The New Fatherhood

Kevin Maguire

"Like one big group text with other guys fumbling their way through fatherhood." — Esquire

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Kids & FamilyKids & Family

Episodes

The Great Screen Time Debate with Jacqueline Nesi
02-02-2024
The Great Screen Time Debate with Jacqueline Nesi
On Screen Time, like with so many parenting conundrums, theres no right answer, but there’s a whole world of others parents who will tell you that you’re doing it wrong. We need better guidance to help us navigate through these issues, and that’s why I’m thankful for the work being done by Dr Jacqueline Nesi in her excellent newsletter Techno Sapiens. I’ve found it an essential resource to help me understand more about the challenges I face as a parent today, enabling me to make decisions based on data, not fear, and to enable me to prepare for what comes next, as my kids get older and mobile phones and social media move into the frame.Key Timings:Introduction to Jackie Nesi and Parental Tech Fears (00:00-02:18)Jackie discusses parents' concerns about technology and screen time, with Kevin reflecting on her journey from academia to writing.Screen Time and Childhood Development (02:18-06:01)Delving into the role of technology in children's lives, discussing the impact of various screen activities and guidelines for young children.Influence of Parental Tech Habits (06:01-10:48)Conversation about how parents' technology use affects children, including the concept of 'technoference' and co-viewing as family bonding.Managing Screen Time and Discipline (10:48-16:18)Jackie talks about setting screen time rules, consistency in parenting, and alternatives to screen activities.Parenting Teenagers in a Digital World (16:18-23:25)Strategies for disciplining teenagers around technology and considerations for when to give children phones.Closing Thoughts on Balanced Digital Parenting (23:25-32:05)Concluding advice on navigating the balance between technology's risks and benefits in parenting.You can sign up for Techno Sapiens here. Get full access to The New Fatherhood at www.thenewfatherhood.org/subscribe
Solving the Productive Parenting Puzzle with Oliver Burkeman
08-11-2023
Solving the Productive Parenting Puzzle with Oliver Burkeman
Welcome to the fourth episode of The New Fatherhood podcast. For those who’ve been around these parts for a while, you may remember me talking with writer Oliver Burkeman back in 2021 (I told you some of these recordings are from a while back.) Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and Max’s phenomenal engineering skills) we’ve been able to take that old conversation and lovingly prepare it for your earholes. I’ve made significant updates to the essay to include reflections on the two years I’ve spent pondering the topics raised in Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Weeks.Key Quotes:“We tend to over-focus on instrumentalising time, and trying to use time well can become so all-encompassing that we're judging the value of life exclusively by future accomplishments, future profits or future benefits. This is totally universal, but in the context of parenting—drawing partly on a piece Adam Gopnik wrote for The New Yorker—is the idea of how it's very easy as a parent to fall into this society-reinforced notion that the point of parenting is to like produce successful older kids and adults, and that the point of childhood is to become a successful adult. And that drains childhood, and the experience of being the parent, to a kind of intrinsic benefit.“I remember when our son was born, a lot of the advice that you get from these experts is that it’s very bad to train your child to fall asleep on you, or to need you in the bed. But there's no consideration of whether the experience of falling asleep together—for you, and the child—has any value at all. That, in the moment, it could be a good way to spend some months of your life.”“I am susceptible to finding YouTube videos made by terrifyingly accomplished American moms: with the best system of storage for their craft supplies, and an unlimited list of exciting ideas for a rainy Sunday afternoon. That’s when I do find myself prone to that “oh goodness we should have a setup like that... We should have a limitless number of supplies, including food colourings, and perfect labels, and apparently children who are willing to put things back in the right drawers.” And so that's been interesting to me, because it obviously shows that your sense self worth is suddenly more at stake when other people are depending on it."“The problem is not planning. The problem is what you take plans to be. In the book I quote Joseph Goldstein: “we forget that a plan is just a thought.” It’s how you'd like the future to unfold. But the thing we try to do with planning is to reach out into the future from the present, and control it, and know that it's going to turn out a certain way. And that's where we get into trouble, because we don't have that control, and we're constantly experiencing this anxious gear crunching between reality and expectation.”Audio production by Max McCabe. Branding by Selman Design. Survey by Sprig. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts: Apple, Spotify Google, Overcast, Pocket Casts or Amazon Music. Purchase Four Thousand Weeks here: https://geni.us/9inb7 Get full access to The New Fatherhood at www.thenewfatherhood.org/subscribe
Regret, Fatherhood, and Purposeful Parenting
29-06-2023
Regret, Fatherhood, and Purposeful Parenting
Over the two-and-a-half years I’ve been writing The New Fatherhood, I’ve had conversations with some great thinkers and doers that have made me consider fatherhood, and my experience of being a dad, in a new light. I’ve featured some of these exchanges in the newsletter before, but thanks to recent advances in AI I’ve been able to take old recordings and whip them up into near-studio quality.As a parent, I know your time is precious, and am grateful for every minute you spend here. I wanted to find a way to share these interviews in a fatherhood-friendly way—because ain’t nobody got time for a two-hour unedited conversation. After reading the average school run was 28 minutes long, I’m aiming for each episode to hit this length. That way, you should be able to fit it in whilst on your way home, or to work, after dropping off the kids. Each discussion will come with a companion essay, which can always be found at https://www.thenewfatherhood.org/podcastWe're opening this series with author Daniel H. Pink. Our conversation was recorded early last year after the release of his wonderful book The Power of Regret, which invited readers to consider this often-maligned emotion in a new light. I’ve got more episodes in the can that will be gracing your ears soon, covering the same topics we regularly return to here. You can expect one new episode every month—that feels like a cadence that won’t destroy me?!—and I’m beyond excited to share them with you. A very special thank you to Max McCabe who is taking the reins on the audio production and killing it right out of the gate.Quotes:"Parenting is offering something beyond hedonic pleasure-driven satisfaction. It's delivering something more important, it's delivering meaning, it's delivering purpose, it's delivering love." - Daniel Pink"Very few people regretted having a kid even though we know from other research that when we have kids, that when we're raising kids, you know, the first 20 years or so that having kids actually reduces our day-to-day hedonic satisfaction and well-being." - Daniel PinkTimestamps:00:00 - Introduction and Kevin Maguire's admiration for Pink's work.00:54 - The scientific approach to understanding regret.08:22 - Few people regret having children despite challenges.09:44 - Rarity of regrets about not having children.10:06 - Confessions of marital infidelity from submissions to the World Regret Survey.13:37 - Educational divide and its impact on parenting styles.15:01 - Encouragement to take action and try new things as a parent.15:32 - The importance of a slight bias for action.16:20 - Challenges and considerations in deciding to have children.16:33 - Comparing regrets of bad marriages to regrets of having children.Key LinksFind out more about Daniel PinkBuy The Power of Regret Get full access to The New Fatherhood at www.thenewfatherhood.org/subscribe
I'll Dig With It
03-05-2022
I'll Dig With It
The curse of a career spent in advertising is seeing everything as a problem that can easily be solved with the right strategy. Understanding what makes an audience tick; helping them find the necessary McGuffin to provide revelation and transformation needed in their own hero’s journey; figuring out how to find them, and the magic words needed to convince them they need your product.I’ve made a living advising other people on how to do it. And then I chose to do it for myself. After two decades spent using my skills to convince people to choose one brand of toothpaste over another, or to tempt them to upgrade their phone to the newer model when the one in their pocket is working just fine, I realised I could use it for something else. Something that meant something. To use those powers for good—to seek out dads who find themselves on a path parallel to mine. To share what I’ve learned from time spent looking for answers inside, rather than chasing shiny things everywhere else. Those dads might be earlier in their quest. Perhaps they’re closing in on the finish line, if such a thing exists—a vanishing point extending into infinity. They’re all looking for something thought-provoking—and feel-provoking—along the way, and the feeling that they’re not on their own.In the world of the “adland strategist”, the tribe of which I plied my trade, you can’t make your way through a week of this-could’ve-been-an-email meetings without someone referencing Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This iconic, rainbow coloured pyramid helped humankind understand our motivations like never before, a career dedicated to pushing the study of the mind beyond mental illness to a place he termed humanist psychology. His work helped us understand the incentives that drive us to what we do. Maslow’s fascination with human behaviour continued into later life, and in 1966, 4 years before his death, he coined the “law of the instrument.”“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." — The Psychology of Science, Abraham MaslowWhen I started The New Fatherhood last January, the urge to take a marketing hammer and use it on a literary nail was overwhelming. My brain kept cascading into AIDA funnels, bounce rates and conversion goals. The only way to make it stop was to close the valve completely:“I spent 2021 focused on learning to write. To treat it as a craft. To give it the respect it demands. To commit to learning the way, like thousands of writers had done before me. To read more great books about writing. To read more great books, period. To get down to the nuts and bolts of language, taking the modern classics, interrogating the aspects of each sentence, unpacking their secrets, private lessons from the world’s greatest authors, often delivered from beyond the grave. I'd spend my time—as Ira Glass so eloquently put it—"closing the gap ... to make work as good as your ambitions."It’s only over the last few months I’ve started to feel more comfortable wearing the word “writer.” Before, it was an ill-fitting jacket: tight across the back and the cuffs, baggy everywhere else, pockets exactly where you don’t want them. On the odd occasion I’d use it, privately, I’d feel achingly uncomfortable. I've written all my life, but it's always been on behalf of someone else: the company I worked for, the agency I was pitching with, the CMO’s presentation I was ghost-writing. But what you’re reading now? This is different. It’s my point of view on the world. There’s nothing to hide behind out here.When that first notification popped up on my phone, gloriously declaring that one of you had paid $6 for this sapling of an idea, it was unlike anything I’d ever felt. I’d been paid before, for all kinds of things. But to be paid to write? One person choosing, of their own volition, to pay me—with their own money—for words I pushed onto the internet. And, if I didn't f**k things up, they’d do it again next month?The jobs we do today are unrecognisable from the ones our parents did, fuzzier with every generation that passes—photocopies of photocopies of photocopies, a meme screenshotted so many times it’s littered with compression artefacts, a datamoshed replica of the work your great-grandad once did. Those older jobs still exist, of course. But you probably don't have one of them. My dad worked in construction. He spent the 1980s driving up and down the UK in a Transit van, through sleet, snow and s**t, laying cable in the ground, getting paid by the mile. His hard labour directly correlated to a salary delivered—in cash, in a small, square, manilla envelope—on Friday evening, various deductions scrawled across the front. He’d head home on Friday evening after a week of work—probably via the pub, so say we all—with that lifeline in hand. Sometimes it would be enough to get through to next week. Other times it wouldn’t. Living week-to-week, only able to focus on the bottom layers of Maslow’s pyramid, utterly oblivious to the future he was literally paving the way for. The fibre optic cables he was installing across the country that his son would eventually use to build a career, build a life, raise a family, start a newsletter, and ultimately lead to a guy in Brighton deciding to pay him $6.Last week, for reasons unknown, Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” paid my brain a wee visit. I haven’t read it since I studied it for my English Literature GCSE 23 years ago. Over two decades later I was dumbfounded by its predictions. A man of Irish descent, a writer of words, sits pen in hand, considering the generations of men that came before him and dug—turf for Heaney’s father, tarmacadam for mine.“By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man.”Heaney remembers his father as a man who dug, wherever it took him, further and faster, as he “bends low, comes up twenty years away.” He contemplates his place amongst a lineage of strong men, who toiled for a living, exchanging their blood, sweat and fears for food and shelter for their families. He, like me, wonders if he’ll ever understand that struggle, a life spent with no a spade in hand.“The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slapOf soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edgeThrough living roots awaken in my head.But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I’ll dig with it.”The spade becomes a pen; the pen becomes a keyboard. Maslow’s hammer becomes a gift, a tool to climb the pyramid towards a dream of self-actualisation. The father, unwittingly, indirectly, laid the way for the son. A poem, uncovered again, 56 years after Heaney first dug it free, its roots deeper now than ever they were. In 2010, 3 years before his death, Seamus Heaney shared thoughts from a lifetime spent under poetry’s spell. “The difference in a poem, or a work of literary art, is that it is not utilitarian communication. It is some kind of housing of a moment—a snapshot of consciousness—that can be looked upon, by other people.”My son turned three last Thursday. The only digging he’s seen his old man do is with a hand trowel in a window box, or with fingernails down the side of his temple on the days when it all gets too much. Will he meet this poem as a teenager, feel it woosh by at first, before boomeranging around when he’s ready for it? Will he wonder how he fits in the lineage of fathers who came before him? Will he, one day, see himself reflected in Heaney’s words, pondering the inadequacy of his spade, just as I do with mine?Say HelloSomething a little different this week. How was it for you? Did you listen to it, and if so, how was that, and shall I do more? Your feedback helps me make this great.Loved | Great | OK | Meh | Bad I’ll be back next week, discussing regret with Daniel Pink. If you’d like to listen to Heaney read his poem in full, please do so here. If you enjoy The New Fatherhood, consider subscribing to support this project, and get access to the archive of member-only essays. Get full access to The New Fatherhood at www.thenewfatherhood.org/subscribe