Our 533rd Dad in the Limelight is Vincent O’Keefe. I want to thank Vincent for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
I am a parenting writer and veteran stay-at-home father with a Ph.D. in American literature. My writing has appeared in The New York Times “Motherlode” blog, The Huffington Post, The Shriver Report, and Time Ideas, among other venues. I have also been featured at CNN Parents and I’m seeking an agent for a humorous memoir about gender and parenting titled Been There, Wiped That. Before having children, I taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
2) Tell me about your family
My wife and I have been together for 25 years and we have two daughters, ages fourteen and eleven. We also have a Yorkshire Terrier who resembles Brad Pitt (according to my wife only).
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
The two largest challenges have been colic (during my first few months as an at-home dad) and cooking (every day since then). Our colicky firstborn cried for many, many hours every day for several months during her first year. Because my wife worked long hours, I often endured these miserable marathons alone. The chapter of my memoir about colic is currently titled “Take This Onesie and Shove It.”
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Strive to be flexible. Try to fully understand the psychology of both breadwinning and caregiving, because parenthood is a long road. It also helps to find community either locally or on-line, especially with other fathers during these times of increasing complexity of gender roles (or lack thereof). Oh, and if you have a daughter, consider enrolling in some type of hair styling class.
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
I urge all parents to find ways to care for themselves along the way. Schedule date nights and actually go out. Schedule time with friends and actually go out. Treat a good sitter like gold. If you’re an at-home parent, keep a toe or two in your professional field. If you’re a working parent, keep a toe or two in your local Early Childhood PTA or school/parent organization. Use calendars and lists to stay on track. Keep in mind that while you are nurturing your children you are also modeling adulthood for them.
I interact with both stay-at-home and working fathers, and nearly all of them have taught me that men care deeply about their children. In my experience, most fathers are trying their best to do a high-quality job—whether as the breadwinner, the caregiver, or a combination of the two. (Granted, I have not confirmed this impression with their wives.) I have also learned to always appreciate that I had the luxury of choosing at-home parenthood. I am keenly aware that many parents struggle with scheduling issues more than me.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
First, always cherish your children. (Visit www.vincentokeefe.com for my free report titled “10 Ways to Cherish Your Children.”) Second, try to take the high road and the long view whenever possible. Doing so teaches children to do the same as they age. I’ve been amazed at how many problems that seemed insurmountable when our children were little—e.g. urinating right next to the toilet rather than in it—became near-forgotten episodes in later years.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
I love sharing humorous stories from my own childhood with my daughters—especially stories involving my own childhood fears, failures, and false moves. Children usually enjoy and learn much from visions of their parents’ vulnerability. (My daughters love hearing about my braces with head gear as a child, for example.) Laughing through such emotional journeys across time remind me of why I wanted to have kids in the first place.
If you have any questions for Vincent, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!