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 Shawn Henfling
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Wyalusing, PA (Near absolutely nothing)/Spring Mills PA (Near Penn State U)
ON THE WEB Captured Chaos Photography
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two step children
WORK: Motorcycle Salesman (50 hours/wk); Lead Editor @ The Good Men Project; Owner, Captured Chaos Photography; aspiring mental health advocate; Step-Dad; Husband; friend.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
My situation is unique to most of the “dad bloggers” that are out there. Both of my children are in their teens and quite independent. With that being said, in the past I’ve done a terrible job of maintaining a work/life balance. I threw myself into my work and gave it everything I had, leaving little to spare for my family. In my own eyes, I was a terrible father. Inability to manage stress, mental illness and poor time management skills left me ineffectual. I never lacked for effort, but it was typically misguided and heavy handed. By the time I’d grown into my role as dad, the kids didn’t really need me anymore. Essentially, by the time I became an effective parent the opportunity had already passed me by.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
It has transformed me completely. I went from single without responsibility to the coparenting a 5 year old daughter and 9 year old son. I went from selfish to selfless overnight. The adjustment wasn’t easy, and I made too many mistakes to count, but over all I’m a better man because of it.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
My biggest weakness is flexibility and that is what has held me back as a parent. Conversely, my biggest strength has been my ability to establish routine and structure. My proudest moment was when my son, who I’ve never gotten along well with, paid me a compliment. I don’t recall his exact words, but they were something like this, “If you hadn’t come into our lives, I’d be in jail or worse. You’ve helped me become the person I am today.”
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Predominantly just Christine and I. We try hard to do it ourselves. We’re fortunate to be able to do so while both working more than full time jobs. It hasn’t been easy, and we’ve spent most of our lives working conflicting shifts, but we’ve given the kids a good example of self sacrifice. Not everyone is so lucky, but we’re happy that we’ve been able to do it predominantly alone.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
There have really been too many to count. We may as well take every opportunity I had to do the right thing with my son and failed to come through. Once again, this isn’t to say I didn’t try. Too often I just let my temper get the best of me. Parenting for me, thus far, has been a blur of trying and failing. I don’t think I’ve done a terrible job, but I’ve had so many lousy moments I can’t pick one out and say, “Yeah, that was definitely the worst of my moments.”
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
I can’t really say I’ve had a ton of great moments either. I look at my parenting career like I see my careers in general. C+. Average or maybe a little better but nothing spectacular. I’ve had no shining moments, no incredible feats of fatherhood. I’ve done the best I could. I guess that’s what the epitaph should be. “He did the best he could.” The only thing I can say for sure is this: The best parenting moment I’ve had was when I asked for help with my depression. I admitted I couldn’t do it alone. I apologized to everyone for the way I treated them. Beyond that? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
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.