Green Shoes, The NFL, and Mental Health Stigma


The NFL is making a “Crucial Catch” this month but it has nothing to do with Mental Health. Instead, they have been partnered with various breast cancer organizations to raise awareness and funds for battling breast cancer.

Participation started back in 2008 with a myriad of events as evidenced in this article, “NFL Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. This year, the awareness campaign continues. Not only do players wear pink gear, but it is also auctioned off to raise funds for research. Which, in theory, is a great idea, and as someone who has lost a family member to breast cancer, I understand the desire to increase awareness and provide funds for research.

As a football fan, however, I hate the month of October. I cannot stand pink. I have hated the colour ever since I brilliantly decided at age 7 that Pepto Bismol Pink was a terrific colour for my walls and I lived in that Pepto “Abismol” Pink room for nearly 5 years before escaping it into a soothing forest green room with merlot trim.

My point here is not about the colour. It’s about the NFL ignoring an awareness week which occurs during the month of October.

In case you do not follow mental health news OR the NFL, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Brandon Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats during tonight’s Bears v. Giants (don’t get me started on the Giants’ 0-5 giddyup to the season because that’s a whole ‘nother post) game. The NFL flat out told Marshall he couldn’t do it. Then they said he could but that he would be fined. Marshall plans to pay the fine and match it with a charity donation. A donation most articles make clear will go to a cancer-care organization with the mention that he is also trying to work out details of donating to an organization making a difference in the Mental Health World.

Here’s the thing, though, from my perspective – with the big brouhaha the NFL has made regarding Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats, it seems to the casual observer as if they do not want to raise any awareness regarding Mental Health issues. On the other hand, however, their very refusal and the back and forth with Marshall does have people talking about his condition and desire to raise awareness. The NFL’s aversion to Marshall’s desire to raise awareness on the field also makes it seem, to me, that the NFL cares more about the state of a woman’s breasts vs. the state of her mind.

Marshall struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, something an article in SI from May 2012 describes as evidence of the strides the NFL has made in making the mental health of players matter:

The hope is to create a stigma-free environment in which players feel more comfortable working through their mental health issues. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall reached a breakthrough of sorts last July, when he announced that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder; the moment hints at the strides engagement programs are making behind the scenes.

 

The NFL also runs a Life Line specifically for players, former players, and their families, accessible on the web and via phone. The Life Line was launched in 2012. I wasn’t aware of it until today as I was Googling for this piece.

“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to personnel and fans at the time. (quoted from CNN) 

In addition, the NFL has been adding more and more psychologists to behind the scenes team rosters, something the previously mentioned SI article details.

With this internal attention to the mental health of their players and families, isn’t it time the NFL brought some of their powerful presence in the psyche of the American male to the table and made mental health awareness an issue? With the loss of Junior Seau, last year’s incident with Kansas City’s Jovan Belcher, Paul Oliver’s recent suicide and the loss of several other players in the same manner, the NFL needs to do more than just support mental health behind the scenes because without public action, it is all too easy to assume that nothing is being done. It is also extremely easy to assume there is no support when you have the NFL threatening a player wanting to do something as simple as wear a different colour cleat to raise awareness for Mental Health issues, something said player struggles with himself.

I get that October is taken for Breast Cancer Awareness.

All I’m asking for is one weekend where the players wear Green, as Brandon Marshall wants to do tonight, to raise awareness for Mental Health Issues. If they can do it for Breast Cancer and raise millions of dollars for research and awareness campaigns, imagine what they could do if they dedicated the same amount of energy to Mental Health research and awareness, particularly in a sport with a hard-core dedicated male audience taught by society NOT to talk about their emotions.

For now, though, I guess we will suffer through the month o’pink and hope everyone has healthy boobs instead of healthy minds.

WAY TO GO, NFL.

Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication


Starting a family is no small decision. Expected or unexpected pregnancy involve major decisions and choices. How will you parent? How will you care for the child? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will you share responsibility equally? Attachment parenting? Extended breastfeeding? No breastfeeding? There are so many decisions to be made once a child enters your relationship. These decisions affect family dynamics and should not be made independently of your partner. They should be thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon. One of you may end up having to compromise but ultimately, you must do what is best for your child within your personal parenting philosophy, hopefully with a partner who sees along the same lines.

Parents these days have a bevy of knowledgeable resources available to help with their decisions regarding parenting. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, other parents, and just about everyone on the planet.

We all love to chime in on how others parent, don’t we? Especially with the explosion of social media. Judgment runs amok when a parent asks even the most innocent of questions.

Today, the NY Times posted a piece by James Daly which explores the effect of extended breastfeeding on a couple’s sex life. Daly states:

“Other men — me, for example — might be driven to engage in something even worse: sexless fidelity. Mine crystallized in Central Park one evening, while watching my wife sit under a tree with my older son, a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores, stretched out to roughly the size of a foal, suckling. By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon. There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.”

Breastfeeding is recommended for at least two years or beyond by WHO, exclusive nursing for the first 6 months with complementary foods added until two years. Now, the WHO code implies “beyond” is solely between the mother and child. While I don’t think Daly’s threat of infidelity based upon his wife’s choice of extended breastfeeding is kosher, I understand where he’s coming from.

A family, when a father is present, is not just a mother and child. All too often, the father’s needs and desires are often thrown out the window. He doesn’t matter and should shut up if he so much as voices any disagreement to how his wife chooses to raise their children, run the household, or anything else.

It’s not about who wears the pants in the relationship. Feminism doesn’t mean we get to make decisions without our partner. it means we are equal to them, not above them. Isn’t that what we fought for? Not to be beneath men? So why should they be beneath us and suddenly not matter? Where’s the victory in that?

Granted, women HAVE run things in the home and the childcare realm for quite some time. But more and more, men are involving themselves in these situations. Stay at home dads are increasing in number.

Sex is also an important aspect of a relationship. It’s how we’re intimate with our partners. It’s nurturing, releases hormones, stress, and brings us closer. Yes, intimacy IS possible without sex. However; intimacy is NOT possible without communication.

That’s where I believe this issue with Daly and his wife has broken down – at the communication level.

Clearly he’s not happy about his wife’s extended breastfeeding to the point of losing his appetite. Whether he’s actually considering infidelity or not is up in the air – he may just be using that as an example. I know that when I was breastfeeding, I was not terribly keen on my husband playing with my breasts. When I’m breastfeeding, my breasts are functional, not sexual.

What many men miss is that breasts are primarily designed to be functional, not sexual. Yes, breasts are visually appealing and nipple stimulation does provide sexual pleasure for many women, but ultimately, the breast is phenomenally designed to create and make milk to feed infants, a process which starts during pregnancy.

At the end of his piece, Daly states:

“I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”

Daly is right but he’s also wrong. The parent-parent bond IS important to the development of a child. But many successful children are raised by single parents. We’re specifically discussing a partnership here though so we’ll address this aspect. This goes back to what I stated earlier – when you decide to have a child, how that child is fed should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Granted, that doesn’t always happen as life does not occur in a vacuum. But Daly himself states that he SUPPORTS his wife’s choice to breastfeed their sons, thereby accepting the flashing of “mommaries” instead of the “mammaries” which allegedly attracted him to his wife in the first place.

Attraction should be comprised of several things –not just appearance and physical attributes– it should include intellectual capability, sense of humor, communication skills, compassion, etc. There’s a reason eHarmony is so successful –they don’t just toss the physical at you. (not a sponsored mention.)

Physical fades. It changes. Your spouse/partner may have medical conditions (mental or physical) which impede sexual interaction. What then? If you don’t have any other basis for attraction to your spouse/partner, you’re screwed, and not in the way you desire. But is that justification for infidelity?

No.

Daly and his wife need to have a discussion about the state of their relationship because for now, I have a feeling he’s going to see a lot more of the “mommaries” than the “mammaries” if he fails to vocalize his feelings about his wife’s extended breastfeeding of their sons.

You could argue that extended breastfeeding has amazing benefits – nurturing, intellectual, etc. But you could also argue, as Daly does, extended breastfeeding impinges on the sexual relationship and therefore the intimacy of the parent-parent bond.

Here’s the thing – if your parent-parent bond relies solely on sexual interaction and seeing her “mammaries” instead of her “mommaries”? Your relationship may not have the best foundation.

Communication. THAT’S where intimacy starts. Daly should give it a shot.

A Father’s Insight


What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

Sharing the Journey with Ben Murphy


GQ or Maxim just not cutting it for you now that Junior’s arrived?

Then you may want to check out thefatherlife.com where Ben Murphy is one of the founding fathers. Yeah, I said it – FATHER. This totally hip online magazine is rockin’ to it’s own beat and marching along for modern dads daring to stay hip and balancing fatherhood. The Father Life is a mixture of fatherhood advice, life advice, and everything in between (including a couple of awesome articles by Shoshana Bennett on PPD just because folks in the forums were talking about it)

Ben Murphy, Ben Martin, Ben Loux, and Ryan Marshall are the brains behind this wonderful site and I came across it while searching for worthy and intelligent content on the web for fathers. So very impressed with what I saw, I emailed Ben (Murphy) for an interivew and here we are! I know, I know, June is over. It’s July. Trust me, you’ll be glad you read about this and I guarantee you’ll be emailing your husbands to tell them to check out this awesome site!

Tell me about The Father Life. What would a dad walk away with after reading your magazine?

Well, TheFatherLife.com is a men’s magazine created with dads in mind. When I became a father I noticed pretty quickly that all the men’s magazines on the market were for the bachelor set, while the parenting magazines were largely geared towards mothers. It blew my mind that there were no men’s magazines out there geared towards dads… so I got a couple of friends together and we created one!

Our magazine is all online (www.thefatherlife.com), all free, and updated with new articles every week. It’s designed for today’s modern dads who are every bit as involved with their families as they are with their careers and hobbies. A lot of these guys are family men who are also executives. They are also at-home-dads who’ve left the career ladder to spend time with their kids… So, our content is pretty well-rounded. Obviously, there’s a lot of fathering content, but it’s balanced by everything from sports, cars, and investing, to food, fashion, and music.

I want our readers to walk away from TheFatherLife.com encouraged to press on in this new ‘Fatherhood 2.0′ life that’s becoming the norm now for a lot of guys. It used to be that fathers brought home a paycheck and that was it… today’s fathers are turning that model on its head. As one of our readers put it to us a while back, “The Father Life is for guys who work hard, play hard, and father hard.”
How did The Father Life come to fruition?

It was really just seeing a huge void in the marketplace for good fathering media content — and thinking that we could in some way address it. We really started out to create the magazine that we wish was out there on the newsstands. And that is still our aim.  We figure that there are millions of other dads out there as well experiencing the same thing — and they’d probably be interested in a magazine like this!

The whole process has really evolved. I have a background in design and media, including some online magazine experience. So, I knew it was easy to do this in concept. I brought along my friend Ryan Marshall who has an extensive background in web design and my friend Ben Loux who has a background in Finance and Corporate Compliance. It helped that all three of us saw this need for fathering media. We’re all around 30 years old with careers and young families, so we have a lot in common. And we all knew each other from back in college so it was a really good fit.

The three of us started TheFatherLife.com as a quarterly publication so that we could fit it into our schedules. But it’s grown from there to where we’re currently publishing a number of new articles every week. That’s due in large part to how well-received the magazine has been as well as to bringing on Ben Martin, our Editor-In-Chief, last fall. He’s been able to focus solely on developing content and has done an absolutely tremendous job!

The newly updated version of our site is rolling out this August and will have a similar feel, but will allow us to really expand the reach of what we’re doing exponentially. I’m really excited about it! We’ll be posting new content almost daily when that site rolls out.

The success of the magazine has really been from our readership and from the writers who contribute content. The magazine exists on reader-generated content and it’s really been amazing! And our readers are incredible providing their feedback and ideas to help the magazine evolve…
Share with us how you approach fatherhood with your own family.

My wife and I have two young daughters and I’m really just focused on enjoying it. That’s easy to say in a vacuum – harder to execute in the whirlwind of every day life, but I just love my family and love the family life. Having kids puts everything else in perspective… It really is what sparked TheFatherLife.com.
In an interview at www.fatherville.com, you were asked to come up with one word to describe parenting and you responded “Marvelous Chaos.” Share with us what Marvelous Chaos means!

Things are crazy and never quite what you expect — and yet somehow everything falls in place and it’s more wondrous than you could have anticipated… it’s a joy of the unexpected that comes from having kids around.

I want to commend you on your Postpartum Depression articles by Shoshana Bennett as it is important for fathers to understand how they can help their partners during such a difficult time. Have you had any personal experience with Postpartum Depression or known anyone who has? If so, what were your feelings about the situation and what advice would you give to a father currently facing a similar situation?

I’ll be up front that I haven’t personally had interaction with postpartum, but the advice I would give is to be as supportive as you can… and get advice from other guys who have been in the same situation.

The thing I love about the Postpartum articles is that they’re one of the best examples of our readers shaping the content of the magazine. During a 6 month period we were seeing forum posts and receiving emails from guys who were saying, “this postpartum thing is crazy and I want to be supportive of my wife, but I don’t know where to start!” And so those articles emerged entirely from that dialogue.

If you could tell us about one of the most joyous moments you’ve experienced as a father, what would it be?

I think it’s when my kids are just lost in the moment and truly happy… the satisfaction of knowing that you somehow created a context in which they are just loving life and you are privileged to be there and enjoy that moment with them. I guess that’s a pretty abstract answer, but I hope it makes sense…

On the flip side, share with us one of the most challenging moments as a father.

I’m the type of guy who wants to do a lot of things and do them all well… I’m very ambitious and take pride in how I execute things. So, with a family, I don’t have time for everything and I have to set limits. Prioritizing my time for family and limiting my other interests is challenging. I assume all fathers go through this, and I think it’s just a time in one’s life when you start to finally figure out who you are and what’s worthwhile to you. My family comes first.

We all know we need to take some time for ourselves to keep our sanity and sense of self hanging around. What are some of the things you do to keep your sense of self and not lose yourself in your roles as a father and husband?

I’m an artist and I still work on my artwork whenever I make the time (www.benmurphyonline.com – be warned, it’s edgy). I also love outdoor sports and do as much trail running and mountain biking as I can. I like naps too; naps are wonderful!

But you’re right – as great as being a dad is, you can’t give yourself over to it entirely or you lose your sense of self. The same can be said for a career or anything else really. In the end, taking care of yourself helps you take care of those around you. And we try to encourage guys to still be themselves along with being great dads. We say, “Yes, It is possible to be a great guy AND a great dad!” And I hope that our content helps dads accomplish that…
Do you feel fathers are largely ignored by the media at large?

I don’t know – I wouldn’t say ignored. The media is driven by “what’s hot right now” and I’m not sure if fathering has been as hip until now… I feel that TheFatherLife.com is hitting at a time when the whole idea of a “dad demographic” is just starting to gain traction. And in a lot of ways TheFatherLife.com is and will be in the midst of shaping the new (and improved, I hope) perception of dads in popular culture. There are a lot of wonderful emerging dad blogs out there now as well as baby products for fathers (www.diaperdude.com is a good example) — that wasn’t true just a decade ago. A lot has really changed with the internet, and perhaps that’s driven some of this shift. I’m certainly noticing a lot more fathering content now in the media and I think it will continue to grow and improve.

Last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expecting father (new or experienced) just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

To enjoy it. Just enjoy it. You only get to do it once, so make the most of it.