Our 262nd Dad in the Limelight is Hogan Hilling. I want to thank Hogan for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
I’m a proud dad of three children. In 1991 I came out of the pantry to be the full-time primary caregiver to then two boys ages 2 and 1. The initial plan was for me to be the at-home dad for four years but I loved my role as the at-home dad so much I extended my contract when my wife and I decided to conceive another child. I retired from my at-home dad status in June of this year when the youngest graduated from high school.
During my at-home dad tenure instead of watching soap operas, I used my spare time to organize support groups for dads. In 1992 I co-founded the Fathers Network of Orange County, a support group for fathers of children with special needs. In 1994, I co-founded one of the first Elementary School Dads Clubs in the United States. Because of my work I was awarded the 1995 California Courage to Care Award.
I also found spare time to write four parenting books and I’m working on my fifth book. My last two books are unique because they are companion books for a mom and dad. Pacifi(her): What She’s Thinking When She’s Pregnant and Rattled: What He’s Thinking When You’re Pregnant, www..hoganhilling.com.
My fifth book is ttiled Dads Behaving Dadly http://dadsbehavingdadly.com. I invite ALL dads to visit the website and submit a story.
2) Tell me about your family
I have three sons, Grant (24), Wesley (22) and Matt (19).
Wesley was born with a rare genetic disorder called Angelman’s Syndrome caused by a deletion in the 15th chromosome during conception. He cannot walk, talk and needs 24/7 care. I’m fortunate to have two loving, caring people in Larry and Michelle who take great care of him in their home for the disabled. Here is a link to my appearance with Wesley on Oprah –
Matthew is preparing to attend college. He is also a very accomplished beach volleyball player and has been playing as an amateur on the professional beach volleyball tour since he was sixteen. At seventeen, he won the ProAm and at eighteen he qualified to play in his first USA major beach tournament in Hermosa Beach, CA. He has trained with notable professionals and Olympians like Karch Kiraly, Jake Gibb, Sean Rosenthal and three time Gold Medalists Misty May and Kerri Walsh.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
Dealing with the mistreatment of fathers in the parenting world and people questioning my masculinity for being an involved, hands-on father. The discrimination I experienced from Mother’s Turf was similar to that of a woman from corporate America’s “Good Ole Boys Club.”
My 20 years as the at-home parent is proof a man is capable of nurturing and caring for a child with the same passion, commitment, and as well as woman. I also proved a man won’t lose his masculinity by showing his sensitive side.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Set your EGO aside. No man can overcome the challenges of fatherhood by himself. Don’t be afraid to ask or reach out for help. It’s okay to admit your shortcomings and eat crow one in a while.
Heal your relationship with your own dad. I’m not suggesting a man repair the relationship with his father – because some relationships can’t be resolved – but rather, heal his own heart so that he doesn’t carry the resentment and hate into his relationship with his child(ren).
I grew up fatherless. All the time growing up I missed not having my father around and resented him. My mom never talked about him so I had resigned myself to never meeting him.
After twenty-seven years of separation I had the good fortune to meet my father, Henk. Instead of feeling animosity towards him, I relished the opportunity to meet and get to know him.
I listened to his side of the story. As I listened to the pain in his voice, he sobbed these words, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
After I heard Henk utter these words, I realized he missed me more than I missed him. I vowed that if I ever became a father, I would never abandon my kids and never want to experience the emotional pain Henk shared with me that day. And I kept that promise.
5) Seeing that you (or your position) are in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life? If you are currently not in the limelight per se, please still answer this in regards to how you balance parenthood and outside life.
I feel the main factor in balancing parenthood is to make sure a father (and mother) makes time for himself. A father can’t take care of his family if he doesn’t take care of himself first. I use the instructions a stewardess gives on the airplane before take off. “Place your oxygen mask on you first and then your child.”
I feel this is also true with the marriage. Put the marriage first. The husband/wife relationship should come before the parent/child relationship. Without a solid marriage, there is no family. A dysfunctional marriage makes it more difficult to balance a family.
I did not over schedule. I learned how to say “no” more often. Family always came before any activity that disrupts the function of the family.
I also believe mom and dad need to create a balanced budget before they can balance the family. I’ve seen too many couples live beyond their means.
I lived this phrase I coined. The quality of life as a family is more important than the quality of the family’s lifestyle.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
I’m not alone in the struggles and challenges I face as a father but more importantly that the best resource I have is other dads.
It’s okay to speak up and let your voice be heard. Especially, when people make backhanded comments like,
“Oh so you’re playing Mr. Mom today.”
“No, I’m not a replacement for mom. I’m my child’s father.”
“Oh, so you’re babysitting today?”
“No, I’m parenting.”
“You’re wife left you alone with your child(ren)?”
“No, I chose to care of my child and suggested my wife take a break from motherhood.”
It’s okay to ask for direction, advice and support.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
Find the courage to be a hands-on father.
Speak up! Don’t be submissive. And don’t allow other people, including your wife, undermine your role as a father.
Make sure you and your wife are on the same parenting page. And back each other up whenever the kids try to manipulate either one of you.
As I noted earlier, the parenting world is not very father-friendly. Here are words of father wisdom from my good friend, Jim DiCenzo. “If you want a father friendly environment, you need to be a friendly father.”
Start or become a member of an existing fathers support group in your community.
Learn to have FUN being a father.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Pulling practical jokes on my kids. Playing pranks was one of the ways I bonded with my kids and it made being a father FUN!
Instead of serving a bowl of cereal with a spoon I replaced it with a fork. The look on my kid’s face when he tried to pick up the cereal with the milk dripping off the fork was priceless.
I revmoved the meat from the McDonalds hamburger before giving it to my son. He didn’t even notice the meat was gone. I tried to hold back the laughter but I couldn’t. While my son was eating his hamburger, he kept asking me what was so funny. After he finished half of it, I caved in and told him I removed the meat.
When my boys’ friends arrived at the front door, I’d get on all fours, bark and greet them as if I were a dog.
When the kids couldn’t find a personal belonging they lost and I knew where it was, I’d play the game of “hot” and “cold” with them.
If you have any questions for Hogan, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!