Julia Espey was a retired NASA researcher and single mom. While walking through a New York park with her 4-year-old son one afternoon, she realized that she had to be both mom and dad for her child.
“It was an overwhelming moment,” says Espey. “I knew how to put a 20-ton aircraft in space, but I didn’t know how to guide my 20-pound son. I started looking for respectable men who were successful in every area of life – work, family, etc. Then, I asked them to share how they raised their children, why they did the things they did and how it worked out. My goal was to learn from the best examples and then surround my son with great male role models.”
Espey interviewed 35 very successful men from all walks of life. She asked them to complete this sentence, "If I were your daddy, this is what you’d learn." This ultimately became the title of her book.
She was surprised to find that many of them, despite their significant successes, had never been asked to share their thoughts about parenting.
“Greg Link, who teaches leadership and critical thinking nationwide, shared the ‘OREO technique,’” Espey says. “When his children were young he began teaching them how to make good choices on their own. They would sit as a family and do the OREO:
"As the children practiced this in their younger years, it became second nature to them. When they became teenagers and had much tougher decisions to make, they automatically turned to OREO.”
Espey used the men's input to go from feeling overwhelmed to applying what she learned in an effort to parent her son well.
“As I talked with these men, I moved from fearful to calm in my parenting,” Espey says. “I became very intentional about inviting male friends who shared my values over for dinner to spend time around my son. Since writing the book, I have remarried and have used many of the techniques I learned while writing the book to help us navigate the road of becoming a healthy stepfamily.”
Espey wants parents to use this book as a mentor guide to improve their successes with their kids. She also hopes it will help parents better cope with challenges, identify their children's uniqueness, and provide strong family support.
"These men speak from their heart, sharing words of wisdom for those of us in the midst of raising kids,” Espey says. “I appreciated their vulnerability to share personal stories about dealing with kids on the edge, mistakes they had made and lessons learned. I also recognized that it was not wise for me to try and parent alone. Whether I ever remarried or not, I had plenty of friends and family who could mentor my son.”