This week, we interviewed Kevin Maguire, a father and creative consultant who writes The New Fatherhood, a newsletter about the evolving nature of being a father today. This interview has been edited for length.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
The New Fatherhood explores the existential questions facing modern fathers, bringing together the diverse community of forward-thinking dads who are asking them.
Why did you decide to create a space for dads to have deeper, more meaningful conversations?
After my second child was born, I was finding things tough. One day, I looked over at my wife texting and saw a sea of words from a friend taking up the whole screen. I thought something had gone wrong, but my wife told me, “She's just checking in on me. She's got two kids, so she knows how tough it is at the start.” I realized in an instant how we, as men, don't do this, and how essential it is to look out for each other during fatherhood.
For some reason, we allow fatherhood to just happen to us. We’ve become “self-driving dads” – passengers in a vehicle going in some sort of general direction, but not in control of the route, how we’re going to get there, or what to do when we arrive. I started The New Fatherhood to help other men see the potential of fatherhood – an experience of emotion that is unsurpassable, and a personal development opportunity of the highest order.
You mention that fatherhood has changed dramatically in this generation. What kinds of changes have you seen?
Being a dad has been set in stone for thousands of years: provide some sperm, make sure your family is warm and sheltered, go out and find your children and wife something to eat, and then make sure nothing bad happens to everyone (dad included). But today, things are very different.
Dads today are expected to be and do more, under a backdrop of societal and emotional pressures that echo the changes in motherhood over the last 100 years. The modern father is more present, literally and emotionally. He's no longer expected to be the primary breadwinner or disciplinarian. He could be single or married; gay or straight; biological, adoptive or a stepfather (or all three). He's more fluid in his responsibilities, and takes a more equal workload with his partner.
But it's not just how much things are changing around us. I wrote about something I call the Virtuous Circle of New Fatherhood, outlining how we can change the future of fatherhood together, for the better.
Most resources on parenting focus on motherhood. What has been your experience writing about fatherhood, for dads who may be reading about it for the first time?
Relief? That's the main feeling I see. Relief that they're not alone. That they're allowed to be both excited and terrified about it at the same time. That other people feel the same way that they do about being a father: it's a magical, wonderful, life-changing experience, but it can also be a bit shit sometimes. And that's OK!
One important thing I've tried to communicate from the start is The New Fatherhood isn’t about, or owned, by me. Of course, some of the writing is very personal: I shared my struggle with paternal postnatal depression. But I want to make sure I can provide a platform to raise the voices of other perspectives, like two fathers I know who had their first child with a surrogate.
I also want to share thoughts that are more universal, like how we can raise our sons to be more empathetic, ways to move towards equality at home by understanding the hidden emotional labor that our partners carry, or simple Jedi mind tricks you can use on yourself to make the stresses of parenting much more manageable.
What are your favorite moments as a dad?
There's big ones, of course. But I've found that if you're open to it, there are pockets of tiny joy everywhere – like my six-year-old daughter telling me how she got up in front of her whole class and explained in fluent Catalan how she completed an exercise that no one else could; or when my son asked me to get on the swing next to him and then couldn't stop laughing at how funny I looked going back and forth at the same time as him. Fatherhood can sometimes be a struggle, but it's often through struggle we learn to appreciate what's truly important.
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
Just one? That's impossible. I'm a huge fan of how Casey Newton's Platformer and Ryan Broderick's Garbage Day come at the world of the internet from two very different – but equally illuminating – perspectives. Eternally grateful for Today in Tabs and Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends who read the internet so I don’t have to (sorry for stealing your line Rusty).
I used to have a crazily intense job at Google, and gave it up for lots of the reasons I see Nick deWilde talk about at The Jungle Gym. Now, as an independent creative consultant, I've learned a lot reading Venkatesh Rao's The Art of Gig. And to finish this whole thing off, I'll share my adoration for Tiny Revolutions, Sara Campbell's beautiful newsletter. There's at least one thing in there every week that gives me the feels, it's helping me on my journey to become a better father, and I look forward to it every Sunday night: the perfect period to end the week.