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About Julian Redwood, MFT

Julian Redwood is the founder of Full Frontal Fatherhood and a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Engaged fathers make the home a wonderful place. www.FullFrontalFatherhood.com gives them the DIY tools to be that dad. And gives moms the skills to empower, collaborate and thrive with their men.

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

New Dads: 5 Keys to a Joyful Family

Being a new dad destroys a lot men. Unprepared, they find themselves disempowered and overwhelmed, while their relationships flounder.

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, I anxiously looked everywhere for real information about how to handle the emotional and personal challenges I sensed lied ahead. I found a number of keys that have made fatherhood a deeply wonderful experience and allowed my relationship with my wife to thrive.

I am not talking about how to change diapers, save money or get by on less sleep. These are the things that helped me move into manhood.

Here are the five most important keys that have consistently made fatherhood a wonderful experience for me and and how I’ve maintained a healthy relationship with my wife through it all.

Read the transcription below or watch more videos at www.FullFrontalFatherhood.com.

Becoming a new father is one of life’s most amazing experiences, but so often we can be floored by it, and it can devastate our relationship. Like any great challenge, it all depends upon how prepared we are.

Here are five things that will enable you and your family to thrive in the intensity of having a new baby and really enjoy the wonder of the whole experience.

#1: Plan Ahead

Having a plan for any difficult situation in life makes a huge difference. If you are going to climb some big mountain, you have to sit down with your teammates and talk about who is going to do what and what you are going to do when things go awry. Unfortunately, we rarely do this when it comes to having a baby and thus so many parents are unnecessarily overwhelmed. If you can sit down with your partner and talk about all the challenges you can imagine, you will be much more able to handle it when it is three in the morning and you are changing a blowout diaper with a screaming banshee of a baby.

As I talk more extensively about it in my video How to Babyproof Your Marriage, sit down and talk about all these difficult situations. Who is expected to provide for your baby at four in the morning? Who is going to handle the diapers at what times? How are you going to handle it when you get home exhausted from work to a disaster of a house, a crying baby and wiped out mom that needs some time alone? How are you each going to handle the money? And how are you going maintain the intimacy between you without the same level of sex?

All these situations and many more can easily be taken on if you have already planned for them. But if you are overwhelmed with a baby that is keeping you up all night and there is no sex, and you haven’t really talked to your partner in days, and you are depleted from having worked too much on too little sleep; it easily becomes a very bad moment and typically leads to some form of conflict. With a little planning, this can all be avoided. Take the time before it hits the fan, sit down with your partner and get ready for this tough challenge.

#2: Ask your Partner to Stand Back & Let you Find your Way

Moms are wired to quickly step in and provide for their children. They have strong motherly instincts to make sure the kid is getting everything it needs and even if we do beat them to the punch by stepping in to parent in a tough moment, they are likely to tell us how we should do it better. It makes it hard to be an engaged dad as it typically leaves us feeling disempowered. We often back away from the family and go off to work, sports or even an affair to feel better about ourselves. We need some other place where we feel more competent and valued.

Our partners need to know that we want to be an equal parent. There are not many role models around where both parents are working as a team to provide everything the kid needs. Typically the mom is the boss and we are second class parents. Obviously, not everything has be to split equally, but it is much healthier situation when both parents feel equally empowered and capable. If she knows you want that opportunity, then she can give you space to find your own way even through the ‘mistakes.’ She can watch the video called The One Key to being a Great Mom about how she can hold herself in that strong motherly instinct and not deter you from being the father I am sure she wants for her children. This will give you the space to really connect with your baby and be an empowered dad.

#3: Step Up!

As dads, we have to choose to step into the experience of being a parent. It is so easy to just let the mom run the show. That leads to a very imbalanced situation. We as dads need to step forward and that typically requires us facing subtle insecurities. We are not nurtured to be parents in the same way that women are. We were not given all the opportunities and all the support to be a great parent. And thus, we often feel less confident in our ability to be there for our children.

We have to face these hesitations, just like if we are climbing a mountain for the first time. It is scary, but if we step into it over and over again, we quickly become masters of the situation. If we stand back and let our partners do it, we quickly feel inferior as they get more and more empowered, while we get more and more disempowered. I talk more extensively about how to do this in the video, The One Key to being a Great Dad.

#4: Learn to Connect

Having a dad who really connects with their child has been shown to greatly increase that child’s chance of success and happiness. Unfortunately, many of us men don’t have much experience with how to connect with a baby or even a toddler. When it is first born, all it needs is to feel your skin next to its skin. Stare into its eyes, follow its sounds, enjoy these precious moments. As it gets older, join it on the floor.

It can really help to set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes so you are not distracted by all the pulls of life, and can give your child your real attention. Just by making sure you have regular undistracted time with your child, you can find your way to really be there with them. It will quite possibly be a more connected experience than you have ever known. I talk more extensively about this in How to be a Great Dad (For at Least Ten Minutes).

#5: Find Replacements for Sex

Sex is a wonderful way to connect, play and be close with our partners. But often through the birth process, the woman has no interest in sex. This is partly due to what she goes through physically and hormonally, but also having a baby that is constantly pulling and sucking on her.

Fortunately, this is not always the case, but if it is for you, it makes an immense difference if you can find other ways to connect with your partner through these times so that your relationship can still thrive. If we don’t have moments where we feel intimate with our partners, we typically find ourselves quite separate and even lonely. Without the counterbalance of a loving relationship, we can easily end up feeling resentment in the face of the consistent challenges of being a parent. The relationship can really suffer.

This can be easily prevented if we take regular time to connect. You have to find your own way, but often just taking ten minutes to sit down with your partner and share what is happening emotionally makes a real difference. Listen to them, cuddle, massage, stroke each other’s hands, stare into each other’s eyes without saying anything for a minute or three. It is amazing how intimate we can feel without actually engaging in sex. You can watch or read more about this in the post, How to have a Baby & Still have Sex.

Sum Up

Being a new father is one of life’s greatest joys. Particularly if we are prepared to handle the difficulties that come with it. Use these five things to really harness that moment.

• Take the time to plan with your partner about how you are going to handle all the difficult moments.
• Talk to her about how you want to be an engaged father and you need her support.
• Step into your own awkwardness and realize that you can easily be an awesome dad.
• Take the time to learn how to play with your child and connect over and over again.
• Find replacements for sex so that you continue to connect with your wife and feel that thriving relationship.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your ideas about how to handle being a new dad. Please join the conversation below, but let’s be friendly because we are all doing this the best we can and it is hard stuff.

I will see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.

Take care,
Julian

Wife Love your Baby More Than You?

There’s a horrible dark side to having a baby.

It’s supposed to be a wonderful experience of joy and love, but for far too many men it marks the end of their loving relationship with their wives.

New moms are appropriately wired to become obsessed with their babies, but if we just stand back in our experience of being replaced, things can become miserable.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix. There are concrete steps that you can do that can lead to actually knowing more love than you’ve ever known.

Here are the four things that I did that made it so I never had to feel that horrible feeling of being replaced by my own child.

Transcription

There is a dark side to having a child that can be very painful. During the pregnancy and the birth, we often feel profoundly close to our partners. But then the baby comes and our wife’s attention quickly turns almost entirely towards the baby.

We can so easily feel replaced, unloved and even resenting our own child. It can be quite hard on our relationships and ourselves. Unfortunately, it leads to a lot of dads just backing away and not getting involved in the parenting, which in turn puts a huge strain on the relationship. Fortunately there a few things you can do to easily fix the problem.

1. Make Time to Bond

The first thing that you can do is to simply go and spend more time with your baby. Give yourself and your child the chance to fall in love. It is so easy to stand back and just support the relationship between the mother and the child, but it is crucial that we give ourselves the time to really bond with our babies.

Just take off your shirt and feel them skin to skin with you, stare into their eyes and listen to their sounds. Revel in the wonder of holding a being that is half you. If you repeatedly give yourself these moments, the love you will feel easily replaces that previous experience of being excluded.

This also supports your wife to have some time alone and nurture herself. And gives her the space to see you taking care of her child, which typically reminds her of her love for you. It thus allows the whole triangle to really be balanced. If you focus on loving your baby, your wife can have the space to love you, and the whole family can thrive.

2. Nurture your Relationship

It is so easy to neglect your relationship with your partner. Her instinct is to turn her complete attention towards the baby and that is primarily a good thing, but you obviously need to nurture your relationship with her or you won’t be able to weather all the inherent difficulties of having a baby.

Unfortunately, sex is often not an option at this point because of what women go through both during the birth and after. Between the physical changes, the hormonal swings and an appropriately needy child, it’s rare that a new mom feels anything but aversion to sex.

Fortunately, if we can find other ways to connect with our partner and feel emotionally connected, then our sexual needs do not have to dominate the situation. Yes, sex is one of the easiest ways to feel close, to feel wanted and to play together. But that is not the only way.

Start by talking to your partner. Share what is really going on for you? If you are feeling unloved and displaced, simply ask if she has a moment to listen to you and tell her what you have been feeling. Make sure not to blame her for the lack of sex as our sexual frustration is no more her fault than ours.

Just tell her how hard it is for you. You can also share your longing to be close to her, how difficult it is to not have sex so much anymore, and how you would like to find the joy of your relationship again. This type of authentic expression of vulnerability creates true intimacy and can often be more satisfying than the type of quick sex that having a baby often necessitates.

Talk together about others ways that you can connect. Perhaps cuddling, massage, a cup of tea or a walk in nature with your baby.

3. Ask for Support

Moms are wired to respond to their baby’s every need.  The strength of their motherly instincts often stops us from having the space to be engaged fathers because they are so quick to react to the child’s needs. Or if we do get the chance to connect, moms are typically quick to tell us how we should be doing it differently. This can cause us fathers to stand back because it is very discouraging to be consistently told how we should be doing something differently. Combine these dynamics with our conceptions that women are better parents and it makes it easy to just let them handle it. Unfortunately, this leads to this horrible experience of being a third wheel in one’s own family.

Most moms would love to not have to do so much and are really happy to hear that we would like them to give us more space to be a dad. Just ask if she is available to listen. Tell her how you are feeling like a second class parent and ask if she would be willing to give you more space. Tell her you want to be that awesome father, but that her criticisms make it hard to find your own way.

It does take effort for women to stop their hardwired motherly instincts. I talk extensively about how they can do that in the video One Key to Being A Great Mom.

4. Work Less!

It is hard in our current culture to cut back at work, but how often do we hear from people that have lived well into old age that the one thing they regret is that they did not spend more time with their loved ones. They never regret having not spent more time at the office or having not gotten further in their career. This moment with you and your baby and your partner is one of the most valuable moments in life. Such amazing potential for intimacy and connection that can fill the heart like no other. If we stand back and go off to work out of a habit or a perception of expectation, then we lose this precious moment forever.

Yes, it is hard. Your work may be upset with you for cutting out a little early or taking all of the paternity leave that is offered to you, but take whatever you can. Give that to your family and give that to yourself. Maybe you are passed up for the next promotion. Probably not, but what is worth more?

In Summary

It is truly horrific when this beautiful moment of our child’s birth is followed up by us feeling lonely and displaced. Use these four things to turn the corner and get back in there with your family:

1. Take the time to be engaged and fall in love with your baby.
2. Nurture your relationship with your wife.
3. Ask her to support you to be an engaged father.
4. Work as little as possible.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear how you have handled these difficult moments. Please join the conversation below. This is hard stuff and we are all doing our best, so let’s keep it supportive. I will see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.

Take care,
Julian

Men’s Emotions & Why We Don’t Share Them

There are so many wrong ideas out there about men’s emotions.

So often we are seen as emotionally incompetent and poor at sharing our feelings. Sadly, men often feel this way about themselves as well.

In reality, men aren’t primarily lacking in emotional intelligence, it’s our society and each of us as members of this culture that are failing to give men what they need.

This week’s video discusses this predicament and how to easily change it.

Watch more videos at www.FullFrontalFatherhood.com.

There is so much chatter about why men are unable to feel and express our emotions. And so many misconceptions about what happens for us. The reality is that men feel a huge array of sensations. Science has even shown that we experience feelings more intensely than women, but we often do not feel safe, nor have the place to share our feelings. We do not typically feel like there is someone who will really hear our vulnerable emotions without some negative reaction.

Us, like you women, feel a lot of doubts about whether or not we are good enough. It is simply part of being human in our current society. There are also fears about our relationship and about our ability to be successful in the world. It is all extremely uncomfortable to acknowledge, feel and express.

But given a safe person with whom to open up, we will happily pour out our hearts. As a couples therapist, I can not tell you how many men I have worked with where their partner said he is incapable of being in touch with his feelings. But once he feels safe with me, a whole world of complexity opens up. It is often shocking for the woman to hear what is actually happening inside of their partners heads and hearts.

So how can we as men and women create a place where it is safe for men’s feelings to come out, and at the same time create a space where it is safe for the women’s feelings to really be heard? Often the reality is, as much as you women want to hear our feelings, it is quite hard for them to hear what we actually have to say. Just like it is hard for us to hear their feelings.

What’s so Hard about Supporting your Partner?

When we are attached to somebody and thus identified with them, it is very hard to be there for their emotional intensity. With a friend it is quite easy to support them in their doubt, fear and anger. Their struggles don’t directly affect us so we can more easily be compassionate. When it is our partner, it means a lot more to us. If they are upset or insecure, it can make us feel upset and insecure. Given how life can be so overwhelming, we want our partners to be calm, happy and stable. When they are not happy, most of us have a reaction to try to stop them from feeling bad so we will stop feeling bad.

It’s always said that men want to fix women’s problems when they just want to be heard. The reality is that both men and women have a hard time listening to their partner’s feelings and holding back advice. We all want to tell our partners how they can make themselves feel better so that we will feel better.

Why Honesty is so Important

Being in a relationship for many years requires dealing with a lot of hard truths: our own insecurities about being good enough, getting old, losing our beauty, our strength and even our attraction to our partners. There are a lot of subjects that are very difficult to discuss. So often they are just left to the side. Unfortunately, that quickly leads to a dead relationship.

To have a really solid relationship that can last decades and deal with all the complexities that life throws at us, we have to feel safe enough to be honest with one another about everything we are going through. Whether or not it is our fear about our genital size, or how long we last during intercourse, or the natural fluctuations in attraction to our partner, if we are able to share it with one another and have it be received with open-heartedness, without judgment or cheerleading, it is wonderfully healing. Having such a truthful relationship really supports both people to have a much happier life.

What to Actually Do

When your partner comes to you with feelings, just be there, turn towards them and look them in the eye. Try to not fiddle with anything and just listen. Keep your mouth shut and show them your presence with your eye gaze. Mainly, do not respond. Just being heard is so deeply healing.

When they are truly done and there has been a significant pause, if you have a natural compassionate response, then go ahead and share it. If nothing else, you can say, “Thank you.” Mainly we all just need to be heard. We need to feel that somebody is receiving us so we do not feel so alone with all these complexities that we go through.

When a man or a woman knows that they can share whatever is happening inside them to their partner, they can relax, knowing there is a safe place in the world. Having such a refuge and support, makes us all a lot more powerful in the world and much more capable of handling what comes at us.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your thoughts about these difficult subjects. I know it is intense to share in a public forum, but if we can all be more honest about what we are going through, that makes it safer for all of us to just be ourselves. Be a little courageous if you can, and I’ll see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.

Take care,
Julian

3 Ways Gay Men make Better Dads

Gay parents aren’t restrained by the same societal norms that quietly push straight parents into confined ruts of conditioned patterns.


Freed of these constraints, they typically do a number of things that make for a more thriving family.


Here are 3 of the ways that we can learn from their experience.

Read it below if you prefer.

Watch more videos at www.FullFrontalFatherhood.com.







Gay men often make better dads than straight guys, not because they are inherently better at it, but because their situation forces them to parent far more conscientiously. As dads in heterosexual relationships, we have strong societal norms and thus easily fall into ruts where we hand over the parenting responsibilities to the mom and whilst we stand back. As I talk about extensively in my main video, Why Modern Family’s Struggle, it leads to an imbalance in the family and has a wide range of detrimental effects. Most notable is a real strain on of the love between the parents and thus the potential for joy within the family.

Characteristic #1: Equal Footing

The first characteristic you find in a lot of gay families, that unfortunately you do not find in a lot of straight families, is a real sense of equal footing between both parents when it comes to providing for the kids in the parenting situation. Both people feel equally empowered about their ability to provide. Of course, discrepancies exist, but not in the deep conditioned way that you so often find in straight families, where everybody in society expects that the mom is the care provider and that the dad is the second class parent. Because of this equal footing, there are two people to handle every tough situation.

One person does not feel overwhelmed by the inherent difficulty of being a parent and the other doesn’t feel like a lesser parent. Both people can enjoy the wonders of being really close with their children and the deep relief when the other parent can easily take over in tough moments.

How to do this in your Relationship

As I talk more extensively about in my main video, 1 Key to Being a Great Dad, the crux of obtaining this equal footing involves us fathers facing any doubts about our ability to be an equal parent. We have to step into those moments of uncertainty and give ourselves a chance to master parenting. If we don’t step forward, the women will typically just take care of the situation. This has a short-term ‘benefit’ for us as we don’t have to deal with whatever is happening for our child, but this quickly relegates us to a disempowered position with the mom running the show. It’s so easy to just stand back and let the mom do it, but it painfully perpetuates this hindering inequality.

We can further empower ourselves and thus prevent this dynamic, by getting information about how to handle those tough moments. If you have an issue you’d like to master, just Google it or head to Full Full Fatherhood.

Lastly we have to talk to our partners about our desire to create a have equal footing. They may be used to just doing it and their motherly instincts will likely drive them to quickly manage whatever is arising. It really helps to tell them so they know to give us space. Just say ‘Hey, I would love a relationship where we are both providing. Can you give me some space and support me to step forward?’ It makes a big difference, but it requires women to resist their strong instincts and I talk about how they can do this in the video 1 Key to being a Great Mom.

Characteristic #2: Space to find their Nurturing Hearts

Along the same lines, gay guys have an opportunity to really find their nurturing side when the baby comes. So often we hand these responsibilities off to the mom thinking she’s better at it. The reality is we are all very nurturing beings if we give ourselves the chance. For the gay guys, there is no one to hand it off to, so each one is given the space to sit there and hold their baby, stare into its eyes and fall in love.

As dads in a straight relationship, we have to choose to take that moment. We have to choose to find that side of ourselves and create the love with our babies. Set aside regular time to just hold them skin to skin and staring into their eyes. When they goo, we go goo. We follow them and we fall in love. If we are caught up in our business, our phones and our work, we do not have that chance to really bond, we leave it to the moms and things get out of whack.

Characteristic #3: Strategizing

The third thing that gay families often do that straight families typically don’t, is to strategize and plan. They are going into a situation without the societal norms about who is supposed to do what and when. Everything has to be thought through. Everything has to be planned.

Having a collaboriative plan makes a huge difference. If you are not prepared for having a kid, it is going to wipe you out. It makes all the difference if you’ve previously thought through things like who is going to take care of the kid when it wakes up at one in the morning. What are we going to do when there is no sex? What are we going to do in terms of fun in our relationship? All these types of conversations need to be had if you don’t want to find yourself overwhelmed and on unequal footing once the situations arise.

Fortunately for gay families, they have to have them because of the lack of default. Do not fall into a default. Take the time to sit down, if it is before your child is born or even if you are already ten years into it. Plan out how you want to parent, how you want your family to go with your partner. That kind of collaborative conversation that we so often find in business is so often lacking at home. How could it be different? How can you get to that place of difference? Do not just accept the status quo that you are in. Strategize and make it what you want it. I cover how to do this extensively in How to Baby Proof your Marriage.

• Hopefully, we can take what from what these gay guys are doing and:
• 
Find equal footing with our partners.
• 
Find our nurturing sides.
• 
Strategize about how we can make our families thrive.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, if both parents are empowered, the family balance is maintained and everyone thrives.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your ideas about how we could do this. Please join the conversation below and I will see you next time for another episode of  Full Frontal Fatherhood.

Take care,
Julian

 

No Dad! I want MOM!

I hated hearing these words from my daughter.

But sometimes our kids really don’t want us and all they want is mom. It’s a really horrible feeling to be so thoroughly rejected by someone we love so much.

Unfortunately, our responses to these painful moments often make it much worse and can even devastate our relationships with our children.

Fortunately, I have helped a lot of dads get out of this situation and this week’s video gives you some concrete steps to finding your way back to a joyful and loving relationship with your child.