as research like the Concordia University study have found, kids thrive when they have involved, responsible, and committed fathers. That is what is at the heart of NFI’s mission.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fatherhood is as Serious as a Heart Attack... Literally

A new study (described in this article and in many other places) has found that fathers are less likely than other men to die of heart disease.

To summarize, "childless men were 17 percent more likely to have died of heart disease during the decade [under study] than the men who were fathers." The article goes on to talk about the potential link between infertility and heart disease, which is very interesting.

But I really like what the researcher says towards the end of the article:
"There may be more than just a biologic reason" for the childless men’s higher risk of dying of heart disease, (Dr. Michael) Eisenberg says. After all, other studies have shown men who live alone tend to die sooner than men who don’t, he says, and maybe having kids spurs men to take better care of themselves.

We often say here at NFI that in order to be a good father you have to be alive. We know that one of the biggest motivators for men around a variety of issues is their children. Taking care of their health appears to be no different.

I know in my own life that since my son was born, I have been much more interested in staying healthy - my wife and I have gone through P90X, and are doing Insanity as we speak.

And this is why NFI does its fit2father campaign every year. In fact, you should take the pledge today to join other dads in getting healthy for their kids' sakes!

So, we are not necessarily surprised by the conclusion and interpretation of this new study. However, men do still live about 6 years less than women, and one of the reasons is that they don't go to the doctor nearly as often as women do. So, while we know that having children motivates men to do better, they still have a ways to go to make sure they are doing all they can to be around for their children for as long, and as healthily, as possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The corporate disconnect between work and family

Does your company offer flexible working hours or telecommuting options to improve work-life balance for employees? As many as 85% of companies offer some kind of flexible time arrangement, but a recent study found that many workers don’t feel comfortable using these options.

According to “The Juggle” on The Wall Street Journal, some employees say they have been discouraged in some form by their managers from taking advantage of flex time options or fear that they will lose respect or be perceived as “slacking” on the job.

This disconnect between employers’ claim to family-friendliness and what they do (or don’t do) to enable their employees to make use of work-family balance options is disheartening, and could end up working against the employers in the end. Studies have shown that workers who have flexible working schedules are more satisfied with their job, experience less stress, have stronger loyalty to their company, and work harder.

NFI has worked with a variety of companies from Fortune 500 companies like KPMG, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and IBM, to smaller corporations to help them improve their Work-Family Balance policies. We believe that helping dads balance work and family is part of our mission to improve the well-being of children. When dads are able to adjust their working schedule to be more involved with their kids or at home, it helps moms too, who told NFI in a nationwide survey that they could balance work and family better if they had more support from dads.

If supporting families isn’t important to companies (which it should be, and is for many companies), certainly the bottom line is. And the bottom line is strengthened when employees are enabled and encouraged to balance work and family. Work-family balance is a win-win-win for everyone: companies, employees, and children.

Tell us about your experience. What kind of work-family balance options does your company offer? Do you feel like your company supports and encourages you to take advantage of those options?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 1: Work-Family Balance

Welcome to the first installment of our 10-week podcast series, Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell.

This week, NFI president Roland C. Warren sits down with Mark to talk about the challenge of balancing work and family.

According to NFI’s two national surveys on attitudes about fathering (Pop’s Culture and Mama Says) both moms and dads think that the biggest obstacle to good fathering is “work responsibilities.”

You can imagine that being a professional athlete makes it even harder to be an involved dad year round. But Mark has some great advice to get you started on achieving balance.

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to work-family balance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

As Parents...Are We Doomed to be Fat?

Having had a baby four months ago…the topic of weight is literally heavy on my mind. The infamous baby weight is still lingering around, and not just for me, but my husband too. Come on…I know I am not the only wife out there with a husband who added a few pounds with sympathy eating… a diet of pizza and Sprite because it was the only thing I could keep down.

These extra few pounds and lack of motivation are not things either of us are familiar with. When we started dating, I ran a marathon and he did a 12.5 mile swim around Key West. We are motivated people …but now…our motivation and endurance are consumed by that of a 12 pound baby girl. The ability to find time and energy with a baby in the house seems pretty much impossible. The idea of getting up at 5:30 before our daughter doesn’t seem ideal after a midnight feeding with a long day of work ahead.

So it had me thinking, as parents…are we doomed to be fat?

In doing some research for NFI’s Fit2Father campaign, I came across an article from a few years ago in the New York Times. It seems my husband and I aren’t the only ones suffering from a drop in activity due to parenthood. A study showed that the amount of time devoted to exercise drops about 37% for mothers, while for fathers it drops a whopping 50%. Couple this with studies that show the more likely a father is to be overweight, yes…fathers more than mothers…the more likely a child is to be overweight…you have a frightening combination.

But how do we find the time?? How can my husband make sure he does not lose that 50%? And how as a family do we stop losing time and start losing pounds??

While the odds may be against my husband and I as parents, I think it’s time we dust off our shoes and make the time or, better yet, pull out that BabyBjorn and carry around my 12 pounds of motivation. After all, if we doom ourselves…we might just doom our daughter as well.

Need motivation to get in shape! Check out NFI’s Fit2Father Program!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dad is Carpool King

A recent survey conducted by Chevrolet found that dads are taking a more active role in carpooling their kids to school, extracurricular activities, or daycare – 70% of dads are involved in this responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that Dads prefer utility vehicles over minivans, the traditional choice for carpooling, opting for a more masculine / cool vehicle. Dads also value safety, fuel economy, versatility, and passenger capacity as top vehicle features.

At NFI, it’s no surprise to us that Dads are more involved in carpool duties. This is right in line with recent trends showing that Dads are taking more and more hands-on responsibility in caring for their kids and helping around the house. In fact, we’ve blogged about how dads and moms do the same amount of work and how dads are key influencers in family purchase decisions. NFI’s own Vince DiCaro certainly would agree with Chevrolet’s findings because he choose his SUV for the practicality of carrying a car seat, dog, two adults, and lots of equipment.

The fact is, despite record levels of father absence in our country now – 24 million kids or 1 out 3 grow up without their father in the home – when dads are involved, they are more involved than they have ever been in almost every category. Take a look at these statistics (taken from "Marketing to Dads”, August 2010, Mintel.):

  • Dads have tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965.
  • Dads have become key influencers and decision makers in all categories of family purchasing, including groceries, financial investments, child and baby care items, and toys.
  • One-third of men are the primary shopper in the home – in fact, 7 out of 10 disagree that mom does most of the shopping for the kids.
  • Dads are spending a significant amount of time with their children engaging in play, cooking, and planning healthy and educational activities for their families.
Not only is this increased involvement good for kids – research shows that children who grow up with involved fathers fare better on almost all social, economic, educational, and physical measures and are less likely to be involved in crime, get pregnant, experience abuse, or drop out of school – but it’s also good for moms. In Mama Says, NFI’s survey of mothers’ attitudes about fathering, a significant majority of moms said they could balance work and family better if they had more support from dad. Most likely, the extra help with carpooling from dads is a big plus for moms.

Props to Dads for stepping up and adding “taxi driver” to the many hats they already wear. And props to Chevrolet for taking the time to recognize dads’ increased role in taking responsibility for ensuring their kids get to where they need to go safely!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mark Brunell: Monday Morning Dad

Next week, here on this blog, we will begin a 10-week podcast program with New York Jets quarterback, Mark Brunell.

Mark, a recipient of NFI's Fatherhood Award and NFI Advisory Board member, sat down with NFI president Roland C. Warren to talk about all things fatherhood. Each week, we will post a portion of their discussion.

Up first for next Monday: fathers and work-family balance. We hope you visit to download the podcast!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Up All Night" - A Rookie Parent's Review

My daughter was born 4 months ago. If you ask Babycenter she is exactly 18 weeks and 4 days. (I am still wondering when they will start counting minutes.) When my husband and I heard about the new series Up All Night” starring Christina Applegate, we were excited enough to actually stay up until 10 o'clock to watch it. How could we not relate? My husband is a successful financial advisor and works out of our home. He watches our daughter during the day. I just returned to work here at NFI and when I am not here I run a children's photography business. We are busy...we tag team parent and we devote everything to our daughter while still trying to find that elusive balance. As rookie parents, a 30-minute comedy about sleepless nights and new parenthood after we had finally put our own daughter to sleep seemed right up our ally.

During the premier, there were many laugh-out-loud moments that had us nodding our heads in agreement, or rather empathy... For example, there have been many-a-times at the grocery store where we have avoided that one person who insists on touching our child or telling us how she is just so cute...and you meet that person in every single aisle. “Yes…I know my kid is cute…you told me in Aisle 2, 5, and 7 already…Can you leave me alone so I can get the things I came here for before she stops being cute and starts screaming bloody murder?” Also, we just celebrated our anniversary and counted exactly how many hours we had until she woke up and we contemplated turning in early. In the end, we didn’t turn in early and she woke up 15 minutes after we went to sleep. And for the best line of the night seen in all the previews “We're on your side!!" Our daughter just discovered her toes...and trying to change a baby who insists on having her toes in her mouth is pretty much impossible! Really they do seem stronger than us sometimes! In those 30 minutes, I probably laughed a good 15 minutes and, when you consider the amount of time taken by commercials...that is pretty good in my book.

BUT...yes, there is a but...I do have one complaint. It is this…Really??? Another video-game-obsessed, grocery-store-ignorant, irresponsible dad? Since I work out of the house and my husband and I rotate our hours to avoid daycare, I thought that maybe we could relate to the trials and tribulations of these characters more specifically, but my husband is far from sitting around waiting for me to come home. I know it is a comedy and it was an "equal opportunity offender" and poked fun of both moms and dads, but an out-of-touch dad who can only connect with a 4-month-old via video games? Come on NBC…you can come up with something more creative than that.

When you are talking about adjusting to life with a newborn...there is endless material. I know there are plenty of laughable moments in our household for a sitcom. Need an example...the many ways we were advised on getting an infant to sleep. Don't advise this personally, but I have been told a newborn strapped into a car-seat on top of the washer really does the trick. (We resorted to a bouncy at the bottom of our bed that sat between our legs so we could bounce it when she began to stir…worked like a charm.) Or how about the time when my daughter had reflux and had to be upright at all times? The astronaut-style contraption my husband created that included the miracle bouncy and the side of the entertainment center was literally out of this world. Add the working mom into the mix…how about breast feeding and working? Come on…trying to handle a pump, in work clothes in an office full of people who may or may not have children…comical. Rookie parenthood is clumsy, awkward, and down right hilarious…The supply of good material is endless and resorting to a couch potato dad as a primary character... just not necessary.

I will certainly keep watching. I especially appreciated the motherhood moments that had me laughing at myself, but I am definitely going to be hoping for two things for future episodes... One - that Will Arnette's character gets some credit as a dad and Two - the show moves to 8PM.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Are Good Dads Wimps? Fathers and Testosterone

This is from a recent New York Times article about an important new study: "Testosterone, that most male of hormones, takes a dive after a man becomes a parent. And the more he gets involved in caring for his children ... the lower his testosterone drops."

In other words, good dads are wimps.

I am kidding of course. We at NFI firmly believe that one of the most courageous, and therefore manly, things a guy can do is to take care of his children. The easy, and therefore wimpy, way is to not shoulder that responsibility and walk away. You may walk away with more testosterone coursing through your veins, but you are certainly much less of a man.

But what was more interesting to me about this new study was not necessarily the science of testosterone levels, but the interpretation of the results. Here are a few snippets from the story:

  • “The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”

  • “My hope would be that this kind of research has an impact on the American male. It would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring.” (also from Peter Ellison; emphasis mine)

  • “But this should be viewed as, ‘Oh it’s great, women aren’t the only ones biologically adapted to be parents.’" (Lee Gettler, an anthropologist at Northwestern University and co-author of the study; emphasis mine)

  • Historically, the idea that men were out clubbing large animals and women were staying behind with babies has been largely discredited. The only way mothers could have highly needy offspring every couple of years is if they were getting help.” (also from Lee Gettler; emphasis mine)
I don't think I am overstating it when I say that these are truly remarkable statements about fatherhood.

First is the "who." The fact that academia is drawing these very strong conclusions about the necessity of fathers is a positive sign that our culture is getting closer and closer to giving a real "stamp of approval" to the irreplacability of fatherhood.

Since fatherhood (or so we thought until this study came out!) is largely "constructed" by the culture - in other words, dads get cues from the culture (not their bodies) about what they are supposed to do - it is critically important that the culture send clear messages about the importance of dads. If we expect good fathering, we are more likely to get it.

Second is the "what." As I stated above, we have largely believed that fatherhood is a cultural imperative - if the culture says we need good fathers, we get them. If the culture says fathers are not important, then we are less likely to get them. This is less true with moms, since their biology is so intimately tied with their having (pregnancy and childbirth) and caring for (breastfeeding, female hormones) their children.

But now, the gentlemen quoted above are suggesting that, much like motherhood, there is a clear biological imperative to fatherhood - that men's bodies "tell" them to be good dads. This is huge. We don't have to "make up" reasons for dads to get involved. Clearly there are tons of good ones; research has been abundantly clear that children are much better off when they have involved fathers.

But now that we can point to biology and say that dads are meant to be involved, and perhaps even more importantly, that moms are meant to have male help, the argument is all the stronger for it. At a time when 1 out of every 3 children in the country is growing up without their biological father in the home, we need all the help we can get to show that kids need their dads.

And there is nothing wimpy about that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

When "Father" Loses All Meaning

There is an incredibly profound line in the movie The Incredibles. The bad guy, Syndrome, says, "When everyone's super, no one will be."

I was reminded of this line when I read this article about a sperm donor being the "father" of 150 children.

It is the last line of the article that reminds me of Syndrome's wisdom: “How do you make connections with so many siblings? What does family mean to these children?”

We live in an age of "family relativism" where the definition of family has become so broad that it has lost all meaning: when everything is a family, nothing is.

NFI's president was at a recent meeting of government officials in which someone asked "how do you define family?" The answer given by the government official was "we define family as any unit in which there is love." Really?

That definition implies where there is not love, there is not family. So, if I am told to pay child support, can I just say, "I don't love my kids, therefore they are not my family, therefore, I don't have to pay child support"? Try that argument out in court.

The reality is that this "love" definition is absolutely not how the government, nor anyone else, should or does define family.

As far as the impact on fatherhood is concerned, this is where I am most worried. Since fatherhood is a culturally constructed institution, when the culture is completely confused about what family is, fatherhood inevitably suffers. The above article discusses how sperm donor fathers are taken by surprise by how many kids their sperm is being used to create. They are keeping spreadsheets to keep track... is this heartless monstrosity the future of family and fatherhood? And note that the article says nothing about the negative consequences that these children will face as a result of growing up without dads.

Tell us what you think...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our 300th Post!

300 posts ago, if you had told me we would one day reach 300 posts on this blog, I would have called you crazy. "We are way too lazy to write that many blog posts," I would have said. Well, I have been proven wrong, and here we are at 300 blog posts.

So, in keeping with the theme of laziness, I will not write anything original, but instead, direct you to the 5 most read blog posts in the history of this blog. They must be the most read for a reason - I assume they are pretty interesting or maybe controversial (or at least search engine friendly). So, in celebration of our 300th post, enjoy these 5 blasts from the past:

  1. The Toy Story Dad…What's His Story?
  2. Fathers, be good to your daughters
  3. Taking the Child Out of Child Support
  4. Fit to Retire
  5. The Father Factor in the Tucson Shooting

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hey Mom! Get Dad Involved with Back to School!

This week many families are prepping for, or even diving into the back-to-school grind. NFI recently contributed to Working on advice for mom on getting dads involved this time of year.

If you are a Mom getting back into the swing of things, help ease the transition with these three tips below and then check out the full article!

Back-to-School tips for Mom!

  1. Easing the morning “rush hour”: Shift your day more his way. In the evening after work, dads tend to be able to focus more on family. So, consider shifting some of the morning tasks to the evening, when he’s in “family mode.” Dad can help the kids make school lunches or pack their backpacks before bedtime, which will allow you both to have a less stressful morning.

  2. Homework Help: Tap into his expertise. Taking turns helping the kids with their homework may be “fair” but it might not be what helps you and the kids the most. You’ll both enjoy the helping the kids more if you’re working from your strong points, Dad will be more excited to engage with the kids if he’s confident in what he’s doing, and your kids will get the benefit of both their parents’ strengths.

  3. The Food “Network”: Make cooking a time to connect: Don’t view getting dinner to the table as another chore to check off your evening to-do list. Make it a time for family to “network” and share a fun time once or twice a week.
Read the full article here!