Welcome to Portraits of Fatherhood: We’re telling the story of today’s dads.
There is no better place to witness the changing roles of men and women in the larger culture than through the lens of parenthood. But rather than speculate on what and how contemporary fathers do what they do, we’d like to bring you portraits of the dads themselves. In their own words. Would you like to be interviewed for this feature? See the end of the post for details.
NAME Gary Dietz
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Hometown is Fishkill, New York. (By way of New York City prior to age 7.) Have lived in California. Home is New Hampshire for the past 20 years.
ON THE WEB
Dad dude: www.dadsofdisability.com
Marketing dude: www.garydietz.com
NUMBER OF CHILDREN
2 That have been in my life through my girlfriend for the past 4 years.
WORK Writer and blogger. (I try my best!) Have one well-reviewed book published so far.
High tech product marketing manager and product manager (that’s what I get paid actual money for). I work with remote teams and have a small office in Southern NH because it is really hard to work “at home.”
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Divorced, and now in a long-term live-in relationship
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
I am lucky to have had jobs that are very flexible. They have allowed me to care for my child or my girlfriend’s children and still get work done at some pretty odd hours and places. Also, for an almost two-year period as I met people around the world for my book, my parenting and my work overlapped dramatically.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Having children always changes people. In my case, I have gone from being a very impatient person to being a pretty patient one. I have gone from unfocused energy to focusing energy on caring completely for someone else. I have become far less judgmental of people and have really internalized that every person’s journey is their own and we can only “judge” someone in the context of their own experiences.
IF PARTNERED, HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Having a partner who is not the biological mother of a boy who has physical, intellectual, and behavioral challenges has been very difficult. I have learned that she loves my son, but not in the same way I do or in the way I had hoped a new partner would. But it is love nonetheless.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
I have learned to remain calmer in the face of physical, verbal, and emotional challenges that many (not all) of my peers aren’t always able to achieve. Well, at least the parents of typically developing children. One of my weaknesses, among many, is that I am often jealous of parents of typically developing children.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Currently, my son is in the 10th grade at a residential school. His mother has dinner with him once a week and visits him every other weekend at school. I have dinner with him once a week and bring him home every other weekend to spend time with our blended family. Earlier in his life, we had per diem helpers, au pairs, and nannies who ranged from horrible to unbelievably amazing.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOUR PARENTING?
Yes. A lot.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
In 2012, my son (age 12 at the time) needed to be triaged through an emergency room in order to admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I knew hospitalization would be the outcome, and was frustrated at the process. My son was relatively calm as we entered the room in the ER. We had to wait an enormous amount of time until the proper psych specialist showed up to OK a transfer. He went from calm, to upset, to outraged, to hurting staff. At this point I wanted to just remove him from the ER, but apparently I was not allowed to at this point. Then, a “security guard” only mildly trained had to put my son in a hold and he was strapped to a bed, where he was eventually sedated by IV. Before you judge (and believe me, I judge myself), I was told I was unable to remove him as he was then a danger to himself and others. Weeks later when we needed another psychiatric admission, I made sure that the proper staff was available to give us a verbal OK for an admittance to a psychiatric hospital with less delay. More details about what led to this event and what happened after are left to another time.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
In the summer of 2010, I worked for months to arrange a series of special events in New York City and travelled with my son (just he and I) and had the time of our lives. He got backstage tours of Madison Square Garden, a private show at the Marionnete theater in central park, we ate at a French restaurant, and even though our elderly guide at the Museum of Natural History dismissed Alexander’s “enthusiasm” and abilities at first, he was the only child in the tour group not to leave the group in the middle of the tour out of boredom. He was enthralled, really. The guide relented and realized that my son was really was interested and she gave him what ended up being a private tour as well!
Another one is the first time my girlfriend’s kids trusted me enough to go somewhere with me without their mom.
We’re looking for a few good dads.
IF you’d like to be interviewed for this feature, please write to Lisa Duggan at: [email protected]
Please write “Portraits of Fatherhood” in the subject line.