Happy Father’s Day!

Hey friend, welcome back! If you’ve been following the blog, you may know that I started a series called Mama Spotlight this summer to give other mom’s the opportunity to share a bit of their journey through motherhood. For Father’s Day, I am switching things up a bit and interviewing a dad, one that I happen to know very well. Today, you’ll get to hear from my husband, Tommy! I’m excited to allow him to use this space to share his thoughts on one of his most important roles, dad!

Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How many children do you have?

My name is Tommy Sullivan. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, but currently reside in Fishers, IN with my beautiful wife, Sierra and my two children, Jaden (4) and Skylar (1).

I attended Purdue University for college, where I majored in Financial Counseling & Planning. I currently work in the data analytics field after spending a decade in internal audit. As you can probably tell, neither of these career paths have anything to do with personal finance. While I really am passionate about my own finances, and even helping others with theirs, I wasn’t ready to enter that field when I graduated.

I love spending time with my family and friends, watching suspense-filled TV series and documentaries, running, and growing with God in my faith journey. I’ve been DJing as a hobby since 2003 and have always enjoyed music, although I never learned to play an instrument or read music.    

How do you define fatherhood?

Fatherhood is one of the greatest responsibilities and blessings you can experience as a man. It’s hard work for sure, but it is filled with unimaginable joy and it is so rewarding. While the costs (financial and opportunity) may not always make sense to an outsider, as a father you know you wouldn’t have it any other way. It is worth every sacrifice. Each day you have the opportunity to pour into your children, make memories, show them the love of Christ, and help them grow and develop. Fatherhood also teaches you a lot about yourself. You can literally see the fruit of what you put into it before your eyes.

Fatherhood gives us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of what God experiences with us as His children. For us, He is the source of life, He lovingly corrects us, He provides for our needs, He gives us His wisdom, and He always welcomes us back.  

Describe the stage of fatherhood you are currently in.

I am in the young child stage of fatherhood. I am constantly chasing after the kids, picking them up/putting them down, preparing food, cleaning up messes, playing along with them, trying to make them laugh, watching cartoons, answering questions (studies show this can be > 200-300 per day), repeating myself, and getting them settled down for bed before I run out of energy.   

What do you enjoy most about this stage?

I love seeing the kids reach milestones (i.e., walking, talking, learning new things). Also, nothing compares to the way your child greets you when they haven’t seen you for a few hours. Their smiles, excitement, and the way they run to hug you is pure joy! It is a really fun stage overall, especially now that both kids are walking and talking (somewhat). 

What is most challenging about this stage?

I would say the most challenging thing about this stage of fatherhood is the level of dependency the children have on you and the amount of personal attention they require. It can be exhausting. Some days you just don’t feel like you have anything left in the tank and want to crawl in bed right after you put them down. At times, you feel guilty because you don’t feel like you have given them your undivided attention because you are busy with other things. And some days, they just aren’t in a great mood and don’t want to listen to you.  

I feel like self-care isn’t a term we often hear associated with men. Would you agree? 

I would agree, you don’t hear the term self-care associated with men often, but it is important. It is usually branded as something that sounds more masculine, like “man-time”.

But we all know that taking time to care for self is important. So what does self-care look like for you right now?

For me, self-care (“man-time”) is having time alone to refresh, reflect, or have a chance to not think about anything. Typically, this looks like taking a nice extended run, doing yard work, taking a drive, listening to music/podcasts, having time with God, meeting friends for coffee, or spending time with my wife without the kids.

What has had the greatest influence on you as a parent or your parenting style?

I would have to say that my parents have had an incredible influence on me as a parent. I’ve learned so much from how they loved us. Family and faith always came first. They prioritized us sitting around the table together for meals every day, going to church together, and basically doing everything together. It set the tone, created a bond, and built trust. Our family operates that same way. We literally do everything as a family.

I catch myself reflecting back on my childhood frequently. Many of the decisions my parents made and lessons they tried to teach us didn’t make sense to me then, but they now do. Other things were learned through their actions, not just words. I saw the way that my parents handled their finances. They lived below their means in order to provide for our education and set us up for the future, rather than spending money on things that would fade away. That has shaped the way our family handles our finances. We have prioritized generosity and funding our children’s future (and ours) by making daily sacrifices.

I am still learning from my parents (and in-laws) today. I love and appreciate spending time with them and I want to have that same connection/bond with my children when they get older. 

We were also not the first in our circle of friends to have kids, so we have been blessed with the opportunity to witness how others that we deeply respect parent their children. There are lessons that can be pulled from so many places.  

Tell me the most important thing(s) you hope to pass on to your child(ren).

Faith – I want my children to come to know Jesus and feel his love in this household. Without God, life just doesn’t make much sense. My relationship with God has been the driving force in my life and point of calibration/re-calibration. It has formed my worldview, given me strength/hope, and helped me make key decisions in life.

Family/Friendship – I want my children to understand the value of family and having strong friendships. There is so much love and support there. This will be something we try to model for them as much as possible.

Finances – I hope to pass on the importance of being a good steward with the resources God has entrusted us with. Life is stressful enough as is, being a good steward with your money can help reduce one of life’s greatest stressors. Healthy finances don’t just happen, you have to put in the work, make sacrifices, and most importantly understand who provided the resources.

Diversity – I want my children to understand the importance, value, and beauty of diversity. It has played a significant role in my life. I cherish the relationships I have made, the experiences I’ve had, and the perspective it has given me. My life would not be the same without it. I hope that we are able to provide that same type of environment for our children. I want them to see it in our lives. 

Where do you find support as a dad?

I try to regularly meet with a few friends who are also dad’s, husbands, and men of faith. It’s a safe place where we can just talk about what is going on in our lives and share what has worked/not worked. We usually meet for coffee once or twice a month and I always walk away encouraged.

What’s one thing you have learned as a dad that you would tell your pre-kid self?

Nothing will fully prepare you to be a parent. You will learn on the go, and this is okay. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel like you have missed the mark. Children are incredibly gracious with us and forgiving. While they do have great memories, they do not keep score of all of the times you messed up. They just want you to be in the moment with them.

Also, get some sleep while you still can and enjoy your freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Life gets a little more complicated, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world.  

What’s one piece of advice you want to share with other dads?

I would say, don’t ignore the promptings your kids are giving you. When your children need attention, they tend to begin acting out. A full meltdown about something so small may be an indicator. A little attention goes a long way. Sometimes you just have to stop what you are doing, put down your phone/work, and be in the moment with them. I had this revelation during quarantine when we were working from home and with the kids. Get down on the floor with them and just play. 

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