Are You Strong Enough to Be My Dad?
Local author publishes book of essays on divorce and fatherhood
This may sound odd, but Joel Schwartzberg’s new book "The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad" may just be the perfect Father’s Day present.
The book contains 40 essays—most light and humorous, and some raw and dark—dealing with the realities of being a father, divorced or not. Maplewood and South Orange residents may recognize Schwartzberg’s name from his days as a humor columnist for the News-Record. Schwartzberg, now a senior new-media producer for the television program NOW on PBS, gave up the News-Record column several years ago but since then has carved out a successful freelance writing career for himself and has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, babble.com, NJ Monthly, The New York Post, The New York Daily News and more. He also writes a blog about New Jersey life for the Star Ledger.
While some chapters are breezy and sweet (such as “Lazy Dadurdays” in which Schwartzberg details his weekly Saturday routine with his children), others address the darker side of parenting. When “Slouching Toward Fatherhood” was published in Newsweek in April, the essay, which describes Schwartzberg’s struggle with depression following the birth of his first child, elicited some vitriolic responses from online readers who excoriated Schwartzberg for being “self-centered.” Some commenters urged him to “man up” and “grow a pair.” Others thanked him for his honesty and for shining a light on an under-reported issue.
“When my son was born and I went into depression, I had no outlet for it. I was struggling to define ‘dadhood.’” Writing the essays was “therapeutic for me,” says Schwartzberg, who ultimately wanted to share the encouragements that he came upon with other fathers who might feel likewise discouraged or isolated.
For instance, Schwartzberg counsels other dads: “You need to learn how to talk to your children about divorce. The kids are not visiting dad, they are living with him [when they come to stay]. It’s not dad’s job to entertain.”
Schwartzberg adds that it is “easy to feel that you’ve divorced your children,” but fathers need to realize that that isn’t the case and that “a father is irreplaceable and vital.”
He adds that divorce isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “You can see it as an opportunity to be the dad you really are, not who people expect you to be.” He adds, “It took the divorce to show me how to be a better dad.”
Schwartzberg will be talking with Michael Medved about the book live this Friday, June 19, on Medved’s syndicated radio show (970 WNYM-AM, 3-6 p.m.). This is Schwartzberg’s second visit with Medved, whom Schwartzberg describes as “anti-divorce” and having “firm attitudes about parenting.” Despite divergent viewpoints, the two men seemed to have hit it off as Schwartzberg handled listeners’ calls with aplomb during his first visit.
Additionally, Schwartzberg will be reading and signing copies of The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad on Saturday, August 22, at the Fine Grind in Little Falls.
For more about Schwartzberg, his writing, and where and how to purchase the book, visit www.divorceddadbook.com.