New Dad Diaries – Week 18: The Father Hood – Stephen Mansfield (Part 3)




Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. In the final part of this exclusive interview with Stephen Mansfield, Chris asks questions around marriage, morality and more.  Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already. 

Stephen, all of the studies on parenting talk about the importance of a good marriage between Dad and Mum for child development. What strategies do you have to maintain a loving healthy marriage? 

Well, it’s so many things. I teach men that they have a genuine gift for vision. When they do aptitude studies, they find out that women are superior in all areas of aptitude except two: abstract thought and aggression. Generally, men have an ability to envision and see what’s not there, more than women can. So I think men need to fight that battle for their marriage. You know, we get married and we start seeing each other naked and we start seeing each other in our underwear. We start seeing each other with curlers in our hair and carrying extra weight or what have you. A man has got to fight to see his wife as his queen and in the glorious terms that he was feeling when he first started dating her.   

There are many tactics to be engaged in here. I have a friend who goes around teaching that ‘there ‘ain’t no romance without finance’.  He’s kind of joking, but his point is you have got to spend some money, you have got to love and you have got to give gifts. You have to figure out what means a lot to her. Then you have to invest time to do these things for her. 

I think the most important thing to me, and I have heard many other men say the same, is that in order to maintain that fiery, wonderful, passionate, respectful love, that a man ought to have for a woman, he’s got to do work in his mind and his soul to see her in the highest sense. Even if she’s gained 50 pounds, and even if she’s a little bit embittered by something that’s happened, and even if she’s not the best cook, or whatever negatives we might want to lay on this fictional woman, he can still be enchanted by her, he can still love her and remember things. But my point is that he’s got to see her in the highest sense. And that to me, and for many of us, has been one of the real keys to a glorious marriage. 

Sometimes I see great dads do something that tears apart their family, having a devastating impact on their children. They have an affair. Your book Ten Signs of a Leadership Crash is designed to stop men making this sort of mistake. Which of the ten do you think it most important for fathers? 

When it comes to fathers, I’d have to say that the most critical of the ten is about the ‘third world’.  Now, I am not talking about third world countries here. I am describing the fact that men who are leaders who then go on to have a moral crash, often created a third world. A third world is somewhere other than home or work, where they can go to escape from the pressures and difficulties of work and home. It can be an apartment in Paris, it can be a hunting lodge, or a friend’s place in a different city. But that third world is a place where you start orientating your life and your pleasures somewhere away from home, and away from work. 

These worlds get created if you are unhappy at work or under immense pressure or if things are not good at home. It can be as simple as a seat at the end of your local bar. The point is, you go somewhere to destroy your life and to give yourself to your addictions. Often those addictions involve another woman or women. So that’s where men start scheduling more business trips than are really necessary, or they go to stay in their apartment more than they actually need to so that they can see what’s-her-name.   

So, I would have to say that for fathers, part of whether you are going to be a great father or not, is that you cannot be engaged in that kind of behaviour. Probably the biggest one to avoid is running from home by hiding at the golf course or the dinner club or wherever you’re going to misbehave.  Now, it’s good to have hobbies. But normally the misbehaving happens for men when they create a third world that’s away from scrutiny. Men do this more than women.   

Now, I have some third worlds in my life but they are physical third worlds, not moral ones. I’m taking my wife with me, I am taking my kids with me, I am taking people from my business with me. I’m not using it as an escape. I often insist leaders take their wives to their apartment in Paris for example, or to meet their friends at the golf club, or where possible, to join them on business trips. It welds the three worlds together.   

So, weld yourself to your family and you know what, make it a joy! Get the bitterness with your spouse solved and if things aren’t good at home, fix it and make it the place you look forward to going to for rest and fun and rowdiness. And sure, have the cocktail or whatever else it is that you want to enjoy life, but don’t let it come at the expense of your family. Don’t rush to a third world where you end up destroying both your home life and your business. 

I want to take you back to the day before your first child was born. Knowing all that you know now about being a father, what advice would you give to that younger Stephen?  

You know, I thank God, I didn’t make too many big, huge mistakes. But there was one thing that I really wish that I could go back and redress. 

I understood at that time that my wife would be the primary parent to my children early on. In my mind, my son would need me more when he was in his adolescent years. So, I loved my son, I wrestled with my son, I taught my son and we were close. But I was a very busy man at that time – I was running a large organisation – so I didn’t end up beginning to pull my son into manhood until later than I should have. Really, I didn’t start this process until he was in his adolescence.   

Now, I am not saying that was too late. But, given the unique wiring of my son and given his great gifts, I think I should have started that process sooner. As soon as he was able, maybe as early as five, I would have said, “We are going to go on a trip this weekend. Just you and me, we’ll light a fire and you know, do whatever – go to a State Park. And we are going to have some man time. We’re going to talk on the way, we’re going to wrestle or we might stay up all night, who knows.” We’d have talked about anything – bodies if we needed to, or if he had questions about God or why Mom is so weird (I’m just joking!) – but I would have begun to pull him in a bit earlier. I probably waited half a decade too long.   

I loomed large in his life because I had a prominent role. It’s not like I abandoned him to his mother; I was just really busy. I was grateful that she was so active. But I missed some really good mentoring, and some key shaping bonding years, at a deeper level, because I didn’t pull him into my world and say, “Well, why don’t you come overseas with me?’” He could have done that at the age of eight – everybody would have understood as long as I wasn’t going anywhere dangerous. 

So that’s a mistake that I made. I would say to that younger version of me, “Look, you you’ve got this idea that you need to wait until your son is 13 or something. But really, you can begin to pull him into a unique man world as early as possible for he’ll get it, He’ll love it. And given the unique wiring of your son, you need to do that”. That’s the change I would make.  

A huge thanks to Stephen Mansfield for his wisdom and time – check out his work at The next member of ‘The Father Hood’ to be interviewed will be Carey Casey, former CEO of the National Center for Fathering and the author of Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad.  

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.

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