Thursday, May 17, 2012

Notice: We Have a New Home for our Blog!

The Father Factor blog has moved!

**This will be the very last blog post at this address**

From here on out, the new home of National Fatherhood Initiative's blog, The Father Factor, is So, if you are subscribed via email to this blog, please go to and re-subscribe at that new address. The subscribe field will be near the top right of the page.

The new blog site is a much more technologically advanced tool that will allow us to serve you better with the same fatherhood-focused content.

We thank you for being a great supporter of our work at NFI and on The Father Factor, and look forward to seeing you at our new home!

Again, its See you there!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wise Words About Moms from a Special Soccer Coach

This post is from Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President.

Fatherhood has many interesting twists and turns as children age.  My girls were only 5 and 3 when I started to work for NFI.  Now 17 and 14, both of them play soccer with the same passion that I remember bringing to the sports I played as a child.  The soccer journey for my older daughter started only a year before I came to NFI.  It’s been a joy to watch my girls grow and mature as young ladies and soccer players.

In a little over a year, I will face one of the greatest challenges a father can face—watching a child go to college.  Little did I know when my oldest started to play soccer when she was 4 years old that she would develop into a player interested in and good enough to play at the collegiate level.  Selecting a college has been difficult enough, but it became even more difficult for us as we tried to find a college that provides the academic program and rigor my daughter needs and wants, an athletic program that understands the priority of “student” in “student-athlete,” and a coaching staff that my wife and I can trust to care for our daughter as she leaves the security and safety of our home.

The recruiting journey started nearly two years ago and just came to an end with my daughter verbally committing to attend and play soccer at Trinity University (San Antonio, TX) starting in 2013.  Trinity is considered to be one of the top academic universities in this part of the country, and has a well-respected soccer program (.847 winning percentage since 2004).  Lance Key is the head coach, three-time All American collegiate player, and former Major League Soccer player with the Colorado Rapids. 

Lance recently become a father for the first time.  We hit if off during my daughter’s recruiting visit as we talked about the joy he felt anticipating the birth of his first child.  Since the birth of Ava, we’ve talked about the deep, abiding love he has for her and how it has deepened the love he has for his wife. 

As he sat in church this past Mother’s Day, he reflected on his love for his wife and mother of his beautiful little girl.  He spontaneously sent the following e-mail to the mothers of his current players and to those of the girls in my daughter’s incoming class who have also committed to play for Trinity.   His message is one that every father should remember—the importance of a mother’s involvement and commitment to her children and how it facilitates and makes easier a father’s role.   


Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there!!  As I sat in church this morning, I felt compelled to send a message to you who have decided to entrust your daughters to my care...during such a critically important time of their lives. 

As a man who has always had a very special relationship with my own mother, and now drawing from the experience of watching my incredible wife deliver and care for our little girl, Ava, I am reminded of so much of the love that a mother invests into her children. 

As I sat yesterday, watching our class of 2012 graduates, we listened to a man offer some incredible words.  He spoke about a great number of fascinating topics with great purpose and encouragement, but one statement in particular resonated with me.  He encouraged all of us to redirect our aim away from what the world recognizes as success and focus our efforts on a life of significance.  What an incredible perspective this was, and how appropriate the encourage 22- and 23-year-old college graduates the day before Mother's Day to appreciate the things in their life that are invaluable over those things that are assigned value. 

Parenthood is perhaps the most significant thing in the world, far greater than any victory between the touchlines or promotion at work...and the ability the mothers have to completely sustain their children goes beyond description. 

I salute you mothers today, along with my wife, my mother, and my sister.  I am so grateful to get the opportunity to know you in the coming years, and appreciate what you do so very much.  There is nothing quite like a mother's love. 

Have a wonderful day celebrating your incredible significance.

With love,

Lance Key

Trinity University
Women's Soccer Coach

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Octomom: Her Children, Her Choice and Our Responsibility

Last week, the Associated Press reported that Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. Octomom, has run into some serious financial trouble. Apparently, she has amassed $1 million in debt to a range of creditors -- including her parents. It's also reported that she may have to resort to doing a porn movie in order to make ends meet.

For anyone one who has followed Ms. Suleman's saga over the last three years, none of this should be a surprise. She has made a series of troubling and unwise choices, most notably her decision to have 14 children with no apparent financial means to support them. Alas, actions have consequences, and although one can choose their actions, no one can choose the consequences of their actions.

You might recall that much of the initial reporting about Suleman's decision to have octuplets was positive, even glowing. Our culture tends to respond to these kinds of "scientific miracle" stories like proud 3-year-olds showing our adoring parents a new skill, boasting, "Look what we can do!"

But the tone of the news stories soon turned negative, even vicious, as reports surfaced that Ms. Suleman was a jobless single mother with six more young children who subsisted on a combination of welfare checks, food stamps and student loans. The situation got even worse after a widely seen interview of Ms. Suleman by NBC's Ann Curry. Ms. Suleman reportedly even received death threats.

Why were (and are) so many so incensed by this situation? Is it because children are involved? Maybe, but there certainly have been worse stories that involved children. Maybe it is because Ms. Suleman does not have the money to support her family. Possibly, but could one really make that case in this season of billion-dollar bailouts?

No, I believe the real issue is that Ms. Suleman has been smugly putting in our collective faces something about ourselves that we do not want to see and refuse to acknowledge. Ms. Suleman's story exposes the fact that for the last few decades, our culture has been carefully constructing a modern-day "Tower of Babel" in celebration of "personal choice," especially in matters related to sex.

We have constructed this tower brick by brick -- one brick to unlink marriage from childbearing, another to unlink fatherhood from family life. We have been on a march to climb our tower without taking the time to consider the consequences.

Worse yet, any courageous soul who dares to try and stop us on our "upward" march is shoved from the tower, sans parachute, as an example for others.

Ms. Suleman, a learned product of our culture, knows our dilemma well, or at least got her money's worth from the many PR consultants who have coached her. For example, when Ms. Curry asked, "Why is it responsible for a single woman without a job... to have eight more children?" Ms. Suleman responded, "Yes, I have chosen to be single... If there is a couple... just together, why are they exempt from being called irresponsible?"

When Ms. Curry queried why her fertility specialist, who knew that she already had six children, transferred so many embryos, Ms. Suleman responded, "It's a subject of choice... so he did not judge me. [He was] Very professional."

Even when Ms. Curry tried to challenge Ms. Suleman by suggesting that children need a father, Ms. Suleman had all the right answers. She said, "I absolutely believe that. And they do have a father."
The problem is that Ms. Suleman, like many others, has chosen to view fatherhood as merely a biological transaction. In a culture where choice trumps all, who can "cast the first stone" at a woman who undervalues the need for children to have a physically and emotionally present father in their lives? This is despite reams of social science research that support the fact that children need involved dads.

In short, the more Ms. Curry tried to turn the mirror on Ms. Suleman, the more the mirror was turned back on the culture that produced her.

Indeed, the truth is that choices are never personal; they are always communal. Her children are our responsibility, too -- your tax dollars pay for the programs that support her choices. Ms. Suleman's story illustrates that in our politically correct, choice-saturated culture, there are more and more things that you dare not say. However, the problem is that there are fewer and fewer things that you dare not do.

This post was originally published on May 8, 2012 on The Huffington Post

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Junior Seau's Fatherhood Story

There are still many unanswered questions about the tragic death of former NFL player Junior Seau. From our perspective here at NFI, many of the most important questions surround his family life.

While many people in the sports world gush about how great a player he was and all the good he did for "the community," things are much less clear when it comes to what he did, or didn't do, for his own family.

We do know that the day before he apparently took his own life, he sent text messages to his ex-wife and three children telling them he loved them. The fact that he texted his kids, and did not see them face-to-face before his death, raises questions. How often was he seeing his children? What was the extent of the estrangement since his divorce in 2002? Indeed, it was his girlfriend, not his ex-wife or children, who found him dead.

I also find it interesting that Seau never officially retired from football. Was his life so locked up, his identity so inseparable, from his role as an NFL player that he just could never bring himself to let go? Because of his divorce, was he not able to pour his life into his family, especially his children, in a way that would have saved him from what looks like an identity crisis? While he was too old to continue playing on the football field, couldn't he have continued playing with his children?

I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions. But having been around this fatherhood thing for as long as I've been, there are certain patterns that you start to notice. I think of the murder of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair in 2009, which we blogged about here.

I think of all the research I've read on what happens to men's health, and father-child relationships in particular, after divorce. In short, they disintegrate over time. Many men tend to view "the wife and kids" as a single "package," and when their marriages end, their relationships with their children often become strained. And often, the legal system and our culture make it more difficult for them to stay connected to their children over time. Also, men are more likely than women to remarry after divorce, and when they start new families, the old ones often get left behind.

More answers are certainly going to come in the next few weeks as to what happened with Junior Seau. We can only hope and pray that his children will be ok. We will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.

Ryan O'Neal Not Alone as a "Lost" Father

In a depressing interview on The Today Show yesterday, actor Ryan O'Neal spilled his guts about the multitude of problems he's had with his children and with his romantic partner of many years, Farrah Fawcett.

In the interview, Matt Lauer listed the various problems O'Neal's four, now grown, children have had, and then the conversation went like this:

Lauer: "Were you a bad parent?"
O'Neal: "Looks like it... Sure looks like it... I suppose I was."
Lauer: "Why did you fail as a parent?"
O'Neal:"Well, I wasn't trained."
Lauer: "Nobody's trained."
O'Neal:"Nobody's trained, so I found out..."

First, I can't imagine how difficult it would be as a man in my later years (O'Neal is now 71) to have to face the fact that I was a failure as a father. After all, being a dad is the most important role a man will ever have (along with being a husband). If you fail at that, then, in many ways, your life is a failure. At least that is how I think I would feel.

So, I felt a mix of pity, pride, and anger at O'Neal as I watched him make this admission. Part of me felt terrible for the guy; what a tough thing to face. Part of me was "proud" of him for having the courage to make this admission publicly; it is a hard thing for a man to admit he failed at something, especially in public. But another part of me was screaming, "Why didn't you realize this 40 years ago when your kids were young and you still had a chance! It's too late now, you jerk!"

Second, there is much wisdom, but also an omission in Lauer's statement that "nobody's trained" to be a good father. While this is true (our own research shows that about half of men do not feel prepared to become fathers), it is also true that many sons learn how to be good fathers by watching their own dads. I don't know anything about O'Neal's father, but it would appear that O'Neal did not feel like he learned anything from him. He may not have been trained, but wasn't there the possibility he could have learned by watching? Apparently not... 

That said, O'Neal's experience should be a lesson to our culture -- we need to make sure we are doing more to prepare men to be good dads, especially in an era of mass father absence. One in three kids grows up without his or her father in the home. And they are not being "trained." What kinds of fathers do we expect boys to become? It's hard to be what you don't see. And what kinds of fathers will our girls decide they need to have for their children?

From that perspective, it is hard to be mad at the Ryan O'Neals of the world who grow up in a culture that de-emphasizes the importance of dads and then expects them to be good fathers. While he should certainly be held accountable for not being as responsible as he should have been, there is at least an explanation that provides context.

What did you feel when you watched O'Neal's interview?