Guys: It’s Time to Daddy Up

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.


  1. Thanks for sharing all of these and letting me be a part of it… there are so many moments, it was difficult to take just one!

  2. I appreciate the sharing of all these moments, and want to add one, though, as Dad of Divas notes, there have been and continue to be many, many decisive scenes. My kids are all in college now. When they were younger I used to travel for business. Not too bad: a couple of days every few weeks. Even so, I missed them terribly and they missed me as well. One time when I came through the front door after a trip, my two-year-old daughter ran across the house, leaped into my arms, hugged me and wouldn’t let me go. I carried her around the house with her head buried in my shoulder for what felt like hours. Every few minutes she’d raise her head up, look in my eyes, say’ “Dad-EEEEEEE”, scrunch her head back into my shoulder and hug my neck tightly. Those moments remind me of what’s really important from my kids’ perspective, and of what I have to give as a Dad.

  3. “What moment made you the dad you are today? The answer to this question will define a generation of men.”

    Many men can’t “daddy the f*ck up” because of maternal gatekeeping! It’s pervasive at home where she makes the rules and in family law where she makes the rules.

    Tell your lawyer wife, it’s time to “daddy the f*ck up” and start speaking out for truth, justice and the best interests of children.

    You can’t blame men for the discrimination that they face.

  4. These were great. I feel like I have a mini version of one of these moments everyday. There’s always a moment where I have to stop and think about my role, or where I just get caught up in how beautiful my kids are.

  5. Proud to be among the writers above, I’ll note that the moment I became a Grand-Dad happened 8 days ago when Jessica—the little girl in Iowa Black Dirt—delivered Maya, 7 lbs. 13 oz., full head of black hair and 19.75 perfect inches tall.
    I drove 9 hours from Boston to DC as soon as I heard Jessica had gone into labor and arrived just as Jessica went in for a C-section. Drove back 3 days later.
    Dads do stuff like that.
    Mother and daughter are doing well and both are now home.

  6. Dads are awesome! We’re sure there will be many, many, many more decisive moments in the future and we can’t wait to hear about them. Looking forward to reading more posts.

    Thank you

  7. A lifetime ago and long before I was ever a father, I was exploring a calling to ordained ministry, specifically in a career as a hospital chaplain. I opted to serve my pastoral residency in the neonatal intensive care unit of a major research hospital, visiting the families of critically ill or very low birthweight newborns. While very many of these children did get to go home to live with their families, all too many only knew their parents through the glass of their medical isolettes or as a pair of fingers gingerly stroking them through latex gloves.

    This experience helped shape the father I later became, by ingraining at an early age just how ephemeral newborn lives could be, and how deep their parents’ connection to them was. As I sat with grieving parents whose options had run out, I had the privilege to help them BE parents even if only for a matter of hours. All the children who died, and the families who went home without them of my watch, live in my heart twenty years later and often spring to mind in quiet moments when I’m holding my own sons today.

    Our entire culture is raised around sitcom notions of cookie cutter family life and fatherhood in particular. What I learned was that the opposite is true: normal can vanish in an instant, and every hug, every chance to hold should be cherished as if it were the last.

    • That’s a powerful story, Chris. It takes a special person to be there for others in such an emotional time. “Normal can vanish in an instant,” is so true, and yet so easy to forget with everything going on in our day-to-day lives. We need moments of pause.

  8. I took my sons to see Metallica several times. We turned it into a road trip. I think they were 18, 15, and 9. And the 9 year old was really, really into what Lars had going on with his floor toms. He was really into that whumpity-whumpity pish-pash thing that Lars would do when they were riffing and headbanging. We probably shouldn’t have done eleven straight concerts, however. Five, maybe. Tops

  9. Tom, you pose an interesting question. I’m sure that for any parent – man or woman – becoming a parent for the first time is a transformational experience, and that really, truly grasping the magnitude of your responsibility takes both maturity and effort. I’m also sure that for most people it’s not a one-off thing; it’s a process or discovery and learning – and hard work. And a hugely rewarding process, with plenty of opportunity for self-discovery.

    However, what interests me right now is the way you frame your question. The question is self is about one of the most positive and rewarding experiences in a man’s life, and yet you frame it negatively. You tell a classic story about how men are irresponsible and not able to comprehend or care for children. And you end by a call for us all to do much better – to daddy the fuck up. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s that I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s. Maybe it’s that my single mother and many of the people around her were involved in the feminist surge of the time (all of which was long overdue, mind) and I was dragged along to events and heard all the arguments – and was always suspect because of my gender. What I know is that so much of my early life I heard this same call – that I share some inherent failing with all of my gender, and I need to do better. And, you know what, I’m fed up with it. I’m fed up with always starting from -10, with that image of the useless man.

    I was never unfit to be a parent. I don’t have to daddy the fuck up. No, I’m not perfect, and yes, I’ve had a lot of learning to do. Same as most guys I know. And most gals.

    The conversation about how we are fathers, what fatherhood is, and about how we create families that are supportive and overcome all the idiotic gendered expectations and roles our society promotes is hugely important. We need to liberate ourselves (men and women) and we need to make a world for our kids with far less of this nonsense. And we as men need to be sensitive to the fact of our privileges and all the ways in which it affect the women in our lives and our relationships with them at all levels. But i truly do not believe that the constant repetition of stereotypes about male irresponsibility and inability to be caring etc, or the constant blaming, is doing that conversation any good.

  10. Tom Matlack says:

    Lars *great* comment. I apologize if the title put you off. It was meant somewhat tongue in cheek but I can see what you mean. I actually believe that fathers are intuitive caretakers. We don’t start from -10. In fact its a matter of clearing away all the clutter and negativity just to experience our children. Okay that was the case for me and I hope it is true for others (thus this piece and much of what we do at GMP). I do think that part of what I was also responding to is the at-risk boys we try to help with our foundation, many of whom do not have fathers in their lives. I suspect that those men are not present for a wide variety of reasons, but it is still a huge problem in America right now particularly among the inner cities and poorest communities. No way around the numbers and the impact. That isn’t meant as a shaming, it is actually meant to suggest that we as men have something precious to give our sons and it’s important enough to go through brick walls to impart that wisdom. Thanks for letting me know your reactions to the piece.

  11. Tom Matlack says:

    PS Lars I just went in an changed the title based on your feedback.

  12. Ted Rubin says:

    I see all this from a different perspective than many. I spend a great deal of time navigating the treacherous waters of parental alienation. All children need to be allowed, and encouraged, to freely love both their parents no matter the circumstances. So terribly unfortunate how many children have to navigate the treacherous waters of one parent’s hatred for the other. Scary how many children think their fathers never cared instead of that they were driven away. Most fathers, who live under such circumstances, give up and move on. I think some dads start to think its better for the kids to just give up and disappear from their lives. I have heard that argument and understand the thought process.

    I love my daughters, no matter what… I love my girls. Always have, always will… from the moment I held them in my arms. And I will be there for them emotionally, will never give up, and will wait as long as necessary for them to realize and understand how much I love them both.

    Thanks for including me Tom.

  13. As the mom here, I can say how much I remember all those moments; the first time my husband spoke the words, “I feel like a real Dad” was when he was assembling the tricycle for our son. Next kid turned out to be twins, and he was a champ adding the much needed other pair of hands. Now he’s Grampa Dan, and had a great time helping put together the Buzz Lightyear race car for his grandson. He can’t wait to teach him how to fish. (But he also loves playing Lego and shooting Matchbox cars across the floor.

  14. Some years ago, I heard this story at a men’s conference where the question, “What is a good father?” was being discussed. Two families were living in hiding together in Nazi occupied Europe. The space was cramped. There was little food. One night, dinner consisted of a single piece of stale bread, to be divided equally among both families. The bread was broken up and the portions passed around. One little boy took his piece, looked at it, then hurled it onto the floor. “I’m sick of this food!” he said. No one spoke. There was a long silence. Then the boy’s father got up from the table, picked up the piece of bread, kissed it, and handed it back to the boy.

  15. So, did you “daddy the f##k up,” or did you just go back to blogging as usual?

  16. I love the idea of Daddying up.
    I am now a new reader of your great blog.

    Showing up is so vulnerable making & this is what you describe so perfectly in those moments with toddlers (& through others’ words).


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