Julian and I met six years ago. He is a psychotherapist who has a large suite of amazing therapist colleagues in Pacific Heights and I was lucky enough to be invited to their annual Christmas party. We started trading parenting stories and then he got really excited about this idea he had for something he called Full Frontal Fatherhood. We met for lunch and talked further and fast forward six years, now I consider Julian a personal and professional inspiration. And Full Frontal Fatherhood, it is live and it blowing up. Julian freely offers video talks about being a dad that are really making a difference. It got picked up by The Good Men Project and more and more men, women and families are being served. I, personally, hope Psyched can help this work reach dads who, by comparison to moms, have fewer resources supporting them. Here was the interview I did with Julian about his amazing work. Enjoy! – Traci Ruble
Traci Ruble: Julian I can’t tell you how inspired I am by Full Frontal Fatherhood and the offer you make to parents to speak candidly about parenting in our modern age. Tell our readers more about what Full Frontal Fatherhood is and what inspired you to start it?
Julian Redwood: When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, I wanted to be the best father that I could possibly be. I saw so few examples of inspiring fatherhood around me and the handful of books that were available spoke primarily to surface issues such as how to handle the financial pressure or the emotional fluctuations of a pregnant woman.
I thought that perhaps I should write a book. I began reading the bounty of information that is directed towards mothers. With amazing consistency I found mainstream books and psychological literature spoke only to the mother’s role. A silent and debilitating statement of the perceived lack of importance of the father. But I didn’t want to hand over the raising of our daughter to my wife and I had a sense that when done together, this crazy endeavor of parenting could be a lot easier.
As my daughter grew, I struggled and learned and failed and tried again to be a great father. With each lesson, I took some notes on what I wish I would have known. Fortunately, my experience as a psychotherapist allowed me to look deeply into these moment and explore how I could help my daughter, my wife and myself thrive in those challenges. I imagined these notes would fill a book and someday help other fathers not struggle quite so much.
But then I realized how rarely us men read books on subjects like parenting. I know the feeling well. It’s hard in the midst of life’s many challenges to want to pick up a book that tells us how we should be different. As I searched for ways to share the information, I had a realization that perhaps short concrete DIY videos would work for men. Something they could easily watch for a few minutes that would help them be a little more empowered as a father. Something easily accessible and digestible.
Simultaneously my research led me into an exploration of why so many families struggle these days. I came to see a pattern that was deeply disturbing. In families all around me, the women were overwhelmed and doing most all of the parenting. Meanwhile the dads typically felt inferior, controlled and lonely; second-class citizens in their own home. Even worse, I saw how this disparity put deadly pressure on the relationship and how without the refuge of a thriving partnership, parenting becomes immensely more difficult. I realized if we can empower fathers to be equal parents and support mothers to give men the space to find their ways, then both parents can work together as an equal team, where neither is overwhelmed or lost, and both are fed by the power of thriving love.
TR: I know you speak to women as well as men but I did want to ask you as a father, man and therapist what do you find men struggle with the most as fathers and why?
JR: The hardest part is that we don’t know what our role is. Having a baby is terrifying for both men and women, but there is so much support for women. If they have any difficulty, there is a huge array specialists, books and advice that is aimed directly at empowering them to be great moms. Combined with this, the experience of nursing supports women to deeply bond with their babies and thus know the amazing joy of such love. Without this support and clarity of roles, us men typically stand back, supporting the relationship between the mother and child, but not developing our own relationship. The reality is that men are just as nurturing and responsible when given an equal chance. We are just as capable of experiencing this profound love and deep satisfaction that comes from giving everything we have to our children.
TR: Where do you think fatherhood is headed or, at least, where do you hope it is say 50 years from now?
JR: When my daughter’s children are raising their kids, I hope they know a world where both moms and dads are widely seen as crucial to parenting and creating a thriving family. I hope the basics of how to nurture love in a home are commonplace knowledge. I hope everyone knows how to have a good flight, handle a tantruming toddler and maintain a satisfying sex life in the face of the challenging pulls of parenthood. So little is taught about how to be a happy human and love those around us. I pray that this changes.
TR:What is your best and most useful piece of wisdom for fathers that might be unexpected?
JR: Don’t expect to have sex for at least eight months! Having a baby come out of your body changes everything for women. If they also have to deal with our pressure to have sex, then this wonderful act can become extremely unappealing. If you can lower your bar and give her space, then she can find her way back to her own sexuality. But in truth this transition often takes several years to complete as it is hard to feel sexual when young children are pulling at you. Lacking this beautiful way to connect and play with our partners, it is crucial that we find other paths. Creating time to talk and cuddle and give to one another can feed our hearts in the same way as making love. If we get hung up on sex as the only option to meet our needs for intimacy, we can find ourselves trapped in resentment and loneliness with a partner who is increasingly uninterested in responding to our pleas.
TR: How has developing the information for FFF impacted your own fathering?
JR: One of my biggest fears with Full Frontal Fatherhood was that it would take me away from being available for my daughter. As a result, I’ve made a real commitment to not having the project impact my time or availability. Fortunately, FFF has consistently inspired me to be a better dad and husband. As much as I may know about how to support my family to thrive, at the end of a long day it is easy to just be a jerk. But when I have just made a video about how not to be a jerk it really helps me step beyond those initial impulses and remember how to bring love.