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61: The Search for Sanity- Author Tom Kreffer w/ Transcript



In this conversation, Tom Kreffer discusses his journey as a father and author. He shares how he discovered the power of journaling and how it became a therapeutic outlet for him. Tom explains the unique perspective of his books, which capture the everyday moments of fatherhood in real time. He emphasizes the importance of being a good dad and the need for support and community for young fathers. Tom also discusses the challenges of modern parenthood and the importance of investing in personal growth and relationships for better parenting. In this conversation, Tom Kreffer shares his experiences as a father and the importance of prioritizing family time. He emphasizes the value of enjoying the present moments and answering the bids for attention from his son. Tom also discusses the significance of relationships and the effort required to maintain them. He shares grounding strategies such as journaling, playing with his son, exercise, and taking baths. Lastly, Tom offers advice for those struggling and encourages them to define their challenges and seek support.

Takeaways

Journaling can be a powerful tool for processing emotions and becoming a better parent.

Sharing personal stories and experiences can help other parents feel less alone and more understood.

There is a need for more support and resources for dads in the parenting space.

Investing in personal growth and relationships is essential for being the best version of yourself as a parent. Prioritize family time and answer the bids for attention from your children.

Enjoy the present moments and embrace opportunities to create special memories.

Value relationships and put effort into maintaining them.

Find grounding strategies that help you relax and unwind.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction and Background

01:00 Discovering the Power of Journaling

02:22 The Unique Perspective of the Books

03:47 Spreading a Positive Message about Fatherhood

04:39 The Unexpected Journey of Writing Books

05:08 The Healing Power of Journaling

06:07 Using Journaling to Reflect on Parenting

07:05 The Abundance of Material for the Books

08:17 The Importance of Being a Good Dad

09:15 Creating a Legacy for His Children

10:13 The Need for Support and Community for Young Dads

11:07 The Importance of Expressing Emotions

11:43 The Role of Dads in the Parenting Space

13:06 Capturing Universal Truths in Parenting

14:34 The Decision to Share Personal Stories

15:33 The Impact of Sharing Personal Stories

16:32 The Surprising Readership of the Books

17:20 The Role of Women in Supporting Dads

20:43 The Changing Role of Fatherhood

23:42 The Challenges of Modern Parenthood

26:28 The Impact of Societal Expectations on Dads

27:59 The Importance of Choice in Fatherhood

30:41 The Need for Teamwork in Parenting

33:01 The Daunting Nature of Parenthood

34:11 The Importance of Building Support Networks

36:25 Investing in Personal Growth for Better Parenting

38:08 The Impact of Investing in Relationships

43:28 Creating a Better Future for Our Children

46:30 Prioritizing Family Time

47:06 Enjoying the Present Moments

48:34 Valuing Relationships

51:37 Finding Grounding Strategies

54:02 Helping Others in Dark Places

55:31 Where to Find Tom Kreffer

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Link to direct listeners to: joonapp.io/youngdad


Jey (00:15.773)

All right, all right. Well, welcome in to another episode of the Young Dad Podcast. Thanks to our LiveIn Studio audience. Huge shout out to them. I'm your host Jay, and joining me today is Tom. Tom, how are you today?

tom kreffer (00:28.374)

Very good, Jay. Very good. Thank you.

Jey (00:31.065)

I'm so excited to have you. This is gonna be a lot of fun. A little bit about you. I whistle-stopped Tor, if you would. New phrase for me over here in the States, but you know, it's okay. A little about you. Your partner and yourself, you guys were told you couldn't have kids naturally. So you guys were working on surgery and working through the IVF process when she, lo and behold, she was pregnant, which is a beautiful miracle in itself.

Um, for you, that was a, a big, big kind of turning point in this journey that you've been on since, um, you had so much emotion and so many good, happy feelings. I'm sure scared, feared, upset, worried, anxious, all the above. When you find out you're going to be a dad for the first time. And so you took to writing in a journal on that morning and you discovered that

In that journal entry, you were writing it to your unborn child. And for you, that was a great outlet, essentially. And so you ended up journaling every day that week and then the next week. And then three months in, you realize by accident, you were writing your first book. Which you ended up calling. You called you guys ended up calling your bump Dory from the movie Finding Nemo and Dory's catchphrases, Just Keep Swimming. That resonated with you.

because you guys faced some low moments early on in your pregnancy and fertility journey. Your first child, Arlo, was born in 2019. Your first book, Dear Dory, came out in the winter of 2020. So about a year later, from there you kept writing, kept capturing everything, all the experiences that related to parenthood, fatherhood, dadding. And I...

Your books, they're super interesting and they're super unique in the way that they give readers an insight like no other, because every single moment is captured day after day after day after day, moment growth, every single milestone. It's all captured in real time. And it offers a much broader perspective than your typical nonfiction memoirs, kind of things like that. Some of the words that

Jey (02:50.189)

are common in reviews of your book that readers describe your work as is honest, it's relatable, funny. For me personally, reading through it, I just felt it was so like, it's so real, so raw. Like it wasn't, it wasn't anything like, yes, it's a, it's a great recap and whatnot. But I'm like, that's just, that's just how cool it is to be a dad is the accurate representation. Like that's accurate. Yeah.

Like, thank goodness you were able to get a lion that night before the next morning of craziness. And then your second book came out in 2021 called Dear Arlo. Then your third, Toddler, Inc., which I love the idea for that one, came out in 2022. And then the one I've been skimming through, The Search for Sanity, came out last week. Well, at the time of this recording was about a week ago, so it's been a few months.

at the time of this release. You spend a lot of your time writing books, free guides on your website, or attending baby expos to talk about your work and letting dads know that they're not alone, which is huge, because like you found, there's a lot of work to do in this field, letting dads know they're not alone and to really spread a positive message about daddying and parenting and even daddying and whatnot. There's a big need for it.

And when you go to events, you know, big or small, you're obviously there with a purpose and you're there for a message for dads. So with all that, that's a bit about you. Anything you wanna add, redact, or just let us know a little bit more about you and kind of why you keep doing it and why you kept doing it.

tom kreffer (04:39.474)

Great intro, great intro. Not much to add on the intro, pretty well covered off. But the main point to take away is that the books were a complete fluke. I found journaling at the start of my parented journey to be a way of sifting through my emotions. When I found out my partner was pregnant, I'm a reader right, not just writing books, I love to read. So my first protocol was to write what

What can I read? What can help me just begin to get to grips with what I later have understood to be the biggest I've done to shift that we can undergo as a human being. I couldn't find a lot. So I took, yeah, as you say, I went, found my pen and paper and I started journaling. And that was an incredible process. The words just seemed to flow out. I found that I was able to tease out emotional blockages and friction that I didn't even know I was harbouring.

until I started just putting words on the page. So that in itself sort of really opened my eyes to journaling and how powerful an ally it could be just for getting through your day. It's also incredibly cheap. Costs zero therapy bills, just a couple of pens, a couple of notepads and you're along your way. So that really helped me begin to get my head round fatherhood. And as that journey has progressed and continued, I use journaling as a way to

keep me in check as a parent. Every day I sit through and I look at what I've done that day, the time I've spent with Arlo, my son. Did I get those decisions right? Did I get them right? Did I spend enough time with him? Did I not? And that helps me become the best father I can be. Just as simple as that. I think you need introspection and to reflect on what you do in life.

to be able to learn from those experiences and for them to inform your future choices. And they're just incredibly fun with the process of just, I mean, I will sometimes go down a rabbit hole and write some pretty deep stuff, but most of the time I'm just having fun. I just write about the funny stories and the funny things that happen and when you've got a baby, a one year old, a two year old, a three year old, they just, they come through thick and fast. There's so much to write about. Every year my friends...

tom kreffer (07:05.67)

They're like, how you've written another book already. I'm like, I can't stop on, I've got too much material. The problem with my books is deciding what to keep and what to cut. The material really isn't a difficult thing to achieve at all. I just have a fascinating and compelling lead character who just surprises me every day. It brings me so much joy, it brings me so much meaning for this. It's like, how can I not write about this? And so I tell people that...

The books are wonderful and I'm very proud of them and I love that they're there to help other parents but they really are just a by-product of my commitment to just be the best dad I can be. It's as simple as that. I just I want to be a good dad. Personally I don't know my dad, he's never been a part of my life, it's just me and my mum. So I didn't have a blueprint to work from whether that was a list of things not to do or a list of things to do and generally it just helps me.

figure that out. It's just a very good companion piece and something I will take with me, and not just for parenthood but all other areas of my identity. My hobbies, my interests, other things I want to get online, career aspirations, things like that.

Jey (08:17.917)

100%. I love that. And I love that, you know, where it came from was just out of a place of just needing it as an outlet for yourself. Just to create something, just to get it out, just to have that outlet that was, you know, what worked for you in the moment that was like, okay, what can I do? How can I cope? How can I get through this? And mine just went to journaling. And I love that. And I love the idea behind it that I'm sure you've thought of so many times and heard so many times.

You know, your son's going to look back on this and he's going to look back on all these books when he's older and be like, Holy crap, like I have a whole recount of my entire life that now I can show my kids and they can show their kids about their grandpa. And, you know, it's just something it's a legacy piece. It's something that is just like a legacy piece now for you, for him, and then for any other children that you may have as well, you know, will be added into future stories if there are going to be future children.

And so I just think it's so cool that it's, it's so relatable because it's so simple, it shows like every little development phase and just like how it started is you were looking for something and it didn't exist. So you made something for yourself and now it turned into something for others who were in the same boat. Um, a lot about how this podcast started too, as we were looking for something. I had been looking for something personally, like after my divorce and for a podcast that

made sense for being divorced and being a young dad and being a single dad. And then I ran across my good buddy, Craig and his podcast, Single Dad Reboot. And we started talking just on Instagram. I reached out to him. We became friends. We're really good friends now. We stay in good contact and it just kind of evolved from there. Just like, well, what is there for like young dads who are in their twenties and

raising kids and still growing up and developing and going through like the rough patches of marriage and divorce and you know not understanding what that all looks like and you know I might not be an expert. I mean yes I have a degree in mental health and human services and I'm working on a masters in psychology and whatnot but I mean I'm not an expert on it obviously I'm no expert. Am I well informed kind of?

Jey (10:38.909)

but I'm not an expert, but I think it's really cool to be able to provide that this kind of outlet, like you with your book and this podcast to all the dads out there, like, hey, look, like you're not alone. Like even if you feel like you're alone, sitting down and journaling, because that's all you can think of, like you still have you in that moment. You still have, you're still keeping it together. You're writing it out, you're getting out, you're expressing those feelings, which is ultimately what's...

important is getting it out, getting it out in an outlet because if men, if we keep that energy in, that energy is very easily internalized and turns into cell sabotage, turns into anger, turns into, it fuels rage, it turns into fire, turns into spite, turns into resentment, it turns into all these things, turns into addictions from there, turns into poor mental health. So just the fact that you're able to get it out and

be able to now have fun with it because you do have a really cool main character. I mean, even the name of your main character is pretty cool. So it's, it's just a really cool story. It's a really cool, you know, idea that has now come to fruition and is three, three books, I said three books, right? Four books in, and it's just.

tom kreffer (11:43.714)

Thank you.

tom kreffer (11:57.87)

Four books now, yeah.

Jey (11:59.897)

It's amazing because it documents everything and you even put stuff about in there about like, you know stuff between you and your partner like that's the stuff relatable to a dad it's like oh we you know, we did this thing or finally had some time for ourselves or Got a babysitter to do this thing or whatever that looks like so it's really it's like oh, yeah like I'm not the only one whose relationship, you know, maybe we get a lay in once a week twice a week kind of thing um

Okay, that's not as, I'm not as crazy as I think it is because we're just so busy and tired and I'm not just going nuts over here.

tom kreffer (12:36.282)

Well, one of the things that I quickly established, and I said to myself, if I'm gonna keep doing this gig, it has to be honest. Whatever I write has to be honest. And not necessarily just factually true, see that's important as well. But I had to be honest with myself and think like, what am I going through? What am I experiencing? What is the parenting truth that I've been dealing with today? So in some of my books, I have like fictional elements.

and I just make up these really ridiculous scenes, but they're all grounded in a parent in truth. I'll give you one example. We once found Arlo sitting on the worktop and he'd ripped open a ton of tea bags everywhere, just classic toddler stuff. And his mother found a way to defend him. It wasn't his fault, it wasn't even him. And that immediately made me chuckle.

And I thought, well, that's the thing, isn't it? Right there, that is the thing. You've got the mum who insists that her little angel can do no wrong, even though he's been caught red-handed at the scene of the crime. So I was like, well, how could I tell that in an interesting way? And in the end, I told it as a courtroom scene with Arlo being on trial and as a judge, and me and his mother are in the jury and we're answering questions and things like that. And even though it's a bit silly and ridiculous, it's still grounded in that one truth or that one cliche with mums and their...

children or certainly their sons and how they can just do no wrong in their eyes. So whenever I see something like that, something that I think is a universal truth, there's universal as these things can go in parenthood, I immediately latch onto that. That's something I want to explore, find out why, which is one of the reasons why I think a lot of people find my work so relatable, even if it is a bit ridiculous at times, because it's all grounded in truth. That's the key word, has to be honest.

To touch on a couple of other things you mentioned, my decision to release Dear Dory out into the world was not taken lightly. One of the reasons I wanted to do it was because I thought it would help other parents looking for the types of books that I was looking for. But that said, I was very conscious that I had wrote a book about my son who at the time he wasn't even born yet. There was no conversation with him. There's no consent.

tom kreffer (15:03.166)

I took that decision and I ran with it. And I asked everyone, I told all my friends, all my family, I was like, I'm keeping this journal. I think it might be a book project, I don't know yet, but what do you think? Without doubt, everyone said, if my parents had kept a journal when they were pregnant with me, I would have found that fascinating. And I had the same answer, if my mum had done that, I would have found it fascinating. So I took that as my...

Jey (15:05.342)

Mm-hmm.

Jey (15:24.609)

100%.

tom kreffer (15:33.246)

sort of justification for moving forward. And I've sort of kept maintain that justification to capture his early life in so much detail. I'm not gonna keep going forever. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna stop when he goes to school. So I'll capture early childhood for sure. And there was another point I was gonna make, but I'm blanking on it now because we've been talking for so long. But actually one, I've remembered it now. Most of my readers are women.

their mums, which was so surprising because when Dear Dory came out, I did think I was going to be able to market to mums. I thought I was going to get a bunch of emails from very angry pregnant women saying, why have you disproved your experience with living with a pregnant woman in this way? And I just, I thought it was, I thought I was going to get, get just harangued with, with emails, bombarded with stuff. The opposite was true. Not only did they completely love the book, but they, they read it more than the dads because

what I found and what I experienced myself before I turned to journaling is generally speaking, not all, but generally speaking, blokes aren't great at chatting. They're not good at opening up. They're not good at finding an outlet to work through all that emotional baggage. Women seem to be better at it. So what I was finding is women were reading my books and then they were giving it to their pet partners and saying, is this true? Can you relate to this? And they were going, oh, yeah, no, I can actually. Yeah, I know it's captured really well. And then it would help both of them, which

as an author who's someone who was making it up as he goes along that was just the most amazing find and discovery for that process. But yeah even if I'm at shows it's more the women who were wanting to buy or encouraging their partners to buy the books so it's quite it's quite fascinating.

Jey (17:20.733)

100%. And no, that rings very true even in this kind of dadding, dadcasting kind of universe that I'm in with all these different podcasts that I've created with all these different dads and their platforms and whatnot. We all pretty much share a very common demographic of about 30 to 40% of our listenership being female. Right now, personally, I know on Spotify we're...

right around 40% female, 60% male. But then again, I would assume that 60% male is because the 40% female listened to it and then shared it with one or two from there. Because that's honestly just that's just how it goes. I mean, I can think of time or time again that my fiance now will send me something and it'll be like, okay, no, I get that. I relate to that just like you're saying.

or my ex-wife, same kind of thing, she would bring it to me before I would find it because yes that rings true in the UK just as much as it does in the USA. Where we don't want, we don't, blokes they're not great at talking. It rings true in the UK, it rings true in Australia, it rings true in the United States, rings true everywhere in the world.

Jey (18:48.921)

you know, men's suicide versus women's suicide. It's four to one in the United States. I'm pretty sure it's very similar in the UK. I'm pretty sure it's very similar in Australia as well, because all our countries are very similar in these aspects. There's a bit more accessibility outside of the USA, too. Mental health services are way over ran. They're sparse in some areas, they're heavy in other places. And

Uh, there's wait lists upon wait lists years long, and it's a defeating purpose at times, even working in the field myself. Um, it's really hard, but I would have to agree with that. It's, you know, it's women that are bringing it to their, to their partners and saying, you can relate to this. And then you see it and you're like, Oh, hold on. Let me, let me see that real quick.

tom kreffer (19:26.809)

What?

Jey (19:42.013)

It's the same for my book, my children's books that I've written. It was very well received by moms and moms would buy it and show it to their partners. I work with mostly women in my workplace, of course, being in mental and behavioral health. And when I published it, they all went out and got a copy and they're like, oh, I can't wait to give this to my husband or my boyfriend or my fiance or my significant other or this masculine person in my life.

dad, grandpa, whatever, like I can't wait to give this to him to read to my kids, to read to our kids. So it rings very true even in like picture books and whatnot, because that's just, I don't know, it's just how it works and even in podcasting and whatnot. We kind of, women are the referrers. They're the intake, they screen it. If it works, then they let it go out from there. So they're kind of the gatekeepers in an essence to some of these.

some of these things, which I think is really interesting.

tom kreffer (20:43.098)

Well, I think just talking back to parenthood, I think the role of fatherhood is really out for debate and what it means to a certain individual level. Like I remember asking my father-in-law how many nappies he changed when my partner was a baby. And he said I didn't change a nappy. And he wasn't a bad father. He just he comes from a generation that wasn't expected to. And so we talked about trying to be more hands-on.

Jey (20:55.253)

Yeah.

tom kreffer (21:13.282)

And we're looking to previous generations for how we might do that. But that blueprint doesn't really exist. And I think that the definition of what it means to be a father today really is up to our own making. It's not clear at all. That's something I think about all the time. And the other thing I think we struggle with is if you've got, if you've got a lot of dads who want to be more hands on, but they also want to do.

Jey (21:31.934)

Yeah.

tom kreffer (21:40.45)

the career, working however many hours a day, they also want to adhere to all those other parts of their identity that came before. And same for mums as well. Mums are, see they carry that maternal gene. They're brilliant at it. My partner, she is a phenomenal mother. She really is. She was just born to be a mum. But then we've got women who think in, hang on, I fancy a career as well. Why shouldn't I have a career? And we said, yep, that's a fair point.

Jey (22:06.313)

Mm-hmm.