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May 31, 2017 | Will Reale with Chris McClung

Dads Bring Wisdom to Internet, Then Take it Back Home

  

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It was the Spring of 2015 when Chris and I got the itch to start a new project. Friends since meeting at the University of Texas in 2003 while pursuing our MBAs, we shared common interests that had landed us in places as far-flung as New Delhi and Guadalajara, working with organizations from Nike to the State of Texas.

To be honest, it had been a while (aka "years") since we had taken on anything of significance. Well, significant outside of each having become dads to three kids. As we sat outside on a beautiful Austin spring day, we shuffled through the possibilities. What could we do that required minimal investment, no inventory or supply chain, and zero employees? What could we offer that might be of interest to the general, insatiable for new stuff, public? As we wracked our brains, it dawned on us that we were in fact now experts at being new dads. Reflecting on our own experience over the past eight years, we also realized that there was very little content about new parenting for dads, created by dads.

An idea was hatched. Our new project would be helping new dads to better navigate dadhood. A few weeks later we arrived on the format of the podcast, a rapidly growing genre that allows anyone with a computer and a microphone to make their own "radio" program (for lack of a better term). Thus, the "Dads on Doody" podcast was born, complete with a catchy tagline ("Dads, do the doody!"). Multiple puns intended.

After several months of tinkering with format and styles, we launched our first three episodes on iTunes. With the objective to "relate, then educate," while entertaining in the process, we were confident we had landed on a formula that at the very least would not be an embarrassment and, more hopefully, would help dads be better dads. Dads, do the doody!

Early topics included the vaunted family road trip, managing through the first months of child rearing, and debating the merits of modern parenting styles with my, at times, draconian father. Some shows had guests, others were just two dads hashing through the topic du jour. As we progressed and became more skilled at the art of podcasting, our shows also became more nuanced. Later topics included two sisters (now moms) who grew up in a commune in Oregon, a two-part interview with one of America's fathers of quality coffee roasting (coffee being an essential parenting tool), and the role that dads need to play in combating the epidemic of sexual violence on today's college campuses.

We recorded weekly for a year in a downtown Austin physician's exam room (podcasting is glamorous). What started out as an experiment to see if we could reach dads in a different way turned into time for Chris and me to rediscover our friendship. In the process we were meeting fascinating people and becoming better dads ... and better husbands. In an ironic twist, it was turning out that moms were our most enthusiastic and dedicated listeners. It was moms who brought us new show ideas. It was moms who engaged with us most readily on social media. Were they attracted to the deep baritone in my voice, or more likely utilizing our program as a view into how men see parenting today? At times we felt like turncoats to our gender, but couldn't help but to become more attuned in our own relationships. Maybe we weren't becoming better dads and husbands, but we were at least more aware of when we were succeeding and failing at both. Awareness is a good place to start.

And then the presidential election happened. While it brought us an entertaining episode on fun parenting facts about past presidents (go figure, Abe was a cool dad), it also flooded the primary means of reaching our audience (social media) with a constant barrage of political turmoil from both sides. Competing for mindshare in a world that is overloaded with information is hard enough in normal times. It became exhausting.

In early December, Chris and I decided to take a break to focus on our families and putting into practice all that we had learned recording Dads on Doody over the past year.

Looking back, the show I am probably most proud of is an interview with the Rev. Chuck Treadwell, rector of St. David's, Austin, on the role and importance of religion in the modern family construct. This topic was of particular importance to me. I had grown up regularly attending St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester, New York. Chris grew up active in the Baptist faith. When I left home for college, I essentially left the Church. The framework and lessons didn't leave me, but any kind of regular attendance certainly did. My relationship in prayer with God was constant, but in those years of finding myself I became convinced that religion could be entirely on my own terms. And then my first daughter, Annie, was born. I never wanted to hold anyone else's baby, but remember cradling Annie for the first time in the delivery room as one of the most natural and beautiful moments in my life. I truly knew God in that space, but also that I needed everything He had to offer for both myself, my wife and Annie. Shortly thereafter we found St. David's, Annie was baptized, and church became an essential component of our parenting.

"When you have a child, you need all the help you can get," Father Chuck noted on our podcast. "Your understanding of the role of Church changes."  That point, and many others over the course of our 39-minute conversation, resonated. One of Father Chuck's key messages came around our discussion on the importance of a Sabbath for the health of families and society as a whole. "There is no more pressing question in the modern world than that of ‘Sabbath,’” he told us. "The pace at which we live keeps us moving faster than the human body, mind and spirit were intended to move. It's incredibly destructive." So what should parents do? According to Father Chuck, it's as simple as turning off the devices, taking your kids outside, and looking at the harvest moon. Connect and engage.

God guided us into this project for a reason. Both dedicated parents and husbands before, we had gained an even greater appreciation for those responsibilities and blessings. Close friends before, the shared experience of Dads on Doody and exploring intimate topics together brought us even closer. To know that we had helped other parents along the way, in whatever small capacity, was also incredibly fulfilling.

Ultimately, we decided that our podcast had run its course, but the beauty of the podcast format is that it lives on. For us, Dads on Doody will serve as a time capsule, preserving a period in our lives that is both hectic and irreplaceable. Chris and I will find another project to work on when the time is right. For now, God is calling us to "do the doody" in exactly the place He intended, a little bit wiser for the wear.

Reale is in sales management and development for IBM and his family are members of St. David’s, Austin. McClung is co-owner of Rogue Running.

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