On Friday, January 31, The Vitruvian sat down with Terry Keller, professor and chairperson in the Social Work Department at Lourdes University. Professor Keller spoke to us about fatherhood as his own two children played in his office.
Vitruvian: You're new to the university, right?
Keller: This is my third year.
V: What have you noticed about Lourdes so far; how do you like it?
K: I'm really, very impressed with the university.... When I came for my [job] interview, I knew this was a great place. I knew it was where I wanted to be.... It was really a very welcoming environment. I'm excited to be a part of that.
V: And you specialize mostly in fatherhood research?
K: Fatherhood and attachment in social work. My research interest is really focused on the impact that fathers have on young children, specifically looking at that relationship in the early years of life. So, in children under 5 [years old,] what can that impact be?
V: Why did you choose that as your focus?
K: It's one of the things that I think is really important. I think one of the most important things is that I see so much of a push to create father programs, but no one is really talking to the fathers and figuring out what they want or what they're comfortable with, they're just designing programs.... I think it is important to go to the fathers and figure out what's going on and then grow from that.... And obviously, having two children of my own is important to me, and I want to continue to develop by of course being involved.
V: Our issue in the Vitruvian is about sustainability. What is the importance of sustaining a fatherhood relationship?
K: Overall, in sustaining that relationship, you are providing children an opportunity to...connect with another adult that should be providing structure.... It allows children to...try new things in a very supportive environment.
V: What are the challenges of having a good, sustainable relationship with your kids?
K: The challenges are...varied from individual to individual. I think one of the challenges a lot of families face is economic. Making sure there is enough money to provide for the basic needs of your family.... It is important to realize that when you are a parent...your reference point for parenting is your own parents and that impacts how you raise your child. My big...idea is that...we are raising children rather than raising parents, so when those children become adults, actually they are still kind of children in a way, and they have children so they parent their children as children.
V: Would you say motherhood is just as important as fatherhood?
K: Absolutely. I believe strongly that it can be an even more important part in some ways...we can't compare that relationship on the same plane as fatherhood because it is very different. Fathers do different things with children.