Interview Armin Brott
I am very delighted to introduce Armin Brott (know as Mr Dad) to you, he is a an author 10 best-selling books that help men all over the world to become the dad they want to be. He is a columnist, blogger, coach and international speaker. Besides that, Armin has his own radio show that can be listened to from all over the world.
Could you tell me a bit more about yourself and how you started writing your first book?
It started off, the way I think many things start off, I was really unhappy the way things were when I was not even a father yet. My (then) wife was pregnant with our first one, there were no resources, no books, no magazines and there was nothing there at all for me. I really wanted some information. I had some experiences, that kind of pushed me towards seeing that dads needed some support they weren’t getting. Ultimately, I started writing the books that I wish I had at the time. I had to write them and they have become quite successful and it set me on a whole different path. I was working in business and doing businessy kind of things and now I am not.
What was the experience that led you to writing the book?
It was the experience that I always tell when I am speaking, because I think that will help people understand where I was coming from. I was in a park, and I was pushing my little kid on a swing, she was 2 years old. Right next to me there was a slide, and a little girl was walking up to the top of the slide. Instead of going down the slide like she wanted to go, she started falling backwards down the stairs.
She was 3 feet away, I reached over and grabbed her and put her down, as I think everybody would do. A woman comes over and picks up the kid and looks at me in a very mean way and says to the kid: “did he hurt you?” And I thought: “That is not what I need,” how about saying thank you or you can nod, there are many things you could do. The idea that she saw me not as someone that is doing something nice for her kid, or just a guy in the park, she saw me as a danger. I talked to a lot of other guys after that and they said they had similar experiences. They were at a park and their kid was running around, then the kid falls down and starts crying after which the police came later.
“Men are treated differently from women with children”
People do not do this with women, and I had another kind of experience with my child. I took her to the bathroom in Cosco a shop, she was 2 years old so she could not go alone. When I came out of the bathroom, the manager of the store is there and says: “if you take a girl to the men’s bathroom again, we are going to have to call the police.” I thought: “Are you kidding me, am I supposed to send her into the bathroom by herself.” If a woman walks in the women’s bathroom with a boy, nobody is going to say anything because that is what you have to do. Things like that got me very angry, but they also got me thinking there is a lot of misinformation out there.
People need to know more about how important fathers are in children’s life and how important the children are to them. We need to know what we can do in the society on how to support that and help dads. That is what I tried to do in everything that I have written for fathers and about fathers, is really to get people to understand. To get the dads to understand how important they are and get everybody else like the moms to understand that “Yes you are right and we need to do something about it.”
What was your first book that you wrote?
The first one was called: “the expectant father,” and it is all about pregnancy and child birth, but looking at it from a dad’s perspective. What are you going through as a dad and what are the kinds of things that you are probably thinking about right now when you are 3, 4 or 8 months in the pregnancy. How can you be involved? It is hard for a guy to be involved as his wife is pregnant and not himself, but we are still thinking about things and we are concerned about things, worried and excited. It is important to know that you are not alone in the process.
Also when you are involved in the pregnancy is by learning about it, by going to the doctor visits, listening to the heartbeat or looking at the ultrasounds. When you get involved that way it makes you part of it and it makes you want to be involved later in a greater degree. If you are not involved or just ignore the whole thing, or think she is pregnant and not me, I will leave it up to her, you are going to be more separated more later on. The goal in my book is to say, the process of being involved as a dad starts before the birth and let’s give you the tools and support that you need to become the dad you want to be and you wouldn’t buy or read this book if you did not want to be involved. Then I wrote different books for different stages in life, books for single fathers and fathers in the military.
“Both men and women have stereotypes they feel they have to live up to”
I think the problems are being resolved more and more. There are even stay at home dads right now and things are changing and fathers are getting more involved. There are still these ideas we that we have, the stereotypes and they are very limiting. There are many stereotypes out there and they are not just limited to women, that they have to look or behave in a certain way to be pretty. Men have the same, you have to go to work, you have to be the provider and protector, you have to be strong, boys do not cry and men are not allowed to show any weakness and that does not help anybody.
What are the main insecurities that you have seen with men in your coaching sessions?
Those are almost the same questions as 20 years ago, besides the technology we have nowadays. Men ask if it is oke for babies to play with an Ipad etc. A lot of it is: “I have never had anything to do with babies, I do not know what I am supposed to do, how do I start to build a relationship with this?,” A lot of questions about money, how am I able to afford this? Questions about the relationship with the wife, how is it going to change? How do we do things with discipline, me and my wife grew up different ways how do we solve this?
Especially for people who did not have a good experience with their own father. I do not want to be like my dad and how do I not become like that? Also for men in the military partly because of my book, but when they leave home and coming back after a year to a baby I have never met, how do I deal with this and how do I stay involved when I am away. How do I do…. to become a better dad? Is the general question.
How did you start writing your books and how did you do your research?
I am obsessed about research, so what I did is I read everything I could and there was not much out there yet. So I went to the psychology library of UC Berkeley which is very close to my house and pretty much moved in there for a few months. There were a lot of articles and journals that nobody really reads, scientific journals and psychology journals. As I began to look at this I started to look at research from the 40’s and 50’s. One of my favorite articles is from 1954, every time I think about it I start laughing, “Fatherhood is the percipient of mental illness,” one of the first scientific articles written on fatherhood. When you look at it now it is funny, as in some way it might be true. All of the books I do a huge amount of research and I spend a lot of time on it, I find it fascinating. I am looking at proven tactics that work.
I went into stereotypes to see if maybe mothers are better carers for their children and it comes more naturally to them but it turns out that is not true. I studied a research from Ross Park, the man I wrote a book with in the end and one of my mentors. They do studies from fathers and mothers, they are both feeding the babies and play with them, and it turns out they handle it equally the same. But it turns out that moms often stay home with the baby and learn faster what they need to do by doing the on-hand job and fathers go to work so they spend less time with the baby. Therefore, it is just practicing.
What do you think about the western world now and how children are raised and roles between men and women.
It is a mess right now, I think we do a terrible job of socializing, boys and girls. My youngest daughter is in high-school and when I drive her to school I see some of the girls wear completely inappropriate clothes. I understand that you should be able to wear whatever you want, but you shouldn’t be wearing something that is incredibly revealing. But we somehow told girls, that they have to wear revealing clothes in order to be attractive. Boys think they have to be though and they have to be strong, they can’t cry and if they hurt themselves they have to man up.
We do not give people the opportunity to be who they want to be. People get upset when a boy plays with dolls and girls play with trucks and that is not right.
Even the “me too movement,” it is wonderful in many ways, but what is happening right now also is that some men in the executives they do not want to mentor a younger woman, because they are afraid that someone might say something. It is not necessarily her, but somebody could look at that and say you have to be careful.
We have gone a little bit crazy with gender roles and we are not asking why. We assume that somebody did something, but not going deeper into the subject and spend more time on the “why.”
How can men prepare themselves for fatherhood?
Well off course they can read my books and articles on Mr Dad. Learning is the most important thing, the more you know about it, the better you are going to be. Even though if you do not read my books, you can read the books that she is suggesting for you. Also go to the doctor appointments, and make sure that you asks questions as well, as mostly they tend to only focus on the mom-to-become. My tip is really get involved and make mistakes, so you learn from your mistakes. The worst case what can happen is that you put the diaper backwards.
Often people think that they know what they would do until they really have kids themselves. Nobody can not ever be prepared, enough if you should be, nobody would have kids. Bot moms and dads are important.
There is a wonderful metaphor between fathers and mothers, if you go to the park, most of the times you see that mothers have the babies facing in and dads have the kids facing out. Dads want kids to see the world and mothers want to nurture there babies. Men want to teach their children. and do activities as women are usually a bit more quiet.
Can we expect more books from you?
I don’t know how to do anything else, I am still working on books. I am always updating the books that I already have as time changes. I want to start working on a book for teenagers, as this is very important and that is something that can be expected soon.
Do you have 1 or 2 tips on how to deal with your struggles as a father?
As I said do not be afraid to make mistakes and learn by just doing it. You have to trust yourself that what you do it is all oke and do ask questions on the way. Get involved, because the kids needs you and they just need you to be there. You will learn more on the way what they need from you, but you have to start somewhere.
Thank you so much Armin Brott, it was such an honor to speak to you (Michelle). You have given so many tips for the (upcoming) fathers out there, I can’t say enough how grateful I am.