Our next guest is Justin Batt, author of Daddy Saturday. He has spent over 13,000 hours on Saturday’s over the past 11 years, engaging his children with intentionality.

Fatherhood is no longer a playground, it’s a battleground. The demands placed on fathers have never been greater, yet, neither has the importance of a father’s role in the life of his child. This creates a dilemma: How can fathers balance career and family while connecting with their children in a meaningful and intentional way?

Here’s our talk with Justin Batt.

Justin Batt: The problem or dilemma that I’m focused on is fatherlessness, the absence of not just the biological father in the home, but certainly, the absence of a father who is there physically, but just not engaged emotionally with his family and his children.

As I looked at that problem or that dilemma, I was very fortunate to do a TEDx on the topic. I saw the amount of attention and the way that TEDx was a channel or a vehicle for me to reach more people with this problem and create some awareness.

I thought, “Wow, this is a really great tool or a vehicle.” But I also know that anyone that has substantial authority in a market space is an author. When I thought about how I could reach fathers and provide more of an application manual, a practical way for them to engage their kids and be more intentional, I recognized that a book was the way to do that.

A book is enduring. People don’t throw books away. They’re going to pass it along.

My hope was that this book would become a generational legacy where fathers would give it to their children. This becomes the book that mothers or fathers give to their kids when they have their own kids, and it just becomes a resource.

That was why I wrote the book. It’s really all about impacting 10 million fathers in the next 10 years, and the book is the catalyst and starting point to do that.

Rae Williams: All right, you open your book with the fatherless epidemic. Tell us a little bit about that.

Justin Batt: Yeah, there’s an organization which I partnered with called the National Center for Fathering, and they’ve done some tremendous research in the topic and have a lot of data points around the impact of fatherlessness on our society today.

In fact, I have a background in health care, and I would venture to say that if you looked at all the numbers and all the repercussions as a result of fatherlessness and the absence of a father in the home, whether physically or biologically, what you’ll find is that many of these societal ills that we have today, be it a childhood obesity, even jail or prison time. Just unhealthy habits of a lot of our children today, the overuse of screen time, teenage pregnancy, alcohol, drugs and abuse. So many of those societal ills all stem from this epidemic of fatherlessness.

If we were to categorize it against some of the more prevalent disease states today like diabetes or heart failure, we would absolutely categorize fatherlessness as a national epidemic and the national emergency.

So, it’s a very large, sweeping problem, but it’s also something that we can get our hands around and make direct impact on.

Becoming an Involved Father

Rae Williams: Tell us a little bit about your fatherhood journey?

Justin Batt: I think for me, it all started 12 years ago when my wife looked at me and she said, “Justin, I’m a teacher, I’m tired of being in the classroom, I want to do my own thing.” And I said, “Start a business.”

She came back and said, “Well, I want to look at babies or bridal.” And I said, “Great, you got birth, you’ve got death, and you’ve got marriage in between. I love the business model.”

And she chuckled and I said, “I’ll support you, let’s go after it.” So, she started her bridal business and as we were planning that business and being entrepreneurs and supporting each other.

In that process, we have our first child, Hayden Olivia, and she actually named the bridal boutique after her. It’s Hayden Olivia Bridal in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Since my wife started the bridal boutique being the entrepreneur, she wore every single hat. And as my method of trying to be an encouraging and devoted husband and support her in the business, I stayed home with our daughter, Hayden Olivia, from the time that she was two weeks old.

Every two years, we added another child, so we’re up to four kids now and three boys in a row—Blane and Mason and Easton. Every single Saturday, I was with our four kids, while Heather was at the store. I just found that I couldn’t simply wake up and walk my way into a Saturday.

Much like any other father, I was exhausted after working a full week and also supporting Heather in her bridal store and trying to just live the life that I was thought I was meant to live, but I recognized that I couldn’t just take care of myself selfishly, I also had to look at my kids and that’s time we had together on Saturdays.

So, I started to plan certain activities and ways to engage my kids, and I started to see their response. It was overwhelmingly positive in our relationships and our communication. Frankly, the memories we were making together were so impactful that I just found that this was something I wanted to do more of in my own family.

One of my children, Mason, affectionately said, “Dad, what are we doing for Daddy Saturday?”

I just about fell out of my chair, because I’m like, “That’s it, that’s the name.” We affectionately called it Daddy Saturday and started posting videos on YouTube of our antics and started to get some notoriety from others and people in the community and kids around us, and their dads were coming over and saying, “What are you guys doing, can we join in?”

I started to see this was an opportunity to help other fathers. I recognize that in my own life, in my own struggle as a father, I was pretty engaged and pretty intentional, and I was having a hard time.

I could only imagine what other fathers were also experiencing. That’s when I decided that this was beyond me, this was my calling, and I wanted to help fathers have their own Daddy Saturdays themselves.

Blessing/Burden Mindset

Rae Williams: Tell us a little bit about what the blessing or burden mindset is?

Justin Batt: Often times we say, “I have to go to work.” And I think if you change that dynamic and change one word and say, “I get to go to work,” it changes your entire mindset, the have to versus the get to, right? It’s an attitude of gratitude.

It’s the same thing with kids. I found myself after a long Daddy Saturday, and the story’s there in the book where I’m out picking up all of these toys that are thrown all over our yard. It was like a tornado hit with shiny plastic things. My kids are all tired, and they’re inside and I’m picking them up by myself going, “Why am I doing this? I thought I had four kids, that’s what they’re supposed to be doing is out there helping me pick all these up.”

“I committed all this time, we had all this fun, why am I doing this by myself?”

And I was viewing my kids at that point as a burden. It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. As a man of faith, I believe God just said, “Justin, you got a choice. You can view your kids as a blessing or a burden, it’s your choice in every situation, how are you going to view that and that in turn is going to dictate how you respond to your kids and the dad that you want to be.”

Right then, I reframed my entire thought process and just viewed every one of those toys, as much as I was gritting my teeth through the process, as a blessing, right? It was a memory, it was an expression of the fun that we had had together that day, and sure, I make my kids pick up their toys and it’s part of being responsible. But at the same time, it goes beyond that situation. That’s just an example.

Every time we’re with our kids—and kids can be so challenging—we often say that days are so long, but the years are so short when you’re raising kids. I think that blessing or burden mindset’s critical because the years really are so short. It’s such a limited time with your kids in the home, and how you view that perspective of your kids really dictates the way that you respond to them and engage with them.

What Are Daddy Saturdays?

Rae Williams: Tell us a little bit about the mechanics of Daddy Saturdays.

Justin Batt: Yeah, it’s certainly evolved over time as you know, anything does and we’ve gotten more sophisticated in some of our Daddy Saturdays, but when we started off, it was very organic and it was what we could find around the house and just me looking on the internet or watching YouTube videos to try and come up with something fun to do that the kids would enjoy and frankly, I would also enjoy myself as a dad being with them for the entire day.

And so, a lot of it was just backyard activities. Then we started to evolve it more and started to try and create some epic wins or epic Daddy Saturdays as we call them and I would take something as simple as a slip and slide and then we would try and make it more epic. What could you do to a slip and slide to make it more epic?

Well, we took a box and we covered up the end of the slip and slide of the box and made two different pathways and so you had pathway one and pathway two and you had caution tape over each of the pathways, so you couldn’t see what was behind it. Then, I would take one pathway and I would put like a bunch of peanut butter and jelly or ketchup and mustard or whipped cream behind one of them and then the other one would be clean and open. Two of the kid would slide down at the same time and one would get the surprise in the tunnel and the other wouldn’t.

And it was the surprise slip and slide and you know, they had goggles on and by the end of it, they were just covered in mess and as was our yard. Then I got to slide down a couple of times and of course, every time they would put whatever their concoction was in both sides, so they made sure I hit it every time. And you know, outside of great video footage, it was a ton of fun and the kids were so engaged and it was more than just a slip and slide.

We took it to the next level and made it epic and engaging. We did a bubble wrap battle where I went to Lowes and I found all these giant rolls of bubble wrap and bottom all and wrapped my kids in bubble wrap and made sumo suits and jousting sticks and we have a trampoline and they just went to town in these bubble wrap suits and it was hilarious because Mason at the time was about four years old and his suit was so big that every time he fell over, it was like a turtle, he couldn’t get back up on his back. We just laughed hysterically at our time together.

So, it depends on the weather, it depends on the season, it depends on availability. We always find a way to make it epic and make it fun and the important thing is you can tell, it’s just being out there and doing it and when your kids are younger, I’ll give a caveat, I actually think it’s easier because they don’t care, it’s just the fact that you’re spending time with them.

When you’re little, everything is bigger, right? Everything’s more epic. First time you see a forest, the first time you go fishing, the first time you go to Disney World. But as you get older, it gets more challenging to make it epic. So, we’ve had to advance some of our Daddy Saturdays as the kids have gotten older. But again, what I found is regardless, they still just want to spend that time together and that is the most important thing that we focus on.

The Importance of Dad

Rae Williams: What is it that makes the role of the father especially important, especially pertinent?

Justin Batt: Well I think you have to begin with the end in mind and if you want to raise great adults then you have to focus on, “what am I doing today with my children that is going to put them on a trajectory to get them there?” And so often we focus on just getting our kids to being 18 years old and getting them out of the house and getting them into college and helping them find their first job and get married and the role as a parent seems like it is all towards that goal.

And I want to say that it is not about the demographics if you will. It is more about psychographics. So, what are the character traits? What is that long term vision that you have for your child in mind and it is not saying you push your child to where you want them to go. It is saying, “what do I want in my child? I want them to be a healthy, happy, successful adult and in order to do that and be a productive member of society, these are some of the character traits and some of the principles I need to instill in them today and help guide them through as they get older, so that when they get to that stage of adulthood they are happy, successful, productive contributing member of society.”

And I will give you a great example one of the biggest challenges we have today in our society is in the millennial generation specifically, a lot of millennials are raised in a way where their parents focused on protecting them, that helicopter parent you have heard and they didn’t allow their children to fail. And so what’s happened is we’ve had a lot of these millennials who’ve come through and are now at the point in their life and in their career where they are experiencing failure for the first time and it happens to be in adulthood. And so, to be a great adult that is a challenge now because they have never experience failure before and for them in adulthood, it could be catastrophic sometimes.

A job loss or a demotion or anything where they are experiencing significant failure, they don’t have the mechanism to handle it because they have never experienced it before in their own. And so, as an example of raising good kids, they had become great adults. It is all about serving as the guide, letting your kid be the hero of the story and helping them through that transition of childhood into adulthood where you allow them to experience failure on their own, but you sit there as a guide and help them through that so that when they experience failure at eight and at 18 and then at 28, they have been there before, they know how to handle it and they know how to move forward from failure.

So, the whole principle is that it’s important to focus on what character traits, what do I need to instill my kids at a young age that can help them be that happy, successful, productive adult and adulthood?

Ten Million Fathers

Rae Williams: You have an intention to impact 10 million fathers—how do you plan to do that and what can other fathers do to help that mission?

Justin Batt: Well like any movement, it’s all about reaching the right audience and it is about momentum. So, we are prepared to get this ball rolling down the hill very quickly with the launch of the Daddy Saturday book on June 4thand with the book, we’ve got a bunch of resources that will also be released almost simultaneously. So, we have an Alexa’s Skill, which will be available as well and so you can essentially talk to any Alexa device.

And say, “Alexa, what should I do for Daddy Saturday with my kids?” And Alexa will say, “well it is 85 and sunny outside, why don’t you have a water balloon fight? Would you like me to order water balloons from Amazon prime and have them shipped to you?” And you’d say, “yes,” and they would show up at your door two days later. So, ideas, applications, simplicity, using artificial intelligence and technology. So, I am trying to make them really easy on dads.

We’ve got the low-tech version of a Daddy Saturday playbook, which will be available. It will have 52 ideas in it. Those same ideas will be loaded in the Alexa Skill and then dads can view the playbook, pick the idea out and they can also have them ship directly from Amazon or have a link to Amazon that way as well. We’ll make that available on Google and on Facebook in the future. So, a variety of platforms. We are also launching a fatherhood assessment, which is a clinical tool that dads can go in.

And really assess where they fall on some core metrics of fatherhood and get a better understanding of where they are today and what they need to do to move forward and then we would support that with resources through Daddy Saturday that will allow them to become a more engaged, intentional father as a result and then we’ve got several other really amazing opportunities planned.

One of those will be Daddy Saturday Live, it will be rolling out in the next couple of months at select locations here across the southeast United States and then the plan is to eventually take it nationwide and that will be a book signing in the morning, a Daddy Saturday live experience, which is an interactive, fun, incredible way for dads to bring their kids in and have that intentional engaged experience live. Learn about the principles of Daddy Saturday and then go back and take those and apply it to their home.

And then typically we will do a keynote talk in the evening with other amazing fathers and influential figures in the community for our Daddy Saturday Live keynote. And then the last piece I will share today is that we’ve got some Daddy Saturday community coaches which will be those dads will say, “hey I want to participate at a higher level. I may not be able to give my treasure, but I can give my time and so I want to step forward and be that local dad, that aggregator, that connector in my local community and help create these Daddy Saturdays with other fathers and my kids and other kids, so we can really make this more of a community engagement.”

And then the last piece clearly would be in order to reach this goal, there is a lot of funding that needs to take place to support the foundation to help us orchestrate all of those incredible resources that I just described. So, people can always go to daddysaturday.com, to our foundation page and make a tax deductible charitable donation there as well.

Daddy Saturday Revolution

Rae Williams: I’d love to know if you have any examples of just how Daddy Saturdays and your influence in general has affected other people’s lives?

Justin Batt: Yeah, so you know one of the benefits of social media today is you can get somewhat instantaneous feedback and you know I couldn’t imagine being an author, starting a movement or platform like this back in the day. It would be very difficult unless you were live with someone to hear feedback. I have the advantage of having talked a lot and have people come up to me directly after I have talked or I get constant messages on social media for people reaching out, telling me how Daddy Saturdays impacted them.

And what I can tell you generally is I get a lot of feedback from fathers saying, “look, I am really struggling between the work-life balance and I put my career at number one and my family at number two and you have made me aware that I could do more as a father and I want to make that change and I see Daddy Saturday as a way to help and guide me to do that.”

I’ve had lots of other fathers who’ve reached out and said, “I am later in my career, my family life as a father and my kids are either grown or grown and gone. I wish I would have had this earlier.” And my advice to them is, “it is never too late.” And I’ve helped several fathers who are further along in that continuum re-engage their kids, re-engage their family and to try and create that level of fatherhood they didn’t have before.

And then a couple of really practical examples, I had a father who on Saturday’s was like most dads, you know he worked hard all week and he would go and do his thing and his wife was home with their daughter most of the week and then she had the daughter in the weekends as well typically because dad is off doing what dad wanted to do. And after hearing about Daddy Saturday, he decided to start engaging with his daughter for a couple of hours. They started to go and get manicures, they started to go to the movies, they’d go get lunch together, they’d go to the park and play.

You know just for a couple of hours on Saturday to give his wife a break and she could do whatever she wanted to do and eventually, it’s so funny, he said that they would typically watch TV together in Sunday evenings in the couch and the daughter would always run up and sit on mom’s lap and cuddle with her and after they started to do a couple of Daddy Saturdays that whole thing changed and she was running up and jumping on daddy’s lap to watch TV.

And she is now a daddy’s girl because of Daddy Saturday. And so, there is a lot of positivity to it and the other important byproduct of that was it helped enhanced and grow his marriage and the communication between this gentleman and his wife. So, we’ve got a lot of amazing stories like that. It is one of the absolute blessings of this platform and the reason why I did it is to help other dads and I ask that if you are father out there listening and this has impacted you in any way, be sure to share those stories and we’ll continue to feature them all across our platforms so we could help other dads engage their kids as well.

A Challenge for Listeners

Rae Williams: If you could issue a challenge, specifically to dads out there, what would you challenge them to do to change their lives, to change their relationships with their kids?

Justin Batt: So, I am all about a challenge, and I think most dads or most men as well and what I would say to them is first and foremost, don’t confuse your beginning with someone else’s middle. Jon Acuff uses that term a lot, I think that is really important. If you’re just a dad that is starting out as a father or your dad has drifted a long way away from where you want to be, I think the first challenge is just look at where you are and we’ll help you assess that. Let us take a couple of small steps to move things forward, and those small steps typically will be really big steps with your kids. So that is number one, don’t compare yourself to where other dads are. Just focus on where you are and the first couple of steps you need to take to move forward with your kids.

Secondly, I would say, fatherhood is no longer a playground. It is a battleground.

I gave you the stats on fatherlessness, I gave you the stats on the epidemic that that is on our country today. It is not enough for dads to sit back and just live life the way they are living life. If we want to impact the next generation, if we truly want to make systemic change in the way that we raise our families and have a byproduct of that impact that ripple effect across our country, then we as dads need to get up, get engaged, be intentional, and that is going to take some sacrifice.

It is going to take some commitment, it is going to take some self-introspection, and looking at ourselves as a father, removing our pride and removing some of those insecurities and being able to sit down with our kids, create a plan and a vision that is bold and intentional, and creating our own Daddy Saturdays, whatever that may look like for you.

Connect with Justin Batt

Rae Williams: You mentioned before how people can contact you, but give us again the ways that we can get in touch with you?

Justin Batt: Sure, so daddysaturday.com is the website. The Daddy Saturday Foundation is also listed there. You can find all of us across social media, so Daddy Saturday on Insta and Facebook and Snapchat and Twitter, and you can find me, Justin Batt, on LinkedIn as well.

And we are also now on Alexa and Alexa Skill. We have a podcast launching shortly so you’ll find that everywhere that podcasts are heard. And look, if there is a channel you can’t find us on, let us know and we’ll probably be there shortly.

And then last, but not the least, we’ve got the book launching on June 4. So, make sure you go out and pick your copy, your hardcover or the digital version, of Daddy Saturday.