Our first Dad in the Limelight is Drew
Bennett from Benspark.com. I want to thank Drew for being a part of this series and helping with Dad of Divas in more ways than just this. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!
1) Tell me about yourself
I am 35. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Allison for 4 years and we have a beautiful two-year old girl named Eva. I grew up and still live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Prior to being a blogger I went to college in New Hampshire and studied Theology. I became very disillusioned with that topic. I actually studied that because it was the one track that allowed the most electives. I took photography, graphic design, mythology, etymology and Greek because those courses were interesting. I took some computer programming classes but got bored really quickly. The professor I had was very boring and didn’t inspire me. As a kid (around 10 years old) I programmed in BASIC on my TI 994A. I would program 10,000 lines of code to make little characters dance around my screen. So, programming to do math equations bored the heck out of me. My roommate was a computer science major and one day he brought in two sheets of paper with HTML code on them.
Those two sheets of paper were a gateway into a world that I would grow to love. I quickly created a website (1996 pre-blogging time for me) and maxed out the space that the college gave me for my website. I kept going back for more space. Eventually I graduated with a Theology degree and worked away at another college for a year and then came back to my alma mater and worked there for four years and in that time I was the college’s webmaster. I did that for two years and then quit and went to a new company where I took website designs from the designer and broke them down into code so they looked good online. That job lasted a year and I got laid off. At that time I started dating Allison.
In 2001 I started working at a job where I would travel all around the country. I found the job mind numbing and not at all creative so I needed a creative outlet. I started my first blog on Blogspot Plus (that was prior to Blogger being a Google property). This blog was The BenSpark and it was because my last name is Bennett and Allison’s last name was Sparks. So we combined the two names and started a blog. The point of that blog was to let family and friends know where I was around the country. I took my camera with me everywhere and posted those photos everywhere I went.
In 2005 I was inspired to start taking a Photo every day and thus started my Photo-A-Day project on BenSpark.com. I was to do it for a year and by the end of the year I just continued the theme and project. I am approaching the end of Year 5 and starting Year 6. I love being able to write every day and create a community with my blog. This has been so fun.
In 2007 my daughter Eva was born and she became one of the biggest stars of my blog. She inspired me to create the blog Read To Me, Dad http://readtomedad.com/ even before she was born. On that blog I review children’s books and other products for dads.
I’m also a kayaker, in-line skater and Transformers fan. I started a blog called The Wired Kayaker but it is rather defunct. So I work my 9-5 spend some time with the family and at night I blog while watching shows on the DVR.
2) Tell me about your family
My family is wonderful. In my immediate family there is my wife Allison and my daughter Eva. Allison and I started dating when we worked together at the web design company. However, we didn’t realize that we were dating for a whole year. I had a group of friends and it was couple, couple, me and Allison. When be both got laid off we started our relationship. We married in 2005 and have been building our life ever since. Allison worked for quite a few years as an Executive Assistant. We decided that when Allison had Eva that she would stay home with Eva and I would work. Luckily I was making enough from blogging and my 9-5 job to supplement the income that was lost from Allison no longer working. After Eva turned one year old Allison began working part time and from home.
Allison is a talented person, she learned how to knit two years ago and in that time she’s made some amazing pieces. Allison uses her talents as a knitter to make prayer shawls for people in our community. She is also a dedicated letter writer. She volunteers as a Chemo Angel and has been doing that for years. She writes over and over to people in that program. Her dedication to this process has been amazing. My wife is a very talented person.
My daughter Eva is a wonder. She is so mart and so funny. I started reading to her every day when she was in the womb. And now at two she wants at least 6 books each day. Her curiosity and creativity is really a huge inspiration for me. Each day is a new adventure for us.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
My biggest challenge is to keep the fear at bay. I can get very scared that something will happen to Eva. I am very protective and anticipatory and it makes it hard sometimes to enjoy myself in the moment. I’m always on the lookout for potential dangers because I am afraid that something will happen to Eva. This could be an extension of two losses that we’ve had, one before Eva and one after her. With the second loss, which I made very public as a way to help other dads who were going through that as well, I ended up holding even tighter to Eva.
My other biggest challenge is to be a good disciplinarian. Eva is so dang cute that it is hard to discipline her sometimes.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Change more diapers and take care of tubby time. One thing that I was so worried about when Eva was born was changing diapers. I asked the nurse to show me how to do that and I’ve been one of the chief diaper changers in the house.The main reason for this apprehension stems from an incident in college. In college I was a volunteer for kids camp for reunion weekend. One family gave us a kid but didn’t give us extra diapers. The kid pooped and I was in charge of taking care of him. I was about 19 or 20. I had no clue. I put the kid on the toilet and when he was done I got the call from him that he needed to be wiped. Huh? I have to wipe his butt, I had no clue how to do this right and I was grossed out. Her was a kid with a mess on his butt standing in the bathroom, I panicked as he backed into the stall wall and got poop on the walls. I had no diaper and so I ran and got some rags and some help from the women who were helping with kids camp. They cleaned up the kid and I really felt bad about it because I panicked and had no clue what to do. So when I was a to become a father I had that moment of panic about the possibility of making that mistake again. So I wanted to do it right. I now have no fear of the diaper.
5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
This has been a strange thing for me. Because of my photo-a-day project I photographed Eva so much that she is recognizable. People know her and they know me and they know my wife from my blog. They have a connection with us and so when we do go to public appearances people connect with us. For the most part this has been fantastic. People have been great and wonderful and we’ve made some great friends. We did have one incident at an event where one person who felt they knew Eva well enough that they were too familiar with her. Eva doesn’t know the people that know her and to her they are strangers and one person made her uncomfortable. For the rest of the time we avoided this person and didn’t address it directly with that person. Now that I know that this could happen it would be something I would address promptly.
Balancing my online life with the family life gets hard. Part of being online is to make money to help support the family. But there are things that I need to do to get my name out there and build my community that looks like I am goofing around. A typical day for me is this. I wake up at 5:00am and head to work to work out. I watch many great podcasts as I crank along on the elliptical machine. I get to my desk and I get the simple stuff out of the way quickly. I respond to all my tweets, comments on my blogs as well as to my guest posts. After that is done I try to write at least one of the guest posts that I have committed to writing. I guest post on Dad-O-Matic, Jim Kukral.com, The Coach Shoppe, Blogging Tips, Shuttercal and some others. Throughout the day I have tweetdeck open and keep in contact with the community. After work I head home take my photo at some point too. I get home and play with Eva until dinnertime then it is tubby time, book time and the bedtime rituals. Once Eva is down I fire up the laptop and work on my nightly post about my photo-a-day photo. I also work for clients and work on so many projects until about 10:00pm when Allison and I go to bed. Sometimes 11:00pm. That is pretty much a typical day.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
I had the great opportunity to meet some really great dads through blogging. I’ve been connecting more and more with them. I’ve learned that you have to celebrate the wins and not sweat the losses.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
Nothing really prepares you to be a parent. I’ve heard that it is the hardest job you will ever love. I can’t say that parenthood is a job but rather a vocation, something that you are called to do and each day you get more and more out of that vocation.
I think that one thing that has worked for us really well is that we take Eva everywhere with us. Eva’s now is so adaptable that she can go anywhere and feel comfortable. She does great at restaurants because we’ve taken her with us as much as we can. She’s been to outdoor concerts and to Disney (something I was adamant about not taking her to until she was 5, oh how wrong I was). Take your kids everywhere and do things with them, parks, playgrounds, hiking and swimming.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Eva’s birth was the most memorable moment so far. As soon as Eva was born I went to take a photo of her, with my camera phone despite having a Nikon D80 with me. I was so blown away seeing Eva born that I was not thinking at all about getting that first picture with the good camera. Allison and the nurses snapped me back to reality and told me to get the real camera. Just being so in them moment was so powerful.
Another memorable experience was taking Eva for her first ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. I just gave her the cone and let her have at it. It was so funny, messy and fun. It was my first Daddy/Daughter Date Day. One fantastic day with Eva.
If you have any questions for Drew, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond! Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!
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