PHIL SHEPLEY Dad vs. spawn.

The best moments are yet to come.

AGE   40 going on 40.

HOMETOWN(S)   Cleveland / Tampa Bay

@TWITTER   @dadvsspawn

ON THE WEB   DadvsSpawn.com

*Editor’s Note* Phil is the writer and John Simon is the Illustrator on this very funny and smart dad-blog. I urge you all to stop by and read a few posts.

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   Two girls

FAVORITE CHILD   if applicable* (we’re joking*)  The one who makes me rich first

DAY JOB   SAHD / Writer / Job Seeker

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Married

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?

The way that we combine work and family is constantly morphing from one set of rules to the next. It has been nonstop like this for the first five years, and this will never change.

Since both of our (super smart!) girls have just started school, we are trying to adopt a system that sets us up for success in the future. We have taken advantage of the fact that kids love schedules and consistency and have build a pattern of home life around that. It has been my job, mostly, to adhere to whatever the girls are thriving on.

Besides her working full time, I rely on my wife to put things into our schedule that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. I keep things in order by sticking to a routine, and she tweaks it with excellent suggestions for activities that keep life “morphing forward” in a positive way: for instance ballet classes for the older kid, supplemental workbooks for the girls, new vegan cookbooks. She also proofreads my work, which is very appreciated.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

Overall, parenting has made me a much more patient person. I say “overall” because it’s much harder to deal with bad drivers on the road when you have such precious cargo in the child safety seats behind you. That said, I have slowed down on the roads. A lot.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

Parenting has definitely made our marriage much stronger and way more difficult at the same time.

It becomes a little too easy sometimes to let the children’s lives impede on the relationship you have with your spouse. We don’t have date nights much (for now) but when we do, we certainly make the most of our time. On our last one, way too long ago, I think we went to two restaurants and three bars — responsibly, of course. And we have no rules that we can’t talk about our children. They are our lives and our family.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

My strengths: patience and a good balance between nurturing and not over-coddling. Also, I’m a pretty darned good cook. Weaknesses: perhaps I’m a little more flexible about bending the rules, but hey, Dads are more fun, right?

WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?

My wife’s strengths: her fortitude and sense of family.

Weaknesses: stubbornness, of course, but without this we, as a family, would never have stuck to doing many things that I, by myself, might have given up on. (File that under “strengths.”)

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

Both of our children attend preschool in the mornings. We made sure that this was the best possible learning environment for them, and not just a daycare. We have a trusted babysitter who we call on when we need to, and some true friends that have been there to help us out in emergencies.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?

There are plenty of I-should-have-done-that-differently moments. One of my worst moments came when I was first taking my older daughter, at 8-months old, out to classes. The “teacher” was covering the kids with a parachute and pulling it back, and mine was terrified of this, crying and screaming wildly. I was obviously not happy with this, and the instructor was saying to let my baby girl cry, and that’s how she would learn to adapt to this. Or something.

I should have pulled her out of there and told the lady to reassess her teaching methods.

Instead, I didn’t say a word and let her continue to terrorize my daughter, who only became unafraid of being under sheets and blankets about a year ago. Everything is a teachable moment, though, and I learned to stand up for my daughter after that, and also to try not to push her too far out of her comfort zone. Her sister never attended that class.

WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?

Well, I hope my best parenting moment is yet to come!

In the meantime, I think that the first time that my 4-year-old daughter read me a book was pretty darn special, tears and all. And in light of the last question, I am pretty proud of myself for letting my second daughter learn at her own pace, without any pressure about what her sister can do. She is also thriving in the education department, but sadly we can say the same thing about the tantrum department. All in due time…

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

There is one issue, as a parent, that I never seem to be able to address on Dad vs. Spawn, even though it’s something I wish I could mention in every post. This seems like a good place.

John (the artist) and I write (and draw) about our respective married lives, with a husband, a wife and our respective children, but every type of family out there deserves credit. As a father who is also a primary caregiver, I always feel like life for me is a bit more difficult than it is for others.

However, I have nothing on the single mothers and fathers out there, or grandparents who are the primary caregivers of their children’s children. In my life, I will never experience the hatred and discrimination that a father from a two-father household would. If I ever became a widowed parent, I have no idea how I could ever cope, but there are countless parents out there who do.

Every “non-traditional” family deserves extra-parent-credits as much as they deserve to drop the tags and to just be called a family. After all, when it comes down to it, what do we really want?

Children who are, and who feel loved.

No matter what.

Lisa D

Lisa Duggan is the founder of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

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