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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. 

A Week Without Dad

This past week, Tommy was out-of-town for a work conference, leaving me at home with Jaden by myself.

In the weeks leading up to Tommy’s trip, I was a little nervous about being on my own with Jaden. When I first learned about the trip, being the planner/worrier that I am, I immediately started thinking through all the things I would have to do on my own. I had to force myself to relax and stop thinking about all the “what ifs” that could happen. I suppose most of nervousness mainly came from the thought of taking care of Jaden and remembering to do all of Tommy’s normal tasks, plus my own. Between Tommy and myself, we’ve sort of established roles or duties since having Jaden. I typically handle everything related to Jaden and managing our meals and family activities and Tommy seems to magically accomplish all this stuff around the house. Sometimes I don’t know how he gets so much done. Of course, we step up in other areas when needed. Our system work for us and I appreciate our team work.

Well the week of Tommy’s trip finally arrived and you know what, I was nervous for nothing. Throughout the week, I managed to accomplish all that I needed to do around the house and take care of Jaden’s needs. Doing it all just required some early mornings and planning ahead. I woke up 30 minutes early each day to make sure I could get ready before Jaden woke up. I ironed all my clothes for work on Sunday night. I made my lunch every night before bed. I also meal prepped in the evening if I knew I needed to cook dinner the next day. Doing those things definitely helped with managing everything I had to do.

I did encounter one issue with Jaden, his sleep! There were several nights where he woke up in the middle of the night and was inconsolable. Each time it took over an hour for him to settle down and fall back asleep. Other nights, he just didn’t want to go to bed at all. Then some days, he just woke up too early. I have no idea what caused all the sleep disruption. Maybe it was teething or maybe he was suffering from some real separation anxiety. Whatever the case, all of this made for one tired mama, but we survived.

I’m thankful for the family and friends who came by to visit or who called/texted to check on us. It’s reassuring to know other people are thinking of you.

In all, this past week reminded me how blessed I am to not have to do this parenting thing alone. Even though there are times when I wish Tommy would do more of this or that, the week without dad helped me to have a greater appreciation for all that Tommy does on a daily basis and our partnership.

Let’s just say Jaden and I are happy to have Daddy home!

Being Dad

Parenting is hard work. I’m sure most would agree with that. It’s often us moms who get the recognition for all of the work that is put into raising children, mostly because in our society mothers are regarded as the primary caregivers. In conversations with other moms, I often find myself talking about how difficult being a mom can be, the sacrifices made, the energy it takes, etc. All those things are valid; being a mom is hard .

Recently, as I was thinking about how often I have expressed those exact sentiments to Tommy, a new thought entered my mind. Yes, I know that my role as mom has been hard and full of sacrifice, but what about my husband? Hasn’t being a dad been just as hard and just as full of sacrifice? I wondered what Tommy thought of his role of dad. I wanted to know his perspective, a perspective that I feel like often gets overlooked, and one that we have never really discussed as a couple. One day over dinner, I asked Tommy some questions about fatherhood and here’s what he had to say:

What has been most difficult about being a father?

  1. Connecting with both me and Jaden –  Early in Jaden’s life, Tommy found it difficult to connect with both of us, primarily due to breastfeeding. In those early weeks, Jaden was nursing every two hours, sometimes more often than that. Since he couldn’t provide nourishment and comfort to Jaden in that way, Tommy felt like he was’t connecting with his son outside of diaper changes. For him, this led to feelings of inadequacy. In addition, as Jaden’s overall awareness of the world around him increased he has been less inclined to be comforted by Tommy when I have been available to nurse him. 
  2. Time – Tommy feels that he often does not have enough time with Jaden due to his work schedule and the baby’s bedtime. After we established a schedule with Jaden, he was ready for bed around 6 pm. There were days when Tommy wouldn’t get home until right before bed time, limiting the amount of dad time. We have worked our way up to a slightly later bedtime now that Jaden is older, which gives us a little more time with him in the evening.  However, it still seems short to Tommy. 
  3. Illness – It has been difficult seeing Jaden experience so many different illnesses in a short time. You can read more about that here.
  4. More responsibility – We now have a little life that we are responsible for. Tommy realizes that he can no longer just consider the two of us. There is now another person in our family who totally relies on us for everything.  
  5. Providing financially – Children are expensive. No matter how much you try to save or penny pinch, having kids come with a cost. Taking care of our family financially has always been a top priority for Tommy, and it’s no different now. In fact, it’s probably more important now that we have Jaden. We have had to make sacrifices to pay for daycare and other baby essentials, along with making sure we are saving towards our and Jaden’s future. This means that we may wear those shoes we don’t like so much a little longer, we don’t buy new clothes as often as we would like, we eat at home instead of going out, or Tommy takes on a DJ gig so we have a little extra. 
  6. Spiritual growth and development – Tommy mentioned that it has been tough to focus on his spiritual growth while balancing all of the duties associated with caring for a baby and other responsibilities. 

I didn’t want to end the conversation there, only discussing the difficulties. I also wanted to know what have been the highlights of being a dad.

What has been most rewarding about being a father? 

  1. Knowing that the Lord has entrusted a son to him – Yes, it’s a huge responsibility, but Tommy finds that fact that God saw fit to bless us with Jaden as something amazing. 
  2. Watching Jaden accomplish so many developmental milestones – His favorites so far have been watching Jaden learn how to crawl and begin to talk. He currently knows four words, Dada (his first word), Mama, hi, and cat.
  3. Bonding and having Daddy time – Tommy has also enjoyed learning how to bond with Jaden in his own way.  Sometimes Tommy gets in trouble for getting Jaden too excited right before bed.    
  4. Joy –  Jaden expresses so much joy each day. His happiness brings both of us so much joy. 

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I really appreciated the conversation that I was able to have with my husband. Often times, it’s hard for Tommy to share what he’s feeling, but I’m glad he opened up and shared all these things with me. I now have an even greater appreciation for all he does for our family. As husband, father, and leader of our home he carries a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but he handles it all so well. For that, I am thankful. I have learned that I need to remember that being a parent is hard, for both moms and dads. Our roles and experiences may look different, but we can’t underestimate the work and effort of dads. I want to challenge you to encourage and support the dads in your life as they strive to be the best fathers they can be.