Fatherhood won't change you.

I'm going to make an unpopular statement. Fatherhood will not change you. Parenthood is not a salve that, when applied, adjusts aspects of your life into more orderly forms. People will often say, "When they become a father/mother, they'll really grow up." and this is, occasionally, true. What people fail to recognize is that it isn't the simple fact of becoming a parent that elicits this change, it's the response an individual has to the massive adjustments parenting requires.  A juggler who is competent juggling three balls at once will not miraculously become a better juggler if someone tosses them a fourth ball.  They will either, with time, learn to juggle more or drop them all.

The idea that parenting will inherently change someone is deeply flawed.  Someone has to want to change well before they're ever going to on their own and it is dangerous to lead people to believe that when an infant enters their life they will be imbued with ancient wisdoms and previously unknown secrets as a result of their entry into parenthood.

Like every other major life event, entering fatherhood gives you a choice.  The choice to look at your new circumstances and continue living life the way you had or to attempt to adapt and become something more than you were before.  

For me, that meant an abundance of change, but that didn't come easy and it certainly didn't come because I was suddenly a parent.  Luck favors the prepared and I have the good fortune to have a propensity for planning.  I spent the early parts of my wife's pregnancy consuming every relevant book I could find on the topic of becoming a father; once I discovered we were having a boy that shifted to a mixture of fatherhood, raising boys, and the changing definitions of masculinity in our society.  I didn't just want to be prepared, I needed to be if I was going to feel remotely comfortable for what was in store for my expanding family.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I had plenty of people who told me about how "it all changes when you're a parent" and how "when you hold your baby for the first time, you'll just know what to do."  The first statement was true, but not in the way they meant it and, when I held my baby for the first time, I was terrified at the sudden realization that my hundreds of hours of study had done little to equip me for the journey I was on.

If you want to be a good father, and I don't claim to be an expert myself, it takes work.  People say parenting is a full-time job and no one is equipped for their career through the magic of donning a suit and tie.  They become good at what they do by putting in the time and forcing themselves to adapt and evolve as people.  Fatherhood requires that of you and so much more, but the change must always come from you.

ParentingMatt Brosseau
The Lack of 'Dad' at DaddyCon

About a month ago, I entered in a raffle to win tickets to an event called DaddyCon in Chicago.  I was relatively excited because, as my son is nearing two, I've found precious few events or groups which are focused on dads who find themselves filling more traditional roles.  While I was initially worried that DaddyCon would be another event focused on fathers who are full-time parents, I looked through the speakers and found an entire session titled "Making the Most of the Witching Hour" which focused on how to maximize the small windows of time you get to spend with your children when you work full-time outside the home.

I'd won four tickets and decided that, since this was DaddyCon after all, I'd take my own father on day one and return the next day so that my wife could attend some of the speakers at the concurrently running MommyCon.  We packed up the car, the diaper bag, and the kiddo and headed off for our day of adventure.

Step2CarTrack

We arrived fairly early in the morning and were instructed to follow signs for MommyCon since they were "in the same location."  What we found when we arrived was that MommyCon was in full swing and that the DaddyCon speakers could be found in a room located near the back.  All we would have to do is navigate our way through the halls of more than 6 MommyCon breakout session rooms and then we could have a place to meet with and learn from other fathers.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the convention, the DaddyCon breakout sessions were pulled together from the best that could be found after everything for MommyCon was properly set up.  The session I look forward to most turned out to be a panel discussion with speakers from the other sessions, many of whom were stay-at-home dads who would start each statement with "Well, how I would approach things if I only saw my child in the evening..."  We stayed for the whole session and we both learned a great deal; you can always learn from people who have walked a different path from you.  The problem was that there was nowhere at DaddyCon for two fairly traditional dads.  Merchandise was geared toward new and expectant mothers, speakers were geared toward full-time parents, and, outside of a play area that my son absolutely adored, there wasn't really anywhere for us to feel the brotherhood of fathers that I've sought since my son first screamed his way into the world.

DaddyCon-Session

The main reason I wanted to discuss DaddyCon wasn't to barrage the event with my complaints (even though it seems that's exactly what I've done.) but instead to bring to light a disturbing trend I've been noticing throughout the world of parenting; an absence of dedicated resources for fathers.  In terms of any event geared toward family or parenting in general, it's becoming clear to me that dads are an afterthought.  This is especially true for fathers who work full-time outside of the home.

Fathers play a critical role in parenting.  We are often asked to be providers, vanguards against the terrors of the world, and statues of stoic control.  We are asked to do these things while remaining emotionally available to our partners and our children and we're given almost no resources regarding how this could be accomplished.  The cigar-chewing cowboys we grew up watching can't guide us to be the men we need to be today and the world seems largely uninterested in helping us to discover the way for ourselves.

DaddyCon was in no way a failure of an event.  It was a sound attempt at providing the exact type of thing I'm looking for, but there need to be more resources for fathers.  More community.  More brotherhood. More acknowledgement and respect. We are not babysitters, we are not an afterthought in the world of parenting, and we are not a punchline. If the boys of yesterday are going to evolve into the men and fathers the world needs us to be today, we are going to need each other's help every step of the way.

Adventures in Thyme & Spice

Life has been a little kooky lately.  A lot of things have changed at my house and, as a result, I've found myself doing a lot more of the cooking than I was accustomed to.  Now, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I love to cook, I just don't have a lot of time to do so unless it's a weekend.  My evenings start late and are mostly dominated by my boy, other work outside of my day job, or trying to consume enough sci-fi and fantasy media to retain my coveted title of "geek."

This left me with a short list of potential recipes that could be prepared very quickly or the option of preparing all of my meals ahead of time.  I'm not big on leftovers, they're great from time to time but not an everyday occurrence, which ruled out the meal prep option for me.  That left me with the need to find recipes that I could whip together quickly.  Quick recipes aren't always geared to be healthy or delicious, so I was a little disheartened.

My wife had recommended that we pick up an Instant Pot almost a year ago because she had heard a lot of positive chatter about it amongst her friends.  I decided to take a gamble on a new kitchen gadget and, after receiving it from Amazon, it sat in our basement on a shelf and collected dust for 11 months.

Well, during this crazy time I decided to go all in on the Instant Pot and put together a week's worth of recipes and did my shopping.  I started off with a homemade chicken dumpling soup, because it sounded tasty and I'd never made one before.  I got all the ingredients together, diced, chopped, and prepped and into the pot.  This thing took 10 minutes to get up to pressure, 10 minutes to cook, and I suddenly had fully-cooked, delicious chicken dumpling soup.

I was gobsmacked with how easy it was and decided to try some more challenging recipes that didn't involve just dumping items into a pot.

I decided to take on a Beef Stroganoff dish I'd found online a while ago in the Instant Pot.  I had only ever used the manual option before, but the saute function works like a charm.  It was easy to brown the beef, saute the onion, and drain off the excess grease before adding the other ingredients for the main cook.  Mixing everything else in was pretty simple and resembled my first efforts to cook with the Instant Pot.

The only piece that required any other step was letting the finalized meal sit for a few minutes before adding in the Greek yogurt with the noodles and cooked beef/veggies. 

Finished Stroganoff

If there was one thing I could say about my first few weeks with the Instant Pot is that I need to learn to pair down the recipes because the leftovers are pretty intense.  We have had so much to store after each meal that I had to invest in a second set of Glasslock in order to store it all.

All-in-all, this gadget that was collecting dust for the better part of a year has earned a spot on my countertop.

A new beginning...

2017 was one heck of a year for a lot of people, myself included.  I wouldn't say the year was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but the year definitely had some challenges.  In mid-2016, I became the father of a bundle of energy and curiosity I get to call "Son."

The transition to fatherhood has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of my life.  Not because being a parent is an inconvenience, but because being a parent requires an incredibly large part of you.  Before becoming a father, I had always segmented my life into the different things I chose to spend my time on.  I was a professional during the day, a comedian at night, a husband during my time at home, and whatever I felt like being during my snippets of free time.

Becoming a father required a segment of my life that I hadn't allocated for, and because I hadn't already designated a "Dad" segment, I had to integrate being a dad into the other facets of my life.  I wasn't challenged because being a father demanded a portion of me I wasn't prepared for, I was challenged because, for the first time in my life, I had become something that demanded the commitment of all of me.

This threw me for a loop, to say the very least.

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I spent a lot of time thinking about the things that I wanted to instill in my son, and then I determined what I needed to change a lot about my life if I was going to lead by example.  The first piece that I decided to change was following your passions.  For years, I had all but given up on my dreams of becoming a comic or acting professionally.  I had relegated this endeavors to my small amounts of free time where I would typically be "too exhausted" to pursue them anyway.

This year, that changes.  I've begun to write comedy again, and I've submitted my vocal reel to several producers.  This year will start off with the release of my first ever audiobook and hopefully, I'll be taking the stage before long.

Telling your kids to follow their dreams when you've forgotten your own rings hollow.  Remember to take the time to develop yourself, because the best thing you can do for your children is to be a parent they are proud of.