Patrick O’Neill is the cofounder and CEO of YouGiveGoods.
To all the fathers out there who think they could be doing better, you are not alone. Recently released data from the federal’s government’s finds that 46 percent of you feel the same way, as compared to 23 percent of women. That 50 percent deficit is no accident. As it turns out, even though we have stepped up our game by tripling the time we spend with the children since 1965, we still trail the ladies by almost half.
That’s right. For as progressive and sensitive as we think we are, fathers spend almost 50 percent less time with their children — 7.3 hours per week, to be exact, versus 13.5 hours for mothers. That may not be as terrible as the 2.5 hours that dads logged in the Don Draper days, but in terms of “quality time” and sheer equality, it stinks of the same pomade.
What to do? The solution is a lot simpler than we pretend. We need to be as aggressive and creative in our fatherly duties as we are in our career. As crass as that may sound, I assure you it’s an approach that has worked since I became a father almost twenty years ago. In terms of a go-to-market strategy, it goes a little like this.
Go to them; don’t wait for them to come to you
Fathers only wait for someone to bring them their slippers and a martini in the movies. In the real world, you have to engage. You have to reach out with the same fearlessness and determination as you would with a new business prospect. Or, to take a page from the Sheryl Sandberg playbook, you must “lean in.”
Once there, you must connect
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children spend on average 7 hours per day on “entertainment media.” While that might be just the information many of you need to demand your offspring go on a “digital fast,” I have found that it is far more productive to leverage that interest in a positive way.
For instance, if your child is a big gamer, you could introduce them to a video game charity like Get-Well Gamers or Child’s Play. These organizations put games in the hands of children in hospitals and other long-term treatment facilities.
Another way to go is to let your child find a charity that speaks to him or her in a personal way. DoSomething.org is an online community of young people for social change. With 1.6 million members, it allows kids to sign up to fight issues like bullying, animal cruelty, and texting-and-driving. VolunteerMatch is another good choice. All your son or daughter has to do is type in a cause or a zip code to find opportunities in their area.
You didn’t give up when your company didn’t get funding. You didn’t give up when your code crashed your machine. By the same token, don’t give up when your attempts to use technology to model some good old-fashioned positive male behavior fails.
While I realize my strategy might not be for everyone, it’s an excellent way to turn your children into positive, productive citizens of the world. By way of proof, I offer a personal anecdote.
When I was growing up, my father owned a restaurant. We didn’t have the Internet then, we couldn’t browse our community for opportunities to help people. Instead, as a regular family activity, we would make meals in the restaurant’s kitchen which we would deliver to elderly people in the neighborhood in need of a little help.
I confess that there were days that I would have preferred to be doing something else than delivering meals to my elderly neighbors, but it was an experience that stayed with me. It taught me to help others. It also demonstrated that fatherhood is about serving others.
The choice is up to you. This Father’s Day, you can sit with your feet up waiting for your “Father of the Year” award, or you can try something different. I promise you that if you go the latter route, something good will happen. Your ROI may not come right away, but you are making a valuable investment that will be passed on to future generations.
Patrick O’Neill is a father of four. He is also the cofounder and CEO YouGiveGoods, a social-good startup that has revolutionized how people donate food and other items.