Why We Should Care if CEO Dads Choose to be Engaged Parents

One of the benefits of leaning in at home is I escort the boys to the school bus stop in the morning and meet them there in the afternoon. The smiles and hugs when they come off the bus are priceless.

One of the benefits of leaning in at home is I escort the boys to the school bus stop in the morning and meet them there in the afternoon. The smiles and hugs when they come off the bus are priceless.

The thoughts and experiences of several CEO dads regarding work-family balance are detailed in a new article posted to TIME.

This quote from Ernst & Young’s Mark Weinberger sums up why it is important to tell the stories of these high-powered, high-stress, high-responsibility executives:

“You can have all the initiatives you want saying you can have flexibility, but until some of the real leaders make the choice to choose family, I don’t think people feel like they have real permission to do it.”

I agree with Weinberger, who told TIME about turning down the chance to take photos on top of the Great Wall of China after a recent speech because he had to board a plane to get back to the U.S. for his daughter’s driving test the next day. Weinberger added that he received many emails after that speech, all of which praised his commitment to fatherhood.

I am drawn to a story like this one, as well as the one I wrote last month for TODAY Parents about CEO Max Schireson reducing his work duties to be more “there” for his kids. The idea that millionaire men who are responsible for the growth and well-being of billion-dollar companies want the world to know they are engaged fathers resonates with me.

No, these guys don’t have to worry about paying for food or medical bills. They have the luxury to actually make decisions that will enable them to spend more time being dads, as opposed to working two or three jobs to make ends meet.

But that actually enhances their point. They have the choice, and they choose to make fatherhood a priority. Not merely the traditional, provider role of fatherhood. The vital role of being there, of engaging with their kids. As Schireson told me, “It’s not just about being there more. It’s about being ‘more there.'”

This is why it’s important to acknowledge these rich men who run these big companies but also are committed to being the best dads they can be. Because the more it becomes the norm for the men and women who are “big” bosses to make the right choices in terms of work-family priorities, the easier it will become for all of us to be “more there” for our kids.

____________________________________

I am beginning my second week working out of our home. So far, so good. Last week, the boys seemed pleased to have me home in the afternoons, and I was more than pleased to be here for them.

We’re still making the adjustment, and I get the feeling that it will take more than a few days to figure it all out. Then, just as we figure it out, I imagine things will change again. We’ll adjust to that, too.

For now, I’ll meet them at the bus stop, get them settled into a routine that includes an afternoon snack and homework (not necessarily in that order) and juggle the responsibilities of writing and maintaining the household.

I’m no CEO, but this will do.

 

Ray Rice is a Jerk, but the NFL Doesn’t Care if You Boycott

Ray Rice – jerk. Simple enough. He cold-cocked his fiancé in a casino elevator. He’s out, cut from the Baltimore Ravens and, at least for now, banished from the NFL.

About that banishment, though: Took you long enough, Roger Goodell. Oh, and way to go with that whole two-game suspension thing.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m hearing rumblings that some fans of the NFL are so disgusted, they’re turning their backs on the game. Which … OK. But who are you hurting, really? Only yourself.

And that brings me to a Facebook message conversation I had this morning with my friend Aaron Gouveia, publisher of the Daddy Files. Aaron is a lifelong New England Patriots season ticket holder. He wanted to name both of his sons Tom Brady Gouveia, but opted for Will and Sam – one Mike short of a linebacker trio.

Parents want to be able to tell their kids the right things when it comes to athletes gone bad. Me? I just tell them that athletes are human, too, that some of them do bad things, and that just because they can run faster and do other incredible things on the field or court, it doesn’t mean they can’t fail at life.

Aaron seems to be feeling a little guilt, though. He was having a tough time reconciling his love for the NFL with feelings of disgust toward the way Goodell has bungled the Ray Rice case.

I tried to talk him down over the course of a half-hour Facebook conversation. Here is a slightly edited version of that back-and-forth, reprinted with Aaron’s permission. Enjoy this glimpse into a couple of twisted minds, each of whom was determined to get his point across on a complex issue:

Aaron Gouveia: I’m trying to work up a Ray Rice related column, but it keeps turning into the same thing – I am a hypocrite and I am part of the problem because I have no plans to stop watching football even though I know I should.

Carter Gaddis: Why? Why should you stop watching football?

AG: Because the NFL is clearly covering this up and covering their asses. They all but condoned domestic violence both with that 2-game suspension and by letting guys like (Ray) McDonald and (Greg) Hardy continue to play.

CG: So, speak out against the NFL’s domestic abuse policy. Why punish yourself? You love the game. You love the sport. You love the Patriots.

AG: I stopped buying Barilla pasta, would never set foot in a Chick-fil-a, etc. All because I don’t want to support a company with those warped morals. Yet I’m going to watch football.

CG: But you didn’t stop watching the Pats after Aaron Hernandez turned out to be a murderer.

AG: The Pats cut Aaron Hernandez immediately. They didn’t hesitate to make the right decision even before their hand was forced.

CG: I don’t think you can conflate the Chick-fil-a thing or Barilla thing with this. I’m with you on both of those things, by the way. But this is different because no one’s human rights are being infringed upon. There have always been criminals on our courts and our fields.

AG: These other teams are allowing known criminals to play. (Greg) Hardy was convicted for (crap’s) sake.

And Goodell is lying. He’s flat out lying.

CG: Call him out, then.

AG: That’s the problem. I can’t call him out and continue to support the product that makes him so powerful.

Season ticket holder, watching the games, buying a new jersey, purchasing the Red Zone channel.

“I’M SO MAD AT YOU!!! Now here’s my money.”

CG: You’re over-thinking it, though. This isn’t a human rights issue. You can enjoy the product and still rage against the policies.

AG: I can. But I don’t think doing that gives me any credibility. Because if I’m really that upset about it, I can rail against AND stop supporting it. Except I don’t want to.

CG: To turn your back on it would be extreme. And unrealistic. It wouldn’t prove anything.

AG: I think it would. It would prove that even a diehard NFL fan is so sick of what’s happening he quit the NFL altogether.

CG: The only one who suffers, the only one who cares, is you if you boycott the game.

AG: Exactly. Which is why the NFL never has to change because too many people feel like I do – they’re upset but not upset enough to walk away.

CG: Anyway. Change has happened, though. Drug policies. Safety policies.

AG: In name only.

CG: No, these are real changes.

AG: (Ray) McDonald was allowed to play after being arrested for beating his wife WHILE THE RAY RICE FIASCO WAS HAPPENING.

That’s not change.

Also, think about this …

If an NFL player goes out and levels his girlfriend in an elevator today, what happens?

6 games suspension.

CG: Nope. The Rice thing now has changed that. This is fluid.

AG: No. That’s the new policy. Went into effect 8/28.

CG: That is out the window.

AG: Hopefully, but not yet.

CG: Rice has been suspended indefinitely and kicked off his team. So … out the window.

AG: I know. But under the new rules created because of Ray Rice, the person who does this next is currently subject to 6 games for a first offense.

In the end, the only real way to tell the NFL consumers are fed up is to stop watching the games. Stop buying tickets. Stop purchasing jerseys. And unfortunately, I’m just not prepared to do that because I’ve gone to almost every Patriots home game since the age of 6. My dad has had season tickets for more than 40 years. Tickets I’ll one day inherit. Tickets I hope to pass down to my son, along with a love for the Patriots. So while I can shout my outrage to the heavens about how the NFL handles domestic violence among its players, I’ll be a hypocrite if I do anything short of walk away.

CG: Rage on, dude. Trust me, no one is going to think any less of you because you still want to watch football. If anything, criticism means more coming from a devoted fan of the sport. A dissenting voice inside is more effective than a voice in the wilderness.

Aaron Gouveia and me at Cape Cod this past August. He's a fiery New England sports fan, but the NFL's stupidity regarding Ray Rice and domestic violence is making him feel guilty about watching and supporting football.

Aaron Gouveia and me at Cape Cod this past August. He’s a fiery New England sports fan, but the NFL’s stupidity regarding Ray Rice and domestic violence is making him feel guilty about watching and supporting football.

Share Your Best Mushroom Recipes for a Chance to Win during #ShroomTember

Mushroom Council

September is National Mushroom Month, and the Mushroom Council and Life of Dad want you to share your greatest mushroom recipes for the chance to win a $500 Visa gift card.

My wife and I fell in love over a plate of mushroom salad at a local fondue restaurant. No fooling. We did.

Nothing says romance like a delicate pile of raw, thin-sliced and lightly seasoned mushrooms in a delicious salad, followed by cubes of French bread dipped in melted cheese on New Year’s Eve. We shared our first kiss that night. Pretty soon, we were married. Not long after that, our first son came along.

And we owe it all to mushrooms.

OK, maybe we don’t owe it all to mushrooms. But we do love them, and they have been a staple item on our weekly shopping list for years. I do most of the grocery shopping, and grabbing a carton of sliced baby bella mushrooms for sautéing and salads is down to muscle memory at this point.

The ultimate comfort food combo: brie cheese and baby bella mushrooms.

The ultimate comfort food combo: brie cheese and baby bella mushrooms.

Our family’s love of the hearty taste and meaty texture of mushrooms made me a natural for the Life of Dad ShroomTember celebration. September is National Mushroom Month, and the Mushroom Council has teamed with Life of Dad writers and “expert” chefs (like me!) to help stimulate your culinary imagination for creating easy-to-make, nutritious and delicious mushroom meals.

Plus, share your best ShroomTember recipes this month for a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card. There are three ways to enter, and the details are at the Life of Dad ShroomTember contest page. Here are the generalities:

Create an original mushroom-inspired recipe. It can highlight the simplicity of the mushroom (Week 1), the blendability of the mushroom (Week 2) or the deliciousness of one of America’s tailgate favorites, the mushroom burger (Week 3). Share a photo of your meal on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #ShroomTember and email it to MushroomCouncil@lifeofdad.com.

The winners will be chosen by the Mushroom Council based on creativity of the recipe, quality of the photo and how hungry it makes us!

Oh, and be sure to join me and Life of Dad on Sept. 23 for our ShroomTember Twitter party at 1 p.m. eastern time to learn about recipes and for a chance to win great prizes. Don’t forget to use the National Mushroom Month hashtag, #ShroomTember.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something mushroom-related that I dreamed up. It’s an example of the Simple Dinner category, which is live during Week 1 of the contest and runs through Sunday, Sept. 14.

I know it’s not winter quite yet, but cold weather weekends are right around the corner in many regions around the country. This easy meal will warm you and your family on chilly Saturday afternoons. I guarantee you’ll want to whip this up more than once during the winter months. It’s an example of how mushrooms are a great way to bring flavor and nutrition to the plate or bowl. For our family, mushrooms really are the ultimate comfort food. Enjoy!

photo (14)
Mushroom brie bisque a la Florida with baby bella and smoked Gouda grilled cheese on ciabatta bread

Mushroom brie bisque a la Florida

12-16 oz. mushrooms (baby bella, shiitake, pearl oyster), finely chopped

½ white onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp. ground black pepper

1 tbsp. sea salt

1 pinch oregano

1 pinch basil

1 pinch nutmeg

½ stick butter

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 cups heavy cream

½-pound brie, hulled and cubed

2 tbsps. corn starch or all-purpose flour

2 tbsps. water to mix with corn starch or flour

Directions: In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Mix finely chopped mushrooms, onions and spices, then add to melted butter. Add bay leaf to melted butter/mushroom blend. Sauté butter/mushroom mixture for five minutes, or until moisture begins to evaporate from mushrooms. Mix in chicken or vegetable stock and heat on medium-low for 10 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and brie cubes. Whisk gently until cheese melts. Add corn starch or flour mixed with water. Remove bay leaf. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Avoid full boil. Season to taste. Serves 6-8 people.

Baby bella and smoked Gouda grilled cheese on ciabatta bread

Four slices bakery fresh ciabatta bread

Six-eight thin slices of baby bella mushrooms

One round slice of smoked Gouda cheese

Butter or margarine

1 pinch garlic salt

Directions: In a large non-stick skillet, lightly sauté baby bella mushroom slices with a tbsp. of butter and the garlic salt. Brush a light layer of butter on the outside of two slices of ciabatta bread. Cut the round Gouda slice into equal halves. Place one of the Gouda halves on an unbuttered side of one slice of bread. Place three-four sautéed mushroom slices on top of Gouda, and cover the mushrooms and Gouda with the other slice of ciabatta bread, buttered side out. Over medium heat in the skillet, grill the sandwich on both sides until the cheese begins to melt and the buttered side of the bread is golden brown. Repeat with the other two slices of bread, the second half of the Gouda slice and the rest of the sautéed mushrooms. Serves one-two.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad, LLC for the #ShroomTember promotion. Sponsored by The Mushroom Council, the #ShroomTember promotion gives anybody the chance to win a $500 Visa gift card.

Life of Dad

At Home

At home, I’ll walk the boys to the bus stop in the morning and meet them there in the afternoon.

At home, I’ll write.

At home, I’ll do my share of the housekeeping.

At home, I hope I discover a personal peace and professional gratification I never quite managed to find in four-plus years of commuting and cubicle life.

At home, I’ll find a new world.

_____________________________

Kid selfieChange is exciting. Change is frightening. Change is inevitable. This change has been coming for a while, and we’re ready. Maybe. There is no way to know, I suppose. Not yet, anyway. Talk to me again in a year.

We’ve never done this. Not quite this way. Last time, after the layoff, when I spent 19 months scrambling for whatever sports-related freelance work there was to find, we didn’t have two boys in elementary school. I didn’t have this online journal. We were in a different place financially.

IMG_0905Now, it’s not so crazy. OK, it’s a little crazy. And frightening. And exciting.

But inevitable.

About a month ago, I interviewed a man named Max Schireson for the TODAY Show. His story went semi-viral: An upwardly mobile, successful tech CEO steps away from his high-profile, high-pressure, high-paying position to spend more time at home. He wanted his decision to resonate with other CEOs and fathers, to bring to light the fact that there is another way.

IMG_0906The whole time we talked, I wanted to tell him yes! This is what I’m going to do! Maybe I’m not leaving $10 million on the table, but I’m going to do this! The decision to make this change already had been made. In fact, I submitted my notice less than a week later. I didn’t need persuading. But listening to Max talk about his decision helped mollify some of the anxiety that tickled the back of my mind.

That little voice. It kept taunting me: Was I nuts to leave a steady, full-time position to plunge into this uncertain realm of writing for a living? The conversation with Max quieted that voice. A little, anyway.

IMG_0907Now, it’s done. I’m a work-at-home dad. There are statistics and definitions that explain what that means in the larger context of society.

What does it mean for our family?

It means that for the first time since the layoff, I am on a career path that I chose, rather than working merely for the money. It means that for the first time in years, the boys will have a parent at home with them in the afternoons after school, rather than heading to after-school care. It means that for the first time, my wife will shoulder less of the burden at home.

IMG_0908It means … I’m excited. And nervous. And energized.

It means I’m home.

Scholastic’s KidQ App Connects Us at Breakfast

I think I’ve heard enough about MineCraft for a while. I’m fairly certain, also, that Jay and Chris are tired of answering questions about their new teachers and classmates at school.

There might be hundreds of ways to ask, “So, how was school today?” But these guys have heard them all and they have perfected the artful dodge — aka a one-shouldered shrug and a mumbled, “It was OK.”

And there might be thousands of ways to describe the quest for a new pickaxe or an encounter with creepers or the latest legend of Herobrine. We know they love it, we know it’s supposed to help with problem-solving skills, but I’m kind of ready for MineCraft to go the way of Rainbow Loom.

So, Scholastic came along right on time with their request for me to check out their new KidQ app. The art of conversation with an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old had begun to deteriorate noticeably. Especially at the breakfast table, where we stuck to the basics: homework, lunch options, homework and EAT YOUR EGGS for God’s sake don’t you know there are STARVING kids somewhere in the world who would LOVE to have scrambled eggs and toast, etc.

You know, the usual.

That changed when we introduced the KidQ app from Scholastic to our breakfast routine.

What is KidQ?

Scholastic describes it as a free app for Android and iPhone that: “facilitates conversation via fun Q&A’s about the things that kids (and parents!) are the most curious about. … Each day, users are notified of a new playful question that serves as a conversation starter along with the official answer. Families will have a blast as they compare their explanations to the facts!”

That’s the pitch. Sounds nice, sure, but couldn’t we just come up with questions of our own to ask the kids at breakfast? The answer is yes, we could have — and we did. In fact, that part of our interaction hasn’t gone away. At breakfast and dinner, we still talk about what’s happening in our lives (OK, yes, the conversation does in fact extend beyond school and MineCraft).

But now? Before we even get settled in our chairs, instead of begging for five minutes of MineCraft on our iPhones, one or both of them ask: “Dad, what’s today’s KidQ question?”

I’ll say this right now — I was not so sure that our kids would buy into the whole, facilitating “conversation via fun Q&A’s” thing. I figured I’d try it a couple of times and see if it took.

It didn’t hurt at all that our first question was about the distance a skunk can spray its smelly musk.

Oh, man. That hooked ‘em. They laughed and laughed at the thought of a skunk spraying. I love how kids that age are so easily amused by smelly things. The answer, by the way, is up to 10 feet accurately, and up to 18 feet randomly.

We skipped along with a few more questions:

  • Why do hummingbirds hum?
  • How do bees make honey?
  • What are shooting stars?
  • What causes you to hiccup?
  • Why do you think geese fly in a V formation?

The way we use it is:

  • I ask the question.
  • They give their answers.
  • I read out the Scholastic answer.
  • We go through the set of Fun Facts that are included with every question and answer.

Sometimes, we’ll talk about the topic a little more, and that will lead to conversation about something else, and something else. Other times, they’ll immediately ask me to read the next question. They greet each one with delight, often with laughter.

Here’s an example of the question, answer and Fun Facts from a couple of days ago. I chose it to share here because I am from North Carolina originally and a lot of our family still lives there. Someday, we’ll take them to Kitty Hawk, N.C., for a visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial. And when we do, we’ll say, “Hey, remember that KidQ question about North Carolina? Why the license tags say First in Flight?”

I’m pretty sure they will.

Scholastic

The question.

Scholastic

The answer.

Scholastic

Fun Facts.

It’s as cool as it looks. And did I mention this thing is free? Simply follow this link: http://www.scholastic.com/apps/#/kidq and download the app to your Android device or iPhone. You’ll have the option to sign in with Facebook or Twitter and share the questions, if you want. A new question will be provided each day at a time of your choosing. You also can elect to skip a question and move on to the next one any time you like. So far, I haven’t found a limit to the number of questions you can ask each day.

Which is fine with Jay and Chris. Oh, they still squeeze in their MineCraft time each day. But it’s good to know that they can appreciate the fine art of conversation about something that doesn’t involve this guy: Creeper

Disclosure: I was compensated by Scholastic to use the new KidQ app and spread the word about how great it is for generating conversation with kids and making them think a little. But between you and me, I would have used this app for nothing. Our kids like it that much. 

Creative Minds Podcast Appearance with Chris Read of Canadian Dad

From left: me, Chris Read of Canadian Dad; Kevin McKeever of Always Home and Uncool; Whit Honea of the Internet. I spent an hour Tuesday rambling about baseball, storytelling and other things on Chris' Creative Minds podcast.

At Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans this past February. From left: me, Chris Read of Canadian Dad; Kevin McKeever of Always Home and Uncool; Whit Honea of the Internet. I spent an hour Tuesday rambling about baseball, storytelling and other things on Chris’ Creative Minds podcast.

One of the best things about publishing this online … whatever it is … journal, I guess … is the chance to develop friendships with people all over the world. One of my favorites is Chris Read of Canadian Dad.

Chris was kind enough to feature DadScribe on his Dad Blogs Exposed series about a year ago. And Tuesday, he was kind enough (again) to invite me to join him for an hour-long conversation on the Creative Minds podcast he produces with fellow Canadian Mike Reynolds of Puzzling Posts. Mike was out Tuesday attending to under-the-weather family members (get well soon, Mike’s family!), so it was just me and Chris.

Chris indulged my rambling about baseball writing and storytelling and parenting and other topics, and I enjoyed every minute. We name-dropped a few of our favorite fellow online writers and I made a few lame attempts at jokes about how Canadians occasionally add a “u” after an “o” in inappropriate places.

It was a good time, and I hope you get the chance to listen. Here is the link to the podcast, which is  also available through subscription on iTunes.

Thank you again, Chris and Mike, for the invitation. I’d love to do it again sometime.

 

We Need to Hear Something Good

It’s kind of rough right now, isn’t it? Ferguson. James Foley. Gaza. Syria. Ukraine. Ebola. Seems like everything is going to Hell. And that’s on top of our own everyday challenges, which we all do our best to conquer, but sometimes seem overwhelming.

How do we cope? Hugs help me. This morning, I felt the weight of the world release its grip for just a moment as I was embraced by the boys and my wife on my way out the door. I am fortunate. I know happiness. I also know stress and distress, and I worry about things. Sometimes I can’t sleep because of it. Oh, you, too? Yeah. It’s not easy, is it?

When we’re alone with our thoughts, when the news seems only bad and getting worse from outside and inside our personal spheres, how do we remind ourselves that it’s not all sadness and anxiety and woe? I’m not sure we can, frankly. Yet, I saw something nice today on the road to work, and it made me wonder.

A nine-banded armadillo decided to cross the road near my subdivision during morning rush hour. Armadillos (AKA Florida speed bumps) are unfortunate victims all the time, but this little guy was lucky. Every car on both sides of the two-lane road stopped and waited while it crossed from the woods into a patch of high grass on the other side. It would not have surprised me to see the first car just drive right on and kill that creature without a thought. Seeing what happened instead lifted my spirits — all those cars lined up for a full minute or more, just to let one small armored ground squirrel get where it needed to get on a muggy Florida morning.

It was a small, good thing, a brief flash of collective consideration for another living being by a group of strangers in a hurry, and it made me feel better — if only for a minute or two. I know it sounds trite. I know it’s a little cheesy. I know one lucky armadillo making it across the road in rush hour traffic because of the kindness and decency of a few morning commuters won’t erase the worries of the world.

But what if we all took the time to notice one small, good thing and shared it? All those small, good things combined might make a dent. It might give us (or someone else) the mental and emotional lift we need to carry on in the face of all the craziness. Maybe. I don’t know. If you do have a story to share, though, I know I’d love to read it.

Please share it in the comments below, or on my DadScribe Facebook page. Something small. Something good. A reminder that there is more to life than worrisome world events and day-to-day stress. Something to help us all make it through another day.