The western world is currently going through a reality check. Behaviour that was once seen as acceptable, is now rightly being called into question, and those who perpetrated it being called to account. It surprises me how many people are genuinely shocked by the revelations of sexual harassment and abuse in predominantly male dominated institutions such as Parliament and Hollywood. Were they really not aware that women were routinely being subjected to hostile and demeaning treatment, or do they feel that if they act sufficiently shocked it will distance themselves from potentially being dragged into the inevitable generalisation of blame. We’ve already seen the argument shift from ‘some men’ being predators, to ‘all men’ being abusers in waiting, and that there is a significant crisis in societal masculinity.
On the flip side, we’re seeing what Neil M White describes as ‘the feminisation of fatherhood‘. A steady shift in the role of the family man and the encouragement of ‘victim culture’. It demonstrates how men are foregoing the traditional values of how our fathers, and their fathers, saw their role in society, and are instead embracing a culture of more traditionally female roles.
He’s open about his distaste for sites like The Good Men Project; sites that vilify testosterone, and suggest that men should deliberately dress their sons in pink dresses in order to not conform to the patriarchal stereotype that boys may like to wear jeans and a t-shirt. Because if you do, they won’t grow up to be aggressive rapists. In order to address this, Neil has written the book ‘A Father’s Mission’ with the tag line ‘…strong fatherhood in our modern times.’
In it, Neil claims that you will discover how to rediscover your direction and drive; overcome fear and bad habits; use the outdoors to shape you and your children; pursue knowledge and a more spiritual life; and live a healthier lifestyle, losing your dad bod forever. His premise is simple, “…to become a better father, you must become a better man.” But becoming Neil’s version of a better man differs greatly from the currently developing societal definition of a better man. He actually embraces rough play, raising feminine girls, and holding on to traditional family values.
His approach is a holistic one that promotes physical, as well as spiritual health. While he doesn’t force religion on you, he does spend quite some time discussing the benefits of a spiritual life, as well as meditation, and how it can influence the way you approach the rest of life’s issues. He also extols the virtues of self-discipline, again as part of both his physical and spiritual development. He promotes the concept of sexual transmutation of energy, and how giving up pornographic indulgences can leave you with sufficient enough energy to divert into any, more productive, venture.
It’s clear that Neil takes the role of being a father seriously; he considers himself – and others who follow his example – as an endangered species. “We must continue to raise our sons to be strong, formidable but compassionate men, and our daughters as equally strong, intelligent, brave, feminine women.” The references are a tad dramatic; he consistently uses tribal warriors, Gods, and gladiators as comparatives throughout the opening chapters, but the sentiment behind them is valid. You have contributed to creating a life, what you do next defines who that person will be for the rest of their life. It’s quite the responsibility.
A Father’s Mission gives you one man’s perspective on how to create a better you, equipping you with the characteristics to handle the task at hand.
Neil M White is a father, businessman and author. He lives in Scotland with his wife and family and has one passion – to be the best dad he can be. His blog thidaddoes.com is now in it’s third year. It’s through this that Neil has been able to reach tens of thousands of fathers with his message of personal improvement and strong fatherhood. His new book ‘A Father’s Mission – Strong Fatherhood in Our Modern Times‘ was released earlier this year.
What drove you to write the book, and why now?
The book came about almost by accident. I started to collect my best and most popular posts together for a free gift for subscribers to the blog. But as I worked away at it, I realised it was becoming something bigger and better than a ‘best of the blog’. I’ve long had a passion for being the best that I can be – this translates into every aspect of my life, including fatherhood. It is through A Father’s Mission that I’ve been able to share this passion in the most comprehensive way.
Who is the book aimed at, and what are you hoping for them to take away from it?
I’ve written the book for fathers – current or expectant – who want to be constantly improving and to be a positive influence on other people’s lives. The tagline of my blog is ‘For Dads who Do More’ and it’s those dads I want to reach – men who are committed to doing more every day to be better men and fathers. The book is written from my own experiences and so I hope that those who read it will benefit from what I’ve learned and be able to apply it to their own situation.
What changes have you already seen in the parenting role and how do you see it changing in the future?
I see a lot of positives in the way parenting, and fatherhood in particular, has changed recently. Dads spend much more quality time with their kids than ever before. Fathers who take an active role in child rearing are no longer in the minority and the idea of shared parental leave and stay at home dads give families more choice in how they want to raise their children. But there are challenges that come with this – an example is the loss of identity for men as leaders and providers for their families. Dads and mums have different approaches to raising kids and have different strengths which compliment each other. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of this as fatherhood is modernised.
What do you think of the dadbod concept? Is it acceptable to be overweight and out of shape simply because you’re a father?
My main issue with the DadBod phenomenon is that it’s seen as acceptable or even something to aspire to, to be overweight and unhealthy. Being out of shape and unhealthy communicates to your family, your peers, and most importantly yourself, that you don’t care about your health or wellbeing. Every man can eat a little healthier, do a bit more exercise and drink more water – those aren’t difficult things to do.
Do you think the general public are more, or less informed today on how to get and stay in shape than our parents were?
I think we’re more informed than ever on how to get healthy and fit. Every time I turn on the TV I see programmes on weight loss and diets. Gym membership is at an all time high. What has changed is diet and overall activity levels.
What do you see as the number one reason for men letting themselves go, and what advice would you give to help them start turning things around?
When I was younger and didn’t have kids, I found it much easier to keep fit. With family and responsibility comes a squeeze on time. You have to be much more organised and disciplined to make time for exercise. Most men I know are in a constant state of overeating. If you work a desk job, you don’t really need that much food to function properly. For men who want to change, I’d say start off slowly. Make one change a week. Be more active, eat better food, get more sleep and drink more water. Healthy living should be a lifestyle, not a one off event. So don’t get fixated on ’12 Week Weight Loss Challenges’.
Many dads say that they are too busy, or they don’t have the time to exercise. How do you find the time to do it?
The first blog post I wrote on thisdaddoes.com was on this very subject. If you don’t have time to exercise, then you need to make time. I’ll get up at 5.30am to go to the gym or go jogging. I sometimes take my bike to work too. If being fit and healthy is important to you, you will have the discipline to fit it into your schedule. The best time to exercise is when you can fit it in – lunch time, early morning, midnight – it doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing it.
What are your top five exercises that you like to do?
For the last three years, I’ve used a weight training system called 5/3/1 which was designed by a guy called Jim Wendler. This focuses on the squat, bench press, squat and shoulder press. These are all great movements. If you added in pull ups and dips on parallel bars, you’d have a pretty complete system – sorry that’s six!
What’s more important to you, exercise or nutrition; can you out train a bad diet?
Both are of equal importance. You can’t out train a bad diet and you can’t out diet bad training. If your focus is on being healthy, active and fit – you need both good diet and exercise to achieve that.
With an increasing number of children being diagnosed with eating disorders and mental health issues, how do, or will you, approach nutrition and fitness with your children?
I’m a big fan of teaching my children to make good choices. Of course you can restrict unhealthy foods in the home but there is more value in teaching your kids how to make smart decisions when it comes to what they eat and when. We eat pretty healthily at home but I let my kids have treats – sweets, desserts, crisps etc. As long as they understand that these can be harmful if over consumed, then it’s fine. I also make a point of eating with my wife and kids. It’s much easier to talk about food and have healthy relationships with eating when we’re all together. The same with fitness – I’d rather focus on general activity levels than putting them through Boot Camp! We do a lot of walking and playing outside. I get my kids to help in the garden and we have tickle fights, all of which help improve activity levels.