Our 158th Dad in the Limelight is Tim Berry. I want to thank Tim 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 ex-hippy baby boomer Stanford MBA entrepreneur blogger married 41 years father of five grown-up children, four of them women, one of them a man. Founder and Chief Blogging Officer of Palo Alto Software (www.paloalto.com) and well known on twitter as an entrepreneur recommended by Business Week, New York Times, Business Insider, and some other publications. I’ve written books and software, and several thousand blog posts.
Do you hate it when people just cite the web pages? I like my “about me” bio on my blog at http://timberry.bplans.com/introducing-myself. That page has links to some shorter bios for media use, and to downloadable photos.
2) Tell me about your family
Gulp … I try to brag about my family, I think that’s always tiresome, but then, in this case, you asked for it.
My wife and I met in college, married young, and we’re still married 41 years later. She’s Mexican, born and raised in Mexico City, and I’m born in Massachusetts and raised in California. We’ve survived a Latin Irish American English German mix. We lived at Notre Dame, where we met, then Oregon, then 10 years in Mexico City (where our oldest 3 were born) then 12 in Palo Alto, CA, and the last 19 years in Eugene OR.
Our oldest turns 39 next month, our youngest turned 24 in April. They graduated from Notre Dame, Princeton, NYU, Whitman, and Stanford, respectively. By order of age: Laura’s a single mom who works in an office; Sabrina (Parsons) is CEO of Palo Alto Software (@mommyceo on Twitter); Paul is CTO of Huffington Media Group (@teamreboot on Twitter); Cristin (@cristinberry on Twitter) is looking for a new job and going back to school at the moment, has a BA in Psychology, worked for Palo Alto Software for 6 years since she graduated from Whitman; and Megan is marketing manager for @Klout (@MeganBerry on Twitter).
As I write this, Megan, Paul, Sabrina, and I have a combined Klout score of 235. Interesting too, Megan, the youngest, is the highest, at 71. And I, the oldest, am second to Megan, with 67. I think that’s cool. Ask a father about his children?
Here’s Sabrina’s profile on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/sabrinaparsons/
Look at this one on Paul: http://www.businessinsider.com/bige-org-in-aol-tech-accompanies-layoff-2011-3
And maybe this one for Megan: http://mashable.com/author/megan-berry/
And Laura and Cristin, for whom I don’t have URLs, are wonderful people who I admire very much. I’m very close to both.
And we have grandchildren now: Laura has her son, Sabrina and her husband Noah have three boys, and Paul and his wife Milena have two girls and a boy.
By the way, speaking of dads, here’s some more bragging about a dad: http://timberry.bplans.com/2011/06/an-old-man-to-admire.html
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
All those things a dad has to watch, and hang back, but not help. If you don’t have children growing up into adulthood you haven’t seen it as much, but you will. You think it’s gut-wrenching when they’re little and sick, and you have to watch them suffer? Wait until they’re grown up and dealing with real-life adult dashed dreams, disappointments, problems, and dangers.
There’s a line in a song Boulder to Birmingham, by Emmylou Harris:
The last time I felt like this
It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain in the night and I watched it burn
From the moment I first heard that song, maybe 30 years ago, I immediately identified it with that feeling of helplessness you have as a dad when you can’t do anything, or enough, to solve their problems.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
- Take five minutes to listen to Ric Elias on TED.com with “The three things I learned while the plane crashed:” http://blog.ted.com/2011/04/22/3-things-i-learned-while-my-plane-crashedic-elias-on-ted-com/
- Take 30 minutes to listen to this slightly-condensed version of Randy Pausch’s last lecture: http://www.viddler.com/explore/GabrielRobins/videos/1/
- Something I learned from my own father: He has always given advice the way everybody should. His advice has no baggage. You take it, or not, and he’s okay with simply having shared what he thought was best. He gives it truly like a gift, meaning that once given, it’s yours, not his, and there’s no hard feelings about what you do with it. I love that. I wish I’d always done that as well as he has. (BTW, that’s word-for-word from the blog post I cited above).
- You have to balance your life and their life. Balance is a tough concept, because what’s absolutely dead center to one person is off to another. Your children need you to love yourself and be yourself and not sacrifice everything you are for them. The right balance changes as they get older. When they’re young the best thing is to be at every soccer game and music recital and parent-teacher conference you can; as they grow up they need you to live your own life, not just theirs, so they can live theirs. The right balance changes.
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.
It would be dishonest of me to pretend that I don’t owe my relationship to my children to my wife making it possible for me to build a business, have the career I’ve had, and also be close to my kids. I did a blog post with a list of of 10 tips for saving your life from your business … http://timberry.bplans.com/2009/12/10-tips-for-saving-your-life-from-your-business.html … and when I read that today I realize that most of that was because my wife insisted.
Yes, I think I made almost every soccer game my kids had except when I was on business travel, and every recital, but I was on business travel a whole lot, and I didn’t make every parent-teacher conference, or every doctor’s appointment.
So my balance of parenthood with outside life is a gift that my wife gave me.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
Mostly clichés, which, annoying as the truth is, are mostly true. Being contrarian is much more fun, but much less authentic.
Teenage years are supposed to be hard. Children are supposed to grow up and make their own lives.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
As a result of having 15 years between our oldest and youngest, and our family having evolved in the context of social change like any others – which meant in my case that I was way more involved in the day-to-day like changing diapers and giving bottles and all for our younger ones than for our older ones – when the dads are more involved in the actual day-to-day care, the dads themselves win as much or more as the moms and the kids. The modern-day dads I see taking on a much bigger share of the grunt work of parenting than me with my older ones or my dad with me and my three siblings are way better off for it. It’s not a zero sum game. The whole idea of quality time is a cop-out: if you don’t put in the quantity time too, as a dad, you miss out. You don’t win by avoiding changing diapers and all that; you lose.
I hate the cliché of the mother in law being an enemy. My wife’s mother, who died of cancer in 1999, was an amazing woman, a wonderful presence wherever she was, a source of great strength for my wife and love and caring for our kids. I will be eternally grateful for her role in our family, how much she was a part of my older kids’ lives, and wishing our youngest had had more time with her. Mixing generations is great for families, if you let it happen like it is supposed to. I’m still grateful and will always be for everything my mother-in-law did for our kids.
And also, here’s one you probably won’t get from anybody else: Just as I’m very glad I was present for the birth of the last three of our children (when our first two were born, in ’72 and ’73, the hospital wouldn’t let me), and I think every father should be, I shouldn’t have been present at the birth of my daughter’s first son. It all went well, he was perfect and healthy, his dad was there too, but no. Even when your daughter and son-in-law genuinely welcome the idea, even when the birth is perfect, no, don’t do that. Take my word for it. Wait in the hall.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Wow, that’s a hard question …
- Births, graduations, achievements, problems, solutions.
- Sleepless nights with sick children.
- The sound of three kids laughing from the next room on a warm Saturday afternoon.
- Sabrina swimming and riding a tricycle at nine months.
- The lump in my throat the time I had to get on a plane to Japan for business while one of my daughters was really suffering a teenager crisis.
- How much I admire them now as grown-up parents and professionals.
- Last Sunday when Laura wrapped her very confused seven-year-old son in her arms and solved his problem by tapping his chest and saying “look into your heart; that’s what’s true.”
- The last two days with Cristin, 29, hanging out in Portland while she’s in transition from one job to another and a back-to-school experience. Her strength and resolve.
- A weekend in Monterey alone with my youngest, a couple of years ago, at a very special time for her, a time full of worry.
- Another lump in the throat when Paul left Eugene for the second time, after two years working for me and my company, fully grown up, to return to New York for good.
… because what happens is the memorable experiences just keep on coming.
If you have any questions for Tim, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!