"The man as he converses is the lover; silent, he is the husband." ~ Honore de Balzac

Saturday

A growing posse of men


Men Begin Re-Establishing The Meaning Of Fatherhood

As culture continues to make fun of men and fathers, a growing posse of men are beginning to set higher expectations for themselves.
 4, 2016 By 

Now in its fifth year, Dad 2.0 is the conference where dads meet parenting-related activists, marketers, and the media. Dad 2.016, as they called it, attracted a varied and interesting crowd, with a female minority and a boatload of bearded men.
In all, 450 participants descended on Washington DC to discuss issues of concern to men, both as fathers and as influencers — whether as published writers, filmmakers, or social media stars. They engaged in important, practical discussions about improving video quality and properly tailoring blog content to your audience, but what captivated me was the fatherhood component.

Men’s Singular Approach to Life

As I’ve written before, I enjoy listening to men discuss parenting. Not only does it warm the heart to hear men talk lovingly about their families, but the conversations tend to be much mellower than those women have about motherhood. Perhaps the most fascinating part, from my point of view, is just how differently men talk about parenting (and other things).
Only 7 percent of men can relate to media portrayals of men.
American society has so many negative cultural stereotypes of men, especially as useless, overgrown children. Yet the men I encountered at Dad 2.0 proved how mythical those negative stereotypes are. In an interview, Jen Bremner, brand manager for conference sponsor Dove Men+Care, noted that only 7 percent of men can relate to media portrayals of men. Ninety-two percent of men say it’s their emotional strength that defines them as men.
During one session I sat in on called “Mastering the Moving Image,” the all-dad panel shared helpful hints on improving videos across online platforms, while good-naturedly ribbing one another. I liked one panelist urging an audience member to both fail often and fail in ways unique to him. That struck me as good life advice, but something I couldn’t imagine hearing from a fellow mother in a similar context.
Emotional openness, awareness, and strength were certainly on display all around me. On stage, author Brad Meltzer delivered an opening keynote urging the audience to consider our legacy — to both family and community — and how we want to be remembered after we’re gone. Drag racer Doug Herbert spoke about losing his two sons in a car accident, and how that inspired him to found a special defensive driving school for teenagers.

Elevating Expectations for Men

Out in the audience, I met a life coach who specializes in helping fathers resolve their own work-life balance challenges. Another attendee co-founded a nationwide group to help dads get out and socialize together. A third dad, who stays home raising his young children, asked a former stay-at-home mom moderating a social media session for advice about transitioning back to full-time office work. After a presentation about how biased family courts are against fathers, I watched one man tear up while talking to the speaker, because her remarks had clearly hit a nerve.

These men were reflective. They clearly relished the role of father, and they took it seriously, albeit with a sizable helping of good-natured humor.
‘The Dad 2.0 mission has sought to elevate the conversation and the expectations for men, in a way that benefits the whole family.’
For the summit’s founders, that’s precisely the point. In an interview, Summit co-founder John Pacini commented...
“We’ve recognized that the bar for fatherhood has been set unreasonably low for so long, while at the same time the bar has been set unreasonably high for women and moms. The Dad 2.0 mission has sought to elevate the conversation and the expectations for men, in a way that benefits the whole family.”
That they’ve done. The dads at this conference do more than just show up. They’ve clearly also given significant thought to what it means to be a dad, how to support their spouses, and how to best raise the next generation. They’re redefining fatherhood for the modern era, or in Pacini’s words, demonstrating “masculinity at its best.”
It’s a model that would likely look familiar to Baltimore’s Joe Jones orMemphis’ MeiAngelo Taylor. Both men started fatherhood training programs to help men in their communities who wanted to be involved with their kids but weren’t entirely sure how. As MeiAngelo told me in an interview in 2014, men can provide for their children in many ways, “not only financially, but also spiritually and emotionally.”

The dads at Dad 2.0 would undoubtedly agree. In 2016, this is fatherhood.

Photo Andrey Ershov / Shutterstock

Melissa Langsam Braunstein, a former U.S. Department of State speechwriter, is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." (Tecumseh).

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