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 Jeff Jackson
WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Nanuet, NY
ON THE WEB if applicable www.DaddyisBest.com (work in progress)
NUMBER OF CHILDREN 2
WORK Full-time; contributor of GMP and @Todayshow #ParentingTeam.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner (if you’re partnered), arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?
My wife and I both work full time. She works in a library 45 minutes to an hour away, on a good day of traffic. She works 35 hours a week.
I work minimum 50 hours a week, minimum 5 days, but only 5 minutes from the house.
The logistics of taking care of the boys is constant. The good news is that my wife’s mother also lives in the house and provides temporary babysitting when my wife’s schedule and mine preclude us from being home at a particular time.
The bad news is that my wife’s mother lives in the same house.
When the boys go to summer camp, like next week, it is my duty to pick them up from the rec center. Fortunately, my job is open to allowing me do that. If I am scheduled to work an evening, I usually go back to work after picking them up. That is one reason, and a big reason it is, why I stay at my current employer.
The real downside to the hours and days we work is not being available to take the boys to extracurricular activities, like karate, swimming, or gymnastics, or whatever else they may be interested in.
Of course, the downside for mommy and daddy is that we’re always tired. We balance each other pretty well, though. If one of us has a particular errand or chore that needs to be done, the other one will watch the kids for that time, and vice versa.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Parenting is the ultimate grounding experience. It has not changed my personality per se, but it has changed my focus, so that I cannot do everything I would like to do as far as work, chores, fun stuff, chasing dreams, etc. My time is almost totally focused on the kids and taking care of their needs.
I often debate (only myself, but it can get heated sometimes:) that one of the best things I can do for the boys is to work, and hopefully succeed, at something that will provide a positive inspiration and role model for them for work. My dad hated his job but stayed at it to provide for his family. That is certainly commendable and respectable. But, I want to take it to a higher level and actually like the work that I do so that the boys will see me at my highest endeavor.
Role model awareness has become increasingly important for me as I’ve noticed repeatedly that the boys key off my behavior and attitudes. I do try to stay aware to my relationship to my wife, my job and life in general so that I provide the boys a positive role model. Nevertheless, I am not perfect and make mistakes and get upset over small stuff sometimes. In those moments, I try to tell the boys the reasons for my reaction or behavior so that they understand my motivations and my humanness.
I guess I’ve always wanted to be a Dad. But, of course who knows what that really entails until it actually happens. My first wife didn’t want kids and so I obligingly agreed. I was younger then and it seemed like a good idea at the time and maybe it was since she and I are no longer together. I think that I missed being a Dad then, I mean missed it, or regretted it. I suppose some things about child rearing would have been easier if I were younger, certainly I would have had more energy then and would have been more positive about life in general vs. a middle-aged whatever I am now!
I was in the operating room when the kids were born. It was a C-section. It was perhaps the most thrilling, exhilarating, moving experience of my life. There is nothing like it. It is also a completely grounding experience as I realized that I now have two little people entirely dependent on me. After years of being single and living alone, and then years of marriage, here was a new…. um… complication, stressor, responsibility, person. Oh, times two of course!
I don’t know if there is one single rewarding experience. I guess when I put them to bed at night, after reading to them, knowing that I did everything I could to make their day a rewarding day for them.
Sometimes though, it’s hard to gauge their perspective on rewards since they have a limited range of expression and communication. When I ask if they had a good day and they replied, Yeah, then I feel pretty good.
When they have experienced and been involved in extracurricular activities and those turn out positive, I feel pretty good about it too.
Of course, when I come home and they are still awake and they run to me screaming Daddy’s home, nothing beats that.
I told B that he looked just like me when I was his age, but I was cuter. He replied, I’m smarter. Just as quick and as natural as if he were doing a comedy routine. Unfortunately, he is probably right. He is in first grade and knows way more than I did at that grade.
The general perception is that twins are great and a blessing. And that’s true! Nevertheless, it is also more than twice the amount of work of having one at a time. I see a couple with just one child and think, that must be so easy. Ok, I guess it’s not, but twins are a lot of work. The hardest thing to cope with as they’ve gotten older is their performance in school.
After years of bad luck or hard luck with jobs, I’m struggling financially to keep us afloat. Not to mention that now we have 6 year old twins. My wife works full time, as do I, but our schedules are not the same and it is the rare instance we have a day off together. We do our best and work our hardest to take care of the household and the house and the cars and the kids and our jobs and ourselves. Taking care of ourselves and each other always seems to end up last on the list cause everything in our lives literally revolves around taking care of the kids and the aforementioned time and money suckers listed above.
I bet that I haven’t meet a Daddy who doesn’t want more and better for their kids than what they/we had. I want them to be happy and successful at whatever they want to do. It has become increasingly apparent that they are their own people and that all I can do is guide, teach, coach them to find their ways not without problems arising, but with my support so they can overcome their obstacles and keep moving in their chosen direction. I have spent the better portion of my childhood and adult life alone with no one to provide guidance or support or backup. In short, I want to be there for them when they need me cause I know what it’s like to have no one there.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW HAS THIS SHAPED YOUR PARENTING?
“A” has just been diagnosed with a learning disability and will attend some special needs classes next fall in Second Grade.
“A” is a special kid with his own unique personality. If you met him, you would not even think that he has a learning disability. However, his disability became increasingly apparent through first grade as his focus and attention drifted more and more from the task presented to him.
After repeated parent-teacher communications, we decided it would be best to get A tested for a learning disability. We met with the school psychologist who later evaluated him. The school speech therapist was also called in.
A special meeting was called to disclose the results of the testing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the people were truly professional and didn’t say anything like, Who told you it was ok for you two to have kids? A’s well-being was of utmost concern. They recommended A participate in some special needs classes in second grade and receive some extra coaching and help in social situations. Overall, we were very pleased with the outcome. When your child is involved, everything else is secondary.
As far as my parenting goes, I’ve tried to be more understanding and patient to A’s learning process and capability. The other factor to consider is that while we’re giving extra attention to A, we cannot forget or neglect B who observes all the actions. We cannot let him think that A is more important or better than B.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
You know, I can’t think of a worst parenting moment, per se. I know I feel most frustrated when the boys play together, er, wrestle together and my constant, “Don’t do that!”, falls on deaf ears. In that way, maybe, it’s the worst, when the kids won’t listen to repeated instructions, warnings, threats and verbal time bombs.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
The best parenting moment is when you read your kid’s homework and they say something that really touches you. Like, for instance, when B was asked what was the best thing he ever heard, he replied, My dad telling me I’m good at baseball. Or, B again, for Father’s Day, he said that his dad is awesome.
A doesn’t usually communicate in that way. He will, however, come and sit on my lap, completely unexpected and unsolicited. Or, A again, will hold my hand as we walk into a store.
Those moments are priceless.
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.