Our 335th Dad in the Limelight is Jeff Stephens. I want to thank Jeff 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)
Hi, my name is Jeff Stephens and I’m a member of an elite squad…dads with daughters. Wish me luck. I live in the Washington DC area and I’m a solutions architect during the day and kid shuttle bus driver at night. I waited quite some time to start my dad website due to my career and basically juggling my crazy family life. I’m very happy that I did though because it’s allowed me to connect with dads all over the world and share war stories as I navigate my daily family chaos. I found that I really don’t have typical hobbies. I don’t kayak mountain bike, or scrapbook. I’m a dad. That is my ‘hobby’ and I believe that is the best hobby anyone could have. You can find my blog over at www.CrazyDadLife.com!
2) Tell me about your family
I met my wife in college and we are coming up on our 20th anniversary. I think having your best friend and soul mate along for the parenting ride is extremely beneficial. I have 2 girls and my life is hectic. I have a tremendous amount of respect for single parents and for those with 3 or more kids. Hats off! I have no idea how you do it.
My daughters are extremely busy. They both dance competitively and play travel soccer. Both of these activities require a tremendous commitment. My youngest also belongs to multiple chorus clubs, is in the band, and attends all kinds of school activities. My oldest is also on her high school track team, the national honor society, and attends various school events. With all that said, their academics come first. If they can’t maintain their grades, they will have to drop something. So far so good as they are both doing well in school. So, as you can tell, I STAY BUSY.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
I think my largest challenges await me. My oldest is 16 and in her sophomore year of high school. She is starting to drive, starting to talk more about boys, and will be getting closer to leaving the house for college. My youngest is 12 and will be entering middle school next year. These are supposedly the toughest years, especially with daughters. So far, everything has been great (knocking heavily on some wood). As they get older, I see a challenge in trying to maintain my closeness with them. By this I mean, when they have boyfriends or other issues that are more personal, will they still look to their dad for help and advice? I already see them gravitating more toward mom for some of these discussions and I don’t want to be marginalized. I want them to know they can talk to dad too. I want to maintain the close relationship with them that I’ve enjoyed over the years.
In previous years the challenge has mostly been with time. It’s very difficult to build a professional career and balance family life. There are definitely skills and strategies you need to employ in order to make it happen without stressing yourself out. My website will provide lessons I’ve learned and I hope to give back to the dad community. I’ve made it through the first 16 years, so I do have some experience. I also really want to reach out to other fathers to see how they’ve been able to do it and to share that information with new dads coming up as well.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
I would give two bits of advice. One, enjoy every single moment. Live in the moment. Take it all in and remember all the silliness, the things they say, how they grow, etc. Before you know it, you’ll be looking at your kid and they will be on the verge of heading off to college. Enjoy those simple moments when you are just walking through the mall, or stopping to get a slurpee, or getting that hug and scream of ‘Daddy!’ when you walk in the door.
Two, don’t stress. There are too many people in the world that stress themselves out, and many times it really isn’t warranted. Relax and enjoy the ride. I know that can sometimes be easier said than done and everyone has issues in their lives. But, think of all the great things you have in your life and how it could be so much worse. Look around at your beautiful kids and think about how they think about you and look to you for guidance and leadership. I know this all sounds pretty corny and ‘self-help’ish but I’m very passionate about fatherhood.
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.
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the biggest challenges. I work extremely hard at my job. I’ve had periods where we’ve implemented systems and I work 12-15 hour days, leave work to take kids to events, head home and help them with homework, help feed them, get them to bed, then work more after they’ve fallen asleep. I get up the next day and do it all over again. There has to be a balance though. You cannot fully engulf yourself at your job and disregard your family. You must be there for them, otherwise things will go bad. You often hear about dads that spend all their time at the office and their kids barely know them. Having success in my corporate career, and worked crazy hours along the way, I don’t see how this should ever happen. You have to MAKE time for family. You may have to stay up later at night to finish your work, but make the sacrifice earlier in the day for them. As an example, the other night I got home and had a load of work to do. My youngest asked me if I could help her study for her test on the Revolutionary War. I found myself wanting to say no since I had things I had to do for me. But I didn’t. I sat down with her and we knocked it out in a half hour or so and I still had time for what I had to do, even if it meant I got a half hour less sleep that night.
I’ve really just started scratching the surface with dads in the online space. From those fathers that I’ve talked with and got to know via my daughter’s activities, I’ve learned we are all wrapped up in a crazy vortex of schedule madness. Most dads are constantly trying to do right for their kids while sacrificing in their own lives. I see dads stop working out, stop hanging out with friends, and stop (or in my case never having) a hobby. While it’s important to maintain some time for yourself, I also look on with admiration at the number of men being there for their kids. I’ve learned there are a lot of good men out there serving as role models for their kids and being that strong influence and participant in their kids’ lives.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
Try to remember how your tone and reaction are received. Sometimes after I say something to my kids and it has been a few minutes, I wonder if HOW I just spoke came off as annoyed or bothered by them. I try to think of how they received what I just said. I don’t want them to think I’m annoyed with them, or that I don’t have time to answer their question, or it doesn’t mean anything to me. I struggle with this from time to time. I do give short terse answers sometimes and will occasionally act like they are bothering me. I feel bad after the fact and wish I would’ve shown more patience up front. I’m a very patient person and I pride myself on that fact, but sometimes I don’t show it. I guess I’d say to try to take a minute before you respond because your words can mean a lot to a little kid looking up to you.
I also recommend getting them involved in activities from an early age. While my daughters maintain a crazy schedule, I’d much rather have that than have them sitting around all day or getting into trouble. You’ll hear it all the time. Kids in sports or other extracurricular activities are usually not the ones getting into trouble. They are too busy! When they do participate in sports or other activities, let them explore their passions. Don’t force them to do something because you like it or you want them to be the best in the world. Let them try it and if they don’t like it, move on to the next thing. When they do get involved in an activity, embrace it. For example, I was never a soccer fan prior to my daughters playing. Once they started, I became engaged, explored the sport, learned the intricacies, and now I’m a huge fan. They will always remember, and constantly remind me, that I wouldn’t even like soccer if it wasn’t for them.
This is a terribly hard question. I have memorable experiences every day with my kids. From the simple stuff like surprising my daughter at her elementary school and having lunch with her, to watching their faces light up on Christmas morning. Looking over at them as they work on their homework. Watching from afar as they carry on a conversation and laugh with friends. Looking in the rear view mirror and seeing her gazing out the window, wondering what she might be thinking. Watching them execute difficult dance moves, play a song on a new instrument, or carve a pumpkin. Every day is an experience.
If you have any questions for Jeff, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!