Digital Dads Exposed is a monthly interview series that highlights the unique perspectives on manhood and fatherhood held by those we at Digital Dads have come across in our travels. This month, we feature Matt Ridings—founder of MSR Consulting and an independent strategy consultant.
What is your perspective on what it means to be a man living in todays world?
My son is 11 yrs old now, and I spend an inordinate amount of thinking about this question. I think it’s a confusing time for men in general. Balancing the nuances of “being a man”, chivalry vs. sexism, role delineation in a empowered world, emotional vs. weak, etc. is challenging. Respect and intent, are the common threads that guide my actions and keep me out of trouble…for the most part. I’m still going to hold the door open for a woman, I’m still going to let the women and children get off the sinking ship first, it’s who I am and my mother would be sorely disappointed if I didn’t.
Growing up, what has influenced you the most and shaped the man that you are today?
The divorce of my parents when I was 9. They are such different people with very different perspectives on parenting and life. Had they stayed together that diversity of opinion would have been smothered, but their separation allowed me to learn the value of each of their points of view. The value of hard work, responsibility, empathy, and humility were core traits instilled in me.
In the moments you are able to pause and reflect, what activity do you normally gravitate towards?
Twitter or private group messaging. Whether it’s those moments where I’m struggling with the value of a ‘big idea’ or a more personal dilemma there is always an appropriate ear within the relationships I’ve fostered with those venues. Sometimes you need a kick in the ass, other times a sympathetic ear. I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who can do both with grace.
What is your parental philosophy?
To try and recognize when my son needs room for expression and to face his own challenges, or when he needs the structure and control of intervention. I would love to say I have figured that out.
What do you appreciate the most about being a father?
Selfishly, there is nothing quite like my sons hugs when he arrives home from school every day.
What is your favorite activity (or activities) to do with your children?
He loves video games, and he’s at an age where we can actually play together and compete. But on a less regular basis, we are able to explore local river banks and the beaches of Cape Cod which we could do for days on end and is by far our favorite joint activity.
What is the best way for a man and father to impart wisdom to his children?
Actions always speak louder than words, but I’m also a big fan of explaining *why* you make the choices you do. Wisdom comes through the understanding of actions as well.
What piece of technology impacts you most during the day (and is that impact positive or negative)?
I’m “always on” and highly connected. There is no doubt that my phone (an iPhone at the moment) has the largest impact although I rarely use it as a phone. It’s both positive and negative. On the one hand it gives me the flexibility to engage in things I wouldn’t normally be able to do because it keeps me connected to my work life while remote. On the other, I receive over 250 emails per day on average so it means I’m constantly checking it. That becomes so behavioral that I do it when I shouldn’t (family time, dinner, etc.).
How does technology shape the way you raise and influence your children?
It shapes just about everything we do in some way. There is no such thing as an “unanswered question” in my household. If a question comes up that someone doesn’t know we’re like some Microsoft commercial screaming “To the cloud!”. Typically my son and I will research together, or sometimes even create a video like here.
How do you think men’s roles will change in the future?
The increasingly exposed lives we lead online I think will make a pronounced shift in the relationships we have offline. Parenting takes on a new dynamic when your children can easily have a lens into your thought processes outside of the context in which they would normally have had in the past. We talk a lot about how online anonymity changes behavior, but few think about how our offline relationships typically have had barriers to transparency in them as well. The breaking down of those barriers in both directions is neither good nor bad, but it does change the way we lead our lives and view those around us. My hope, is that will lead to both men and women having a better understanding of what makes each other tick in the future and lead to more open, successful relationships.
‘Preciate it, Matt!
/// Digital Dads Exposed returns next month with more unique and interesting perspectives on manhood and fatherhood. Is there someone you would like to see featured? send us an email.