INTRO

Self-care is essential for effective fatherhood. In our A Better You is a Better Dad Men’s Healing Matters webinar, Greg Mayo, our Men’s Healing Strategist, explored the critical role self-care plays in becoming a better father. He addressed the importance of  father’s prioritizing their own physical, mental, and emotional well-being to set a positive example for their children, aligning with Charles Kettering’s insight that Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example, not his advice. Greg shared practical advice specifically for fathers on how to integrate self-care into their daily routines, leading to more fulfilling and balanced parenting. Greg also discussed the concept of generational healing, highlighting how fathers who focus on their own wellness can break negative cycles and foster a legacy of emotional resilience for future generations.   

FATHER’S DAY

“What is Father’s Day?” Greg opened the session by sharing some interesting facts about how the holiday celebrated in commemoration of father’s in June came to be. “It started in 1910 in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd,” Greg said. He shared how Dodd, inspired by her own father – a single parent and Civil War veteran who raised six children – advocated for a day to honor fathers. Moved by the dedication and hard work of her father, Dodd felt it only fitting to establish a day akin to Mother’s Day celebrating paternal love and commitment. 

Greg pointed out that in the United States, Christmas holds the number one spot as the most celebrated holiday, followed closely by Mother’s Day at number two. Surprisingly, Father’s Day ranks much lower at number 20 in terms of popularity, prompting reflection on the societal emphasis placed on honoring fathers compared to mothers. 

STATS

“Let’s talk about some stats,” Greg said. He stated that there are approximately 72 million fathers in the U.S. today over the age of 15. Of those 72 million, about two million are single dads with primary custody raising their children. And 24 million American children live in a home where the father is absent. He went on to remind the audience that one in five men will experience abortion loss by the time they are 45. 

Greg emphasized the crucial role of fathers in child development, stating, “Dads play an important role. Without dad, we have a whole litany of problems.” He referenced Dr. Craig Garfield, MD, highlighting research that shows children with involved fathers experience cognitive benefits such as better linguistic abilities and higher academic readiness. Greg underscored the socio-emotional impact, noting that these children demonstrate better coping skills, maturity, prosocial behaviors, and secure attachments. Greg also linked fatherlessness to negative societal outcomes like school dropouts, violence, and poverty, which have risen alongside declining father presence.   

UGLY MONEY VS PRETTY MONEY

Greg reflected on his experience as a homebuilder, remodeler, and realtor over the past few decades, introducing the concept of “ugly money” versus “pretty money.” He explained, “The ugly money is stuff that a potential buyer may not see. Foundation, structural work, electrical, things like that.” Greg stressed the importance of addressing these foundational and structural issues first for the safety and health of the house and its occupants. 

He contrasted this with “pretty money,” which includes visible upgrades like new kitchen cabinets, paint, and flooring often showcased. Greg cautioned, “While there’s nothing wrong with spending the pretty money, if you don’t spend the ugly money first, you don’t have a structurally sound house.”

Greg illustrated this point with a personal example from his real estate career, where a seemingly remodeled house revealed significant structural issues that had been neglected. He emphasized the parallel in personal development, stating, “With people, it’s the same thing. We have to spend the ugly money.” Greg highlighted the importance of addressing fundamental aspects before focusing on superficial enhancements to achieve long-term success and well-being.  

FATHERHOOD’S IMPACT ON MEN

“70% of men reported stress, lack of sleep, financial worries, and increased demands upon becoming a father,” Greg said. He discussed how new fatherhood impacts men, highlighting various statistics. Greg noted that 56% of fathers felt judged by their co-parents, with many feeling they weren’t “doing a good job in the other’s eyes.” He highlighted that a little more than 50% of new fathers noticed negative changes in their health habits, such as exercising less, and drinking and smoking more, linking this to his earlier concept of “ugly money” – fundamental issues that need addressing. 

Greg pointed out that about half of new fathers experienced pressure to be a good dad, yet only 39% believed they were succeeding. He remarked, “That should give you pause because if only 39% of men think that they’re succeeding, that means the vast majority don’t,” emphasizing the importance of fathers having the confidence to lead. He also shared a surprising statistic that 25% of men experienced postpartum depression. Moreover, 23% of fathers felt isolated, dealing with struggles they felt others couldn’t understand. 

He stressed the importance of self-care in fatherhood, warning that neglecting it can have significant consequences. He emphasized, “If you’re not sleeping well, if you have high stress and anxiety, the last thing you should do is exercise less and drink and smoke more.” Greg underscored the idea that to be a better dad, you must first take care of yourself. 

IMPACT ABORTION CAN HAVE ON FATHERHOOD

“I lost my first child to abortion when I was 18 and my second at 22,” Greg said as he discussed how unhealed abortion experiences can profoundly impact fatherhood. He explained that it wasn’t until he was 39 that he entered abortion healing, having carried a burden of shame, guilt, pain, and regret for over 21 years. By that time he had already been a father for a decade, with three children at home.

Greg noted that while he didn’t struggle with attachment issues, he did have unrealistic expectations of himself as a parent. He felt that he had to be the perfect dad, a drive rooted in his unresolved feelings of shame and guilt over the abortions. He said, “I didn’t feel like I deserved to be a dad.” This lack of self-confidence led him to be overprotective, even becoming a “helicopter parent” despite previously mocking the term. He described his constant anxiety, which he didn’t fully recognize until many years later. This overlap between his unhealed abortion experience and his approach to parenting significantly affected how he raised his children. 

Next, Greg introduced Nyles, the new Men’s Healing Coordinator at Support After Abortion, to discuss how an unhealed abortion experience impacted fatherhood for him. 

Nyles began by explaining that his abortion experience occurred after the birth of his first son, who was born when Nyles was 19 and still a college athlete. He described how he and his partner at the time, after exploring their options, decided to go through with the abortion. Nyles reflected, “Some of the tendencies of being unhealed leaked into my relationship with my son.” He shared that he often felt like he was letting his son down and that he had to make up for the lack of a sibling. Nyles said, “I felt a lack of confidence, but also a feeling that I was undeserving of being his dad.” 

Nyles recounted how his overprotectiveness manifested in behaviors such as never letting his son out of his sight at the park, driven by the fear of losing another child. Nyles expressed that this fear stemmed from his abortion experience and his determination to “never lose a child in any way again.” 

Working at Support After Abortion, Nyles has realized he needed to heal more and build a healthier relationship with his son. He admitted, “I’m still going through my healing journey as well,” emphasizing that his new role was both an honor and a significant part of his own healing process. Nyles saw his employment as another step towards personal healing and an opportunity to support others in similar situations. 

Greg expressed his gratitude to Nyles for sharing his story and welcomed him on behalf of the entire organization. Greg then asked the audience to reflect on the similarities between Nyles’s story and his own, noting, “Nyles’s story has some overlaps with how he felt and acted and things he thought with my own story.” Despite a gap of over two decades in age and about 800 miles between them, Greg emphasized that many men experience similar feelings and struggles. 

Greg highlighted that these shared experiences are profound and real for many fathers. He urged the audience to recognize these common truths when supporting men, as they can deeply impact a father’s life. He concluded by stating, “It is important to be aware of that when you’re dealing with these guys because those things are very real, and as a dad, they can consume you.”

THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF A FATHER’S MENTAL HEALTH ON HIS CHILDREN’S WELL-BEING

“Children are two and a half times more likely to have poor mental health if their fathers have poor mental health,” Greg said. He discussed findings from The National Library of Medicine, highlighting significant statistics such as “80% of chronic mental health disorders begin in childhood,” stressing the need for early intervention. Greg also pointed out that “25% of U.S. children suffer from at least one chronic health condition,” illustrating the widespread impact on children’s health. 

Greg connected these statistics to the broader issue of fatherhood and mental health, noting, “A lot of it is fatherlessness. Dad is gone or not an intentional dad, right?” He shared personal reflections, mentioning how unresolved issues had previously affected his children. However, he also emphasized the positive impact of his healing journey on his parenting. 

Furthermore, Greg highlighted the increased risk of behavioral and emotional difficulties in children when fathers experience mental illness. He urged fathers to prioritize their mental health, as untreated issues can lead to feelings of ineffectiveness and inconsistency in parenting, perpetuating a harmful cycle. 

“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it,” Greg quoted Clarence Budington Kelland, emphasizing the profound impact of parental example. Reflecting on his own journey, Greg shared, “When I started my healing journey at 39, I began to address anxiety issues that had been my norm for so long.” He described how seeking help transformed his parenting style, enabling him to be more intentional and less overprotective with his children. 

Greg passionately advocated for generational healing, highlighting how personal growth positively influenced his family dynamics. Sharing tips from a Medibank article, The Keys to Being a Healthy Dad, Greg encouraged fathers to prioritize mental and physical health, recommending habits like reading daily, staying active, cooking meals, and maintaining sensible sleep routines. 

“Reading 20 pages from a book a day may not seem like much, but over time, it can make a significant impact,” Greg explained. It’s a habit that stimulates the mind and broadens perspectives.” He cited Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect, which underscores how consistent small actions lead to substantial personal growth. “Whether it’s learning about classic cars or exploring new management techniques, regular reading can turn anyone into an expert over time.”

Greg also stressed the benefits of staying active. “Even simple activities like walking for 20 minutes a day can add up to over 250 miles in a year,” he noted. “It’s not just about physical health; staying active also boosts mental clarity and overall well-being.”

Discussing cooking meals, Greg emphasized, “Preparing meals at home fosters healthier eating habits for the entire family. It’s a chance to bond over nutritious food and save money compared to eating out.” He highlighted the importance of setting a good example for children, helping them develop lifelong skills and a taste for wholesome foods. 

On the topic of sleep, Greg advised, “Understanding your own sleep needs and ensuring you get adequate rest is crucial. Good sleep habits directly impact mood, energy levels, and overall productivity.” He cautioned against trying to “catch up” on sleep, emphasizing the importance of consistent routines for long-term health. 

Greg made a heartfelt plea for men to reach out when they need support. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice,” he urged. “Whether it’s from friends, family, or professionals, seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. It fosters resilience and improves both personal well-being and parenting effectiveness.”

GENERATIONAL TRAUMA & GENERATIONAL HEALING

Greg elaborated on the concept of generational trauma and how it profoundly affects individuals and families. “Generational trauma encompasses learned beliefs, behaviors, and patterns passed down through previous generations,” he explained. This legacy influences everything from relationships and parenting styles to coping mechanisms and overall worldview. Greg emphasized that everyone faces challenges in life, and comparing them doesn’t diminish their impact. However, he stressed the possibility of generational healing, highlighting how personal healing from trauma, such as his own father’s experience with alcoholism, can positively influence future generations.   

Greg shared a poignant personal story to illustrate generational healing. He recounted his father’s upbringing in an abusive, alcoholic household, which inevitably shaped his own struggles and parenting style. Despite his father’s early absence and subsequent battles with alcoholism, he eventually achieved sobriety and dedicated himself to healing. Greg candidly described confronting his father about the pain caused by his absence and the turmoil it inflicted on him. Through tears and heartfelt dialogue, Greg and his father reconciled, marking a turning point in their relationship. This healing journey not only transformed their bond, but also ensured that Greg’s children experienced a loving and supportive grandfather, free of the turmoil from Greg’s own childhood.

Greg concluded with a powerful reflection on generational healing’s significance. “Taking care of yourself impacts your children,” he passionately asserted. He urged everyone to consider how their personal healing journeys could resonate through future generations, fostering a legacy of resilience and emotional well-being. 

NEXT STEPS

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