Star fitness instructor: How we broke the stereotypes of fatherhood

Jason Rosario and Kate Murphy

“Dear Men” is a weekly show hosted by Jason Rosario, creator of media lifestyle company The Lives of Men. “Dear Men” explores how men are navigating the evolution of manhood. You can watch the current week's full episode of “Dear Men” every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Roku.

Most of us have a fairly traditional stereotype of what a father looks like: He’s emotionally distant at best, and disconnected at worst. But that’s changing.

Today’s dads are more involved in every aspect of their children’s lives — from cooking meals and changing diapers to being more vulnerable and invested in their kids’ well-being. They are shattering the stereotypes of what it means to be a father, and in the process changing the way we view manhood.

Shaun T, the fitness trainer behind popular home workout videos like “T-25” and “Hip Hop Abs,” is an example of that. He is challenging the stereotypes of fatherhood as he raises twin boys in an interracial marriage with his husband, Scott Blokker.

“I think the change and the evolution of fatherhood is actually really good,” he says. “What I love, at least from what I’m surrounded with, is a lot of men cutting the hours at work to be home with their kids.”

The couple’s journey to fatherhood, however, was complicated. It took them five years to have kids; they went through six egg donors and five surrogates.

“Looking at these two little boys, not to say that it wasn’t really tough to go through that five years, but I couldn't imagine being anyone else but them,” he says. “They are just the light of our world. The light of our life. I didn’t know I had another chamber of love in my heart.”

But breaking stereotypes and pushing the definition of fatherhood hasn’t always been easy for him. “There’s a lot of people don’t like that I’m married and I’m gay,” he says. “I’m not giving you the power. I’m giving that relationship love … You might exude hate, but you won’t get hate back from me.”

Something that resonated with me in my interview with Shaun T is that he is unapologetic about who he is, and vulnerable about his journey to fatherhood. “The strength in masculinity is in the acceptance of who you are and what you can truthfully tell the world,” he says. “The man I am today came from the fact that I made the choice to continue to change.”

For my own personal experience of fatherhood to my 17-year-old daughter, becoming a dad has brought me back to myself in a way that no other experience has. It has challenged me to look at myself not only as a father but as the man I aspire to be.

That’s also been the case with many real men around the country as they define what fatherhood means to them — and it has challenged what they think it means to be a good dad.

Some of those men also spoke to “Dear Men” about their experiences.

“Being a dad has sharpened how I view masculinity and how I live through my masculinity,” says Joel Daniels. “Having a daughter [has], if anything, strengthened how I view my masculinity, because I think there’s a certain power in being vulnerable.”

He’s not alone in agreeing that vulnerability is the key to unlocking your power as a man and father. “Being a dad has influenced my sense of masculinity because it has allowed me to embrace emotion,” says Jose Medina. “The first time I cried ever since I was a child was when my son was born, and I didn’t cry, I wept, and I wept uncontrollably.”

So often men think being a man comes before being a dad. But fatherhood and masculinity are intertwined. We live in an era when we can truly break the stereotypes of what it means to be a father and become more vulnerable and emotionally available to our children.

I’ve learned that parenting is a selfless process, but nothing can be as fulfilling as offering your full dedication to another human being — as I do for my daughter. My hope is that new and existing fathers realize that while providing for your children in the material sense is an important duty, we also have something of much deeper value to offer them … a father’s unconditional love.