Database Name: dbwzecoixet92g welcome-to-fatherhood-podcast-notes – A Dad’s Path

Transcript #55 – Welcome to Fatherhood

Today we speak with Kelly Jean-Philippe from the Welcome to Fatherhood Podcast. Kelly is successfully breaking the chain from his absent father.

Highlights of our conversation include:

  • How dads can get over feeling overlooked

  • The #1 Topic New Dads Neglect

  • The Power of Prayer

  • Good Cop / Bad Cop and How to View Yourself

  • How Dads Can Break the Chain Coming from a Challenging Childhood

Enjoy this wide-ranging conversation!

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast platform. Like this episode? You can check out more of our Dad Podcasts.

Will Braunstein, A Dad’s Path:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of A Dad’s Path Podcast. I’m Will Braunstein. Today, I’m here with Kelly Jean-Philippe from the Welcome to Fatherhood Podcast. Kelly has a lot of experience in a lot of podcasts just like me. We’re going to be exploring what some of his podcasts have found so far and have some deep conversations. It’s going to be exciting. You can find him on Instagram, @welcometofatherhoodpod, and specifically, one area he’s forming a group on is for dads who have had miscarriages. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage or if you have a friend who has, go to the welcometofatherhoodpod on Instagram, we’ll tell you that again at the end, and you can learn more. Welcome, Kelly.

Kelly Jean-Philippe, Welcome to Fatherhood: Thanks, Will. Thank you for having me.

Will: Yes, thanks for joining us. Like I said in the intro, you have a podcast similar to mine where we address a lot of different topics, helping first-time dads, new dads. I’d be curious to flip the table on you here and ask you what are some common themes that you found when you’re talking to dads, when you’re talking about dad, when you’re talking in your podcast, things that come up over and over again, either things you’ve learned or things that are still questions?

Kelly: I think one of the most surprising things is the narrative that exists around fatherhood, and then me finding all of these dads that are countering that narrative. That’s one surprising thing, but within the conversations that I’ve had, I would say that one of the common threads are men who have their own tenuous experiences with their father or father figures and who really care about fatherhood and parenting and shifting the narrative that they had in their growing up, to be better men and fathers, to be more present for their children. There is this common thread of, “Yes, my relationship with my father was not good, but I want to do so much better for my son.”

Another one would be just how a lot of fathers feel, like I felt in the past and to some degree still today, kind of overlooked. Those are the two that are coming up to mind right now.

Will: Those are great, the first is inspiring, right? Like if you’re a dad, whether you had a great experience when you were growing up with your father or you had the worst experience, the fact that you’re listening to this podcast or they aren’t listening to your podcast, Kelly, that’s all the name of the game, just trying, just trying, because the most basic thing is to be there. To be present and to be loving and all that thing we can get into, but the fact that you’re trying answers so much of that question, and then you’re right.

We are overlooked, and we can’t blame anyone except for ourselves, and that’s why also I started A Dad’s Path because I felt like I needed better resources for myself personally. There’s tons for moms, and I know that’s similar to your podcast. That’s interesting, those themes come up and those are both challenges we’re trying to solve. I want to dive into you personally as a first-time dad. You have a two-year-old, I think, right?

Kelly: Yes, I have a two-year-old.

Will: You’re two years into the fun, into the adventure. What are things that looking back, you wish you did more of? Then I want the opposite. What are things you wish you did less of?

Kelly: Looking back, I wish that I was better prepared to support my wife, particularly in those early phases of fatherhood. I wish I was more prepared to support my newborn and be able to have the emotional bandwidth to tolerate a lot of the shifts that were happening at the time, a lot of the changes within the dynamic of our marriage and relationship and family and home.

I wish I had given a lot more patience during those early days. It’s easier for me to recognize that now being at this point and also understanding why I was not in a space to be able to do that because there was no preparation, there was no framework within which I could have imagined what life with a newborn would be like in the middle of a pandemic back in 2020.

Will: Yes. Yes.

Kelly: I acknowledged that there were certain situations and certain periods where I was not the best. I was not what my family needed, what my wife needed as a husband, or what my son needed as a father.

Will: Yes. Unfortunately, that rings all too true. I’m curious, if you go a second time around, are you going to be better prepared because you’ve been through it once, or are you going to be better prepared because you’ll like sleep more or be in better shape, or what’s the change? Not just you but just that you’d recommend for someone.

Kelly: Personally, I tried the whole getting in shape thing when I was becoming a father, and that didn’t last long at all. It just didn’t.

Will: That’s a hard one just real quick because it feels like that’s part of being a father, like I need to show him I’m the best I can be and dah, dah, dah, and but part of working out is consistency. When you have a newborn, consistency and working out is just not a– feasible thing.

Kelly: It’s just not a feasible thing. It really isn’t. No, I think to answer the question, better prepared, that’s interesting because I haven’t thought about whether or not I would be better prepared. I know now that I have the experience, obviously, with my son, and I could lean on that experience, but I’ve spoken with enough dads who have multiple children who say, “Don’t expect for the second one, if there is a second one, to be similar to or just as the first one because every child is different, and every pregnancy is different and it’s just going to be another member that gets introduced into the dynamics.” The dynamics that we not have are inevitably going to change.

What I am more aware of now though is that I need to be a lot more patient, that I need to take charge and not fall back into the difficulties of the changes that I’m experiencing, that I can carve out opportunities to continue to foster relationship with my son, and also bond with a newborn, and also support my wife, and also try to take care of myself. [laughs]

Will: No, that’s the thing. There’s always a lot of “and alsos”, and you need to start with yourself. That’s the flip side of what we’re just talking about. Yes, maybe you’re not going to get the six pack or whatever, but you need to be getting sleep, watch what you’re eating, and all those things impact you.

Kelly: I value my personal time, Will, so I wake up early in the morning just to come downstairs into my space, and whether I am doing some Bible study, whether I’m doing some editing early in the morning, catching up on highlights from the European soccer leagues, whatever it is, I enjoy some time to myself to be able to do that.

I think consistency in terms of– or I would say not just consistency but also developing a structure, a structure that fits within the dynamics that doesn’t disturb the dynamics of the family, that doesn’t put a lot more weight on my wife just so that I can “pretend like I’m taking care of myself” when I’m not taking care of her. Obviously, all of these are balancing acts, but creating a structure that works and that is customized to our circumstance, I think, is the key to navigating these phases should a next child come in the mix.

Will: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that’s a huge challenge because if you’re not taking care of yourself and you can’t take care of your family, so you have to balance that. Also, I think as a dad or as a male or anyone really, it can be easy to get caught up in the like, “Hey, I need this personal time to be okay mentally,” and you do need some time, but I think it’s really important. Like you said, it’s in the framework on being a good dad, on being a good family man, and being able to prioritize all that.

Jumping in the weeds a little bit, routines. Do you guys have a bedtime routine, or do you have one that you found that works, that you like?

Kelly: We do have a bedtime routine. My son goes down to sleep sometime in between 9:30 and 10:30. We give ourselves about an hour just to make sure we give him space to go through all of his shenanigans of not wanting to sit on the potty and not wanting to get his diaper change and him picking out which pajamas he wants to wear. He’s now becoming so independent that we send him to the bathroom and go ahead and brush your teeth. Then we have to brush his teeth again.

We go through all of that, and my son loves reading. After we get him ready, we take him to his room, and we sit there, and we give him the opportunity to give us two to three books to read. It’s usually the same two to three books for a period of several weeks. Then maybe one or two of those books changes to another one. We read to him, and then we pray, we say goodnight, and one of us has to stay in the room with him. He prefers his mom.

Initially, that’s who he wanted to be with all the time. Gradually, he’s accepted me into that role for him as well. We go to sleep. He does not like to sleep on his bed, so we’re falling asleep on the floor. [laughs] Once he falls asleep, if we’re still awake, then we’ll just crawl our way out of the room and go back to our bedroom. If not, then we end up spending the whole night on the floor with him.

Will: [chuckles] Yes, sleep is always a challenge. We’re going to have a sleep expert on actually in a couple weeks, so you might–

Kelly: I’ll definitely tune in.

Will: Yes. There’s a lot of different theories and all that, and as you know, there’s never one right way to do things. I would be curious, if you don’t mind, what do your prayers look like? Not necessarily specifics, but just if you’d be willing to share what that looks like. Is it gratitude, or what’s the–

Kelly: Yes, it’s a lot of gratitude. A lot of thank you for the gifts that we’ve received throughout the day. What’s been interesting, Will, is that we’ve been consistently praying with them every night. I work in a pediatric setting, so I see the whole gamut from the best of the best to the worst of the worst.

Over the past two years, I’ve developed a practice of praying for the children at the setting where I work and referring to them as my son’s little friends. Now that my son is starting to pray himself, and even if he doesn’t necessarily say anything coherent, [laughs] he’s starting to mimic some of the things that I say. He would start off, and he would mumble something, and then he would say, “Father. ” To me, I’m like, “Okay, so he’s trying to say Dear Heavenly Father.” [laughs]

Then would just say a couple of things that are very incoherent, but I pretend as if what he’s saying makes sense. Continue to give him affirmation and once he says amen, then we all say amen, and we hum or sing a little tune, and then goodnight, we give each other kisses and turn off the lights and we go.

Will: Awesome. I like that a lot. That’s beautiful. I like how you imitate what he does and sounds like over time, that’ll be really more meaningful, but already is. That’s a fun activity also because, or meaningful activity, because you’re doing it together. When we think about how kids learn at whatever age, it’s never what we say, but what we do. It’s modeling.

That’s something that you’re modeling really well, that part of the bedtime routine. Hopefully, they fall asleep on their own when they’re 9 and 10 and get older and prayer can still be part of that. What else are you trying to model, or how else do you think about modeling with your behavior with things like that. Has that come up for you at all?

Kelly: Oh, every day, man. There was a point where I was allowing all of my insecurities, all of my history or lack thereof with my own father to surface in really ugly ways and in my parenting and the dynamic between me and my son. I remember very vividly one night, and I am not proud of this at all, but I think that was the turning point in our relationship. He was just having a tough time. He was just having a really tough time. When my son gets really tired, he takes up his energy to like an unreasonable level. I think that’s across the board for toddlers. I was having a difficult time handling that.

My wife who is more calm and level-headed than I am, she is trying to take care of the situation, and I convinced myself that I would try to support my wife by being the enforcer, which was just not a good equation. I barge into my son’s room, he is crying, and he has a really high pitch voice when he cries, and it’s just distress-inducing. I walk in and I just screamed at him at the top of my lungs and screamed at him, and that didn’t calm him down because now he has this visual of me screaming at him, and he just screamed louder than what he was already screaming.

That scene plays in my head often, and I have a very good friend of mine. His name is Travis. He is also a podcaster. We met through podcasting, and we’ve had several conversations where he talked about modeling behaviors for your children. One thing that he shared with me was that when his sons are having their big emotion moments, what he does is he sits on the floor with them and he just gives them the space to do whatever it is they have to do without interrupting, without saying anything, but he’s in close proximity to his sons. Then he looks for opportunities to talk to them and see if they would engage with them so he can try to redirect them.

At another occasion, my son is having one of those big moments, and Travis’s words are ringing in my ears, and I did just that. What came out of that was what I believe to be an affirmation to him, I guess. Me communicating to him that I’m no longer threatened by his big emotions, that I actually welcome his big emotions in my space, that I’m not going to run away from him, and that I’m not going to push him away from me, that it is absolutely okay for him to feel what he’s feeling. Then once he was able to settle himself down a little bit, then I started to try to engage him.

At that particular moment, he did not receive my invitation, and so I just backed off. I kept communicating with him. Long story short, we ended up having a nice long walk around our neighborhood where I’m carrying my son and he has a death grip on my neck and we’re just talking about different things.

That was truly the turning point in our relationship to the point that now when he’s crying, he doesn’t go to my wife anymore. He comes to me and opens his arms and asks me to pick him up, so I pick him up. Being more aware of my own baggage has made it so that I don’t have to worry about being insecure and all of those things anymore because all of that crap doesn’t matter. What matters is how am I presenting myself to my son in the moments that he needs me the most.

It’s helped me to work through a lot of that stuff myself so that I can be present, not just physically, but emotionally with him in ways that are not tangible in these abstract ways that we can’t put words around to really capture. But, man, I’ve been seeing the fruit of that because our relationship has taken off to a totally different, much better, much healthier level since that experience.

Will: Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that first. Thanks for opening up. That’s what makes this meaningful and I think makes other dads feel better, honestly, because it happens to all of us. That’s also where I’d start or just respond real quickly. I grew up and had an amazing dad, I still do. It sounds like your experience was not the same, but I have also found myself in the same situation, yelling or whatever it is. Unfortunately, or actually, it’s fortunate, the point being, we all do things that we’re not proud of, and that stinks, but what’s really important, everyone makes mistakes, is how you react from that mistake. You just shared your reaction, which is awesome.

The other thing you said, which I think was really, really smart is there’s a big distinction of like, “Hey I’m dad, I’m the enforcer.” That’s still somewhat set in a lot of people’s minds, good cop, bad cop. Well, I’m the dad, I’m the bad cop, and that’s not accurate. That’s not the way it should be. You’re partners. You’re both loving and growing your child. I don’t know, that was a distinction that I– because you brought it up. That was also something that had hit me early in the childhood or parenthood journey.

Kelly: Yes, absolutely. I had to sit back and ask myself, why did I do what I did? Why did I think that I needed to step in and behave that way? I just uncovered a whole bunch of assumptions that I was carrying and that were not helpful. My wife didn’t need me to step in at the time, and so I had to give her the benefit of the doubt that she could handle this situation in a more tasteful and tactful way than I could. If I love my wife and I trust her as the mother of our child, then she could handle that situation, and I don’t need to be there, so I remove myself.

Will: No, that’s smart. I found that a lot of times, there’s also a power dynamic going on where your child doesn’t really have a lot of opportunity, especially when they get a little older than two, but even at two, they just don’t have a lot of opportunities to do their own thing. Their own thing is basically just disagreeing with you sometimes. As they get older, both my four and my seven-year-old will just say no flat out.

It can be frustrating, but at the same time, you have to recognize a lot of times it’s on me where they’re not listening to me. Why aren’t you listening to me? It’s like, “Well, I am dad, I’m in charge,” but that’s not the right way to look at it. I’m trying to help them in this world and grow. If there’s a reason I said no, I have to explain it. If I just said no because I’m feeling lazy or whatever it is, then that’s not okay. I try and be okay with being questioned because whether I like it or not, I will be questioned. Right?

Kelly: I’m not looking forward to that phase, but I’m trying to prepare myself to welcome it.

Will: Right. No, that’s the best you can do. Like I said, I have a seven and four and we’re– if we had a third dad on with teenagers, he’d be laughing his butt off at us saying, “You guys got it so easy.” One or two last questions here. This is a fun one. There’s a tech guy, Keith Rabois, I like a lot. He brought up three traits that he wants for his kids, work ethic, tenacity, and ambition. I’m wondering as you think about your little guy, what are some traits that would be important to you for him to embody?

Kelly: Well, that’s a very good question. I would say the first one, to be confident. Confidence for sure. My son was born at a point where our country and the world at large was in a very difficult place, not just as a result of COVID but all of the racial tension that was happening, which I think boiled over as a result of George Floyd’s death captured on camera. My son was born the following day after George Floyd died. When my wife and I got home from the hospital, I was happening on all of this stuff that had been happening for a week. That’s the context in which we bring our child into the world.

As a first-time dad feeling totally unprepared for all of this, and if you recall back to the beginning of the conversation, just having a really difficult time dealing with all of the changes in dynamics of our home and relationship and family, that social context and background just heightened everything even much more so.

There was a point, Will, all came to a head for me. While my son was just a couple of months old, I found myself apologizing to him for bringing him into the world, for not taking into consideration that if I had a child, he would be a Black kid, things that I don’t think I should ever have to say to my son. At that point, I was faced with a decision to make, that I could either let those fears cripple me in how I parent him or take that and just check it. I’m not even going to put that much stock in this, but instill a level of confidence in my son in who he is intrinsically as his own person for the world to come.

I would have to start, first and foremost, with confidence as a result of what that means to me in my parenting of this child for the time that he showed up. The second one would have to be empathy because, again, just the stuff that we experienced, the world could use a lot more empathic people. The world could use a lot more empathy period.

I want my son to embody what that means, what that is, to be able to have the discernment and ability to put himself in somebody else’s shoes to try to understand where they’re coming from. It doesn’t mean that he has to agree with everybody because he has his own mind to be made, but he can understand where people are coming from. Lastly, I would say wisdom. I would want my son to embody wisdom, however that looks for him, whether to have that keen insight to help bring about change and things in a meaningful, impactful, lasting way.

Will: Wow, that’s great. Confidence, empathy, and wisdom. I really like, in particular, you have confidence, which is somewhat about strength, but understanding having all the confidence without empathy is not the type of person you want to raise either. We all know people like that.

Kelly: Absolutely.

Will: Hopefully, we’re not too close with that. Those aren’t your good friends.

Kelly: No.

Will: Those are great. I really appreciate, Kelly, that you spent the time with us today. If you don’t mind, just tell my audience again if they want to join your group on miscarriages and just learn more and chat through some of those challenges, how do they find you?

Kelly: People can find me on Instagram @welcometofatherhoodpod. My podcast drops every Wednesday on every available platform. Particularly, this effort to get a group of dads together to talk about their experiences with miscarriage comes as a result of having experienced multiple in my family. I was listening to a podcast recently where the guest was speaking to a host and she was talking about her miscarriage experience. A comment that she made just made it so clear in my mind that men don’t actually talk about those things. Even though we experienced it as well in a different way than moms, of course, but we experience it as well. I know I have and I know I have been deeply impacted, and I retain a lot of hurt by it.

The purpose of the group is to create a space for men to be able to talk about and share their experiences and to put that on the table as a conversation starter in a crowded space of parenting that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of room where men are talking about these sensitive topics. You can go to my LinkedIn profile on my IG account. There is a tab there on the Linktree link that says survey.

Will: Awesome. Well, Kelly, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate you opening up, and I learned a lot today. Thank you.

Kelly: I appreciate you having me on, Will. Thank you very much.