Intentional Fathering

I’ve done something I really had no business doing, and in that same spirit of foolishness, I want to tell you about it. I’ve met a great many fathers over the years who are quietly struggling. They’ve come from broken homes, from abusive homes, from homes where they feel like their own fathers failed to prepare them for fatherhood. They’re trying to find their way, and they’re worried that they’re falling short of what their children need them to be.

Maybe I have a heart for men like this because I’m one of them. But therein lies the problem—I feel this ache all around me, but who am I to offer help? What wisdom do I have? Most days I feel like a failure myself. And I’m busy. So busy.

But this reality, this coast-to-coast brokenness, it kept prodding me. And I figured, well, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve had the good fortune to know a lot of really good fathers. So how about I just ask them what their secrets are? With that in mind, I began interviewing wise fathers in all contexts. Most of the time I didn’t even tell them why. I just asked them what their fathering practices are. What they’ve learned over their years. What they’re grateful they made time for, and what they grieve not doing more often.

Sometime during ths journey, I came across the remarkable Fly Lady. Some of you know who I’m talking about, but if you want to know more, you can check out her website for yourself. What she’s managed to do is give thousands of struggling mothers hope that they can regain control over their households and their lives. And she’s done this by concentrating them on a handful of effective habits. No long essays, no complex systems. Just daily attention to habits that anyone can practice, if they’re willing to commit a little time.

That’s when it hit me: all we struggling fathers could use the same thing—a daily focus on small but powerful fathering habits. An opportunity to commit, alongside other men, to making ourselves a little better every day.

So with that in mind, I embarked on an expensive (to me) and complicated website project. I had all kinds of cool ideas for bells and whistles. For many reasons I won’t get into, most of them my own fault, it turned into a damned disaster. At the start of this year, I was out a lot of money, with nothing of value to show for it. Well, I thought, I guess that’s that.

But it wasn’t, because something kept goading me. So after several weeks of licking my wounds, I started building a website myself. Something super simple, on a platform I understand. I figured while I can’t do the bells and whistles, at least I can offer the habits I gleaned from all those conversations with good fathers. And offer a simple, free opportunity for anyone who’s interested to work through those habits. One a week, with a very brief daily email from me, giving a practical tip for putting that habit in practice, or offering a little encouragement, or maybe even a kick in the rear end.

I am not qualified to give anyone fatherhood guidance. The website I built is likely to crash the first time I push a wrong button. Hardest of all for me, I feel like a hypocrite. But it seems to me that somebody’s got to do it. So here it is: Intentional Fathering. If you want to check it out and give me some advice—or better yet, contribute content—I’d welcome hearing from you.

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  2. Renee DiFede

    Yay! This is going to be incredible! I just can sense God is going to reach Fathers through this, Tony. Simple, sounds perfect. Glad you are stepping out in faith. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Now I’m off to check out who “Fly Lady” is…..

  3. Anna Harris-Parker

    This looks like a great project, Tony. I’m sharing this post with my husband. We’re expecting our first child (a boy) in November.

  4. Anne DeBie

    Yes! If you can do for fathers what FlyLady has done for moms, I have such hope for all dads and future dads. God bless this endeavor, and you and your sons. As a mom of a son, I thank you!

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