Man Up: NFL Player Writes a Playbook for New Dads

When it comes to the unknown territory of having a baby, moms-to-be have nearly unending resources to plan and execute a healthy pregnancy and navigate those first months and years as a parent with confidence. New dads? Not so much. They want to get in the game too, but, says Super Bowl champion Benjamin Watson, "I could find clearer direction for putting together a baby swing than for taking care of a newborn child."

Watson, who is also an accomplished speaker and author, joined Glenn in studio today to discuss his latest book, The New Dad's Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life.

His message to men? Man up. There are things you need to know before becoming a dad and knowledge is power. With 33 percent of children being raised without fathers, Watson's message is needed more than ever. Fatherhood is challenging, but it's worth it. And Benjamin Watson, father of five, is here to tell men they can do it.

Enjoy the complimentary clip or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: Benjamin Watson, welcome to the program. How are you, sir?

BENJAMIN: Doing well. How are you guys doing? Thanks for having me.

GLENN: Good. First, let's quickly talk, how is your injury?

BENJAMIN: It's going well. Tore my Achilles last year. Spoke to you guys a little while ago from the rehab field actually.

GLENN: Yeah. Yeah.

BENJAMIN: And it's coming along. It's a seven-to-nine month injury.

PAT: That had to hurt.

BENJAMIN: Yeah, it did. It did. It's one of those things where it happens. And people who tear their Achilles always say, it felt like somebody kicked me in the heels. So I looked back. Who kicked me in the heel?

PAT: Yeah.

BENJAMIN: And nobody was there.

STU: Oh.

PAT: Yeah. Man.

BENJAMIN: I get up because I was going to get the pass, get the ball. And my foot is just kind of flopping, not connected. So it was painful. But I'm doing well.

GLENN: How frightening is that as a guy who does this for a living?


GLENN: And did it go through your mind, am I done?

BENJAMIN: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Of course.

You know, I've had a number of injuries over my career. You know, football has a 100 percent injury rate. That's why we try to do our best to protect players and provide, you know, those benefits for them.

JEFFY: No kidding.

BENJAMIN: But you never know when it's going to be in the game. It could be because of a younger player or because of skill diminishment or an injury, something like that. I've always been able to bounce back, so I'm trying to do it again.

GLENN: What do you think about the studies that show that rugby players don't get hurt, even though they have no padding, because we overprotect here. And so you just kind of -- you just kind of --

BENJAMIN: Yeah. I thought about that a lot, Glenn.

I mean, if you look at the two games, rugby is more like soccer, as in the game flows. You don't have these collisions where guys are at a standstill from 20 yards away and they're running full speed and colliding with each other.

So number one, the collisions aren't the same, as in football. Number two, when it comes to protecting players, you look at a helmet, right? If you don't have a helmet on, do you think you will use your head in a way to break it?


BENJAMIN: No, you won't. If you have a helmet on, though, you're more inclined to use your head in tackling, in defending, in blocking as a weapon. However you want to feel it. You feel this sense of security that you don't have.

GLENN: Correct.

BENJAMIN: However, your brain is suspended in fluid. So while your helmet protects your skull, it doesn't protect your brain. So when you look at rugby -- you know, that's a great point there -- they tackle differently because they don't have the equipment --

GLENN: They don't have a false sense of security.

BENJAMIN: Exactly. But also the game isn't set up the way football is. Football is a game of collision. That's why people watch. That's why we play it. That's why you like it.

PAT: Yeah.

STU: It's really nice to have someone who can not only talk sports, but also match the athletic ability of Glenn. Which is so rare --

GLENN: I don't think we need to go here right now. I thought it was a pleasant conversation. I was holding my own. And you went there.

So, Ben, talk to me a little bit about the book that you've written, why you've written it.


GLENN: You in some ways are a very controversial guy. And excuse me for not -- I don't follow football at all.

Are you controversial --

BENJAMIN: You're in Dallas and don't follow football?

GLENN: Yeah, I know.

BENJAMIN: My aunt would turn over.

GLENN: Yeah.


GLENN: And I used to work with Joe Theismann, and I still actually root -- and mainly only because I worked with Joe Theismann that I root for the Cowboys.

Are you -- the things that you say are controversial in society, only because I think they're rooted in common sense. And we're not a common sense place anymore.

BENJAMIN: Yeah. Yeah.

GLENN: Are you -- do you have problems with your -- your coworkers and your fellow players and --

BENJAMIN: Well, no. Not at all.

GLENN: Really good.

BENJAMIN: But I will say this. The thing I love about the NFL -- because I do have a group of 60 or so guys from different walks of life.

GLENN: Yeah.

BENJAMIN: Economic ethnicity. Geographical locations. They come together. And if it's done correctly, it can be a great place to bounce ideas. You have conversations that you probably won't have in any other setting because it wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be right for corporate guidelines so to speak. And so we're able to talk about these different things. And, you know, when I say things, whether it's about abortion, whether it's about race, whether it's about social justice, whether it's about something political -- or like, in this case, with the new book about fatherhood and men standing up and being dads. It could be something about domestic violence, you know. What happened two days ago with the murder-suicide. 94 percent of the victims are females in murder-suicides. And so whenever I step up and say something like that, it's amazing how many guys who say, you know, I kind of agree with that too. Let's talk about this.

GLENN: So let's talk about the -- the book. Do you get into a man -- and I'm sorry. But the book isn't even out yet. So I haven't read it.

BENJAMIN: Yeah, May 2nd.

GLENN: Does the book talk about the role of a man and the way he treats a woman?

BENJAMIN: It does. It does. My wife is really the one who got me to do it.

STU: Of course. That's the story of every project.

BENJAMIN: Of course. Yeah. Yeah. Us men drag our feet on things, and our women are the ones that make us do --

GLENN: No, it is the story -- it is what people mean, behind every successful man, there's a good woman.

BENJAMIN: Exactly.

GLENN: Yeah, because they're saying, get up and do that.

BENJAMIN: Yeah, the man is the head, but the woman is the neck. She will turn that head wherever she wants to go. So she's been trying to come employ me to write this book.

We have five children. The oldest is eight. And she's been employing me to write this book for a while, as a handbook to help dads through pregnancy, really, in supporting their wives, supporting the mother of their children through this process. Because a lot of dads -- when I had my first child -- she's eight now. But I didn't know what I was getting into. I didn't know what to do when my wife had morning sickness. I didn't know what to do when I went to the OB, and he's checking for the heartbeat.

You know, I had all this anxiety that we have as men. And so the reason for the book, number one, is to educate men. So men work best when we have information.

GLENN: Uh-huh.

BENJAMIN: So everything from areola to zygote terms will be covered in the book. Technical terms, so that men know what they're getting into when it comes to being a father, when it comes to their wives being pregnant.

But also, there's practical application. You know, things I messed on. Things I wished I would have done better. Communication.

GLENN: Like what?

BENJAMIN: Well, like I said before, I was very -- we're two type A personalities, my wife and I. So sometimes we butt heads. That leads to arguments. Our first couple years of marriage -- weren't the most pleasant, I'll admit that. But understand you're on the same team. Understanding that you have her best interests at heart. And number one, you need to be present.

The number one thing for a man that I implore guys in this book is that they need to be present, not just with their money providing for a roof over their head. But they need -- women need and the child needs their team. Needs their support.

We live in a time where there's 33 percent pretty much of kids grow up without a father. And that leads to a lot of the ills that we've been talking about. And so my goal is to educate guys, but also empower them and encourage them that they can do it.

STU: I'm a little concerned that one of the main things you seem to be advocating in the book is to store your baby inside of a football helmet.

GLENN: That's just the cover. Don't judge the book by the cover.

STU: Okay.

GLENN: That's just the cover.

STU: That's what that means. Don't judge a book --

GLENN: Yeah. The cover sometimes could be misleading.

BENJAMIN: But a lot of guys feel like -- and, you know, I've had these conversations before. And I've even felt a little bit that this time, when they're young, it doesn't really matter.

So basically the book goes from conception, up until the first few weeks when the baby is home. So kind of like conception being the preseason training camp in football. The Super Bowl being when the baby is born. And kind of the post game idea is when the baby is home, those first few weeks when the mother is extremely tired and you need to kick in and you might need to cook. You might need to wash dishes. You might need to do some clothes.

GLENN: Whoa, whoa.

BENJAMIN: You need to do some things to help out because, again, you guys are a team. And it's okay if you get out of your normal comfort zone, what you've been doing, for her.

GLENN: It's also really, I think a hard time when you have a child, because everything is geared towards the woman and the baby.


GLENN: And even -- even when you hold the baby, the baby is not looking at you like they look at the mom. Because, I mean, God placed that nipple right --

BENJAMIN: But that's not true. That's not true. That's not true, Glenn. Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact is vital when the baby is born for the mother and for the father.

STU: Yeah.

GLENN: No, no. I agree with that. I agree with that. What I'm saying is the guy can feel like it's not -- like I'm not -- I'm useless. I can't feed really.

BENJAMIN: That's true.

GLENN: I can't -- you know, I don't have that bond. There is that bond in early days.


GLENN: And the guy can just feel like --

PAT: Especially if they breast-feed. Part of that.

GLENN: Right.

BENJAMIN: That's true. That's true.

GLENN: I'm useless here. And it's a total lie.

BENJAMIN: And I felt that. One of the things I talk about is -- my wife nursed our children for a year, all of them for a year afterwards. And so one thing I would do would be -- she would pump some milk for me at night. And I would get up at night and do some feedings with the milk. And obviously, I can't nurse. But it was a way for me to bond with my children.

PAT: Uh-huh.

BENJAMIN: And kind of get tired too. Because you're going to go through that zombie stage. And me get up and let her sleep for a little bit is important. So that's one way. And, you know, one of the things I'm always fearful of -- and I think you touched on it -- was that I'm losing my life. I will say that with this child, I felt like, man, I don't know if I want to go through this because it's going to change the dynamics of our relationship. I'm losing her.

STU: Oh, yeah.

BENJAMIN: How long is she going to be gone? When is she going to be back? But I found that when I'm intentionally involved, those feelings start to go away sooner. But those are real things.

I mean, the reality of it is, when a child comes into a relationship, whether it's the first child, second, third, fourth, or fifth child, the dynamics change, not only for the children that are there, but for the husband and the wife. But that husband/wife relationship is one that has to remain strong, not only for its benefit, but for the benefit of the children.

GLENN: Yeah. And that's difficult to do. Because especially as the child grows, you have -- you have, you know, things that come up. And you're like, this child needs the attention right now. And so your relationship has to morph and change. And it -- to a guy at least, it does feel like you're losing your wife.


GLENN: You know, she's mom. And not my wife. And it's hard. It's really hard.

BENJAMIN: Exactly. Well, yeah. It is. One of the things -- you know, one of the things I talk about obviously -- every relationship talks about communication. But the main thing with communication is honesty. And so with my first, you mentioned something that I did wrong. With my first couple, I wasn't honest about my feelings. I wasn't honest that I felt like I was losing her, that I was hurt, those sort of things.

And the last few pregnancies, I've told her, you know, this is how I feel. How do we combat this? So that way she's aware of it. And one thing we always try to do is get back on schedule with our date nights.

I look forward to, after we have a baby, after the schedules get all messed up, one thing we try to do with our relationship is have scheduled date nights. During the season -- it's actually easier during the season because our schedule is very regimented. So we go on Mondays or Tuesdays.

But especially after having a child, reconnecting in that way. I talk about, you know, intimacy. You know, contrary to popular belief by men, sex isn't the only form of intimacy, right?

GLENN: Wait. What else?

BENJAMIN: There's something else? Hey, I felt the same way. Really?

So -- but I talk about those things. You know, how do you navigate her changing body, you know, when it comes to sex? How long afterwards? How do you rekindle that passion when all these things have happened and the emotions and the mood swings and the hormones and all those sorts of things? How do you make her feel beautiful through this process?

GLENN: Boy, I wish I would have had this book the first time, maybe even the third time.

STU: Does it say in there, well, don't be as out of shape as we are? Instead, be as in good shape as an NFL player is, and then the intimacy follows.

BENJAMIN: See, that's how guys think. Guys are like, man, in shape or intimacy?

But a woman will tell you something otherwise. She will say, you know what, I can deal with your beard, but if you're affirming me --

JEFFY: That's a lie. That's a lie. That's a lie. That's a lie.

BENJAMIN: If you know my love life. You're speaking to it.

GLENN: No, that's a lie.

BENJAMIN: That's a lie?

GLENN: I see the way my wife looks at Chris Pratt on the screen.

JEFFY: That's right. That's a lie.

BENJAMIN: She doesn't know him though. She doesn't have a relationship with him.

GLENN: No. And I'm glad she doesn't know him.

STU: Or she wouldn't have you anymore.

BENJAMIN: It's a totally different story.


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