Fashion Photographer, Daniel D'Ottavio Talks Balancing Fatherhood, and Work Life
Last week at The Palm Court located in the heart of The Plaza Hotel, BOND OFFICIAL was able to chat with Brooklyn based fashion photographer, and model, Daniel D’Ottavio over fine refreshments.
In addition to his natural aptitude for photography, Daniel happily fathers two sons in partnership with his wife, Claire. In efforts to further propel, and expand views on authentic definitions of masculinity in progentitorship, Daniel discusses his experience balancing two of the most circumstantial things in his life: fatherhood, and work.
He says, “You’ll always wonder if you’ve done enough. Did I do the right thing? Did I say the right thing? Did I handle a learning situation in the best way possible? What I’ve learned is to just have a little trust in myself, and to know that whatever comes at me, I’ll have the answers for them. They may not always be the easy answers, but I’ll give them the honest answer. Once you’re a father, you’re a father forever. No matter how old you get”
Daniel is standing by this self proclaimed statement as he continues to navigate his parenting journey.
Keep scrolling to read what he has to say on the following subjects:
On Relationship With Wife, and Kids:
Tristan (left) is eleven, and Aiden (right) is nine. They’re both complementary of each other. I’m close to both of them, and there are qualities I recognize in each of them in their own way. Tristan my older son likes musical theatre. I have a background in theatre. He likes to sing, he’s artistic, and a big communicator whereas Aiden is highly competitive, more physical. He loves to run, so we are similar in that perspective because I was also an athlete, and a runner.
Bonding comes very naturally. With the advancements of technology like Facetime, and Skype, I started very early with them doing regular sessions in addition to seeing them every other weekend in Ottawa. I would do puppet shows to maintain their attention on Skype, and I would read books to them before bed. It’s all about trying to get them to interact with me as much as possible. Some of my most joyous times happen when I’m with my wife, and my kids. Time is key, and my now wife Claire has supported me, and made it possible to be as present as I can be in their lives.
On Pressures of Balancing Work Life, and Fatherhood:
The most precious commodity anyone can have in life is time with the people they love. In the beginning years of my career in New York City when I was a new father, it was indeed challenging because time meant money, and money meant time. So, I was always trying to use any extra resource, time, and means to be with them as they live in Canada in Ottawa! The first 5 years I would travel up there twice a month, now I visit them once a month, and they come to New York three times a year. I have their own bedroom, toys, games, clothing - everything they would need. As the years have progressed, and I have more clients than I did when I first moved here ten to twelve years ago, it has become easier.
In the beginning of fatherhood , I was on my own so a lot has happened since then that has allowed me to be very involved in their lives. I treat both my sons as individuals, and I recognize what inspires them. Like any young child, most of their mind is set on having fun so, a big part of my job as a father is to create fun experiences with them. Doing things that they enjoy - not just having them in New York City in my world, but entering into their world in Canada! I’ll coach baseball, soccer, skiing , break dancing , singing/theatre and so on.
On Meeting Emotional Expectations:
At first I wasn’t able to define what that was, and I struggled with that. Feeling guilty for not being able to see them everyday, obviously I’d always want to come up with an arm full of gifts, and toys. Although, that’s a fun, nice distraction, all kids really need to have a fun time is being present with them. That’s also something a dear friend of mine would always reinforce. Don’t worry about anything more than just spending time with them. That’s the most valuable thing you can give your children, so that’s always my number one priority, and I feel like I have risen to those expectations as a father.
I knew if I did this at their young age, I would develop a really strong bond with them. That was the thing that I knew i could not miss out on. The emotional, and physical energy. You have a fine amount of time to really impress, and bond with children.
On Preconceived ideas of Fatherhood versus what it actually is:
Fatherhood in my mind was going to be more traditional. I assumed I would be married before I had children. My advice to people who are thinking of starting a family is to establish that first. Have a life partner that you are willing to go through thick, and thin with because you need that sort of bond, and glue. Raising children is one of the more challenging things you can ever do in life. It takes a village to raise a child. It’s not only having friends, and family. It takes a lot more! Even though I didn’t plan to have children in the way I did, I stepped up to the role because I knew it was a sign, and gift from God. Something told me that this was right, and that I could do it! I was wanting, and willing.
On Relationship with Father:
My Father lived in San Francisco while I grew up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, so I know what it’s like to miss my father. Since I became a father, I have deeper understanding into his world, and the challenges he had missing the day to day life happenings. My father taught me that there’s no more important legacy in life than being a good father. And the kindest compliment he’s ever given me is saying I’m implementing everything he taught me and done for me, only I’m doing even better. He explained that’s how it’s supposed to work with parenting , to hopefully teach our children to make wise and courageous life choices that we can always be prideful about .
Thoughts on Why Most Men Compartmentalize Their Pain:
Because we are taught to. Historically! I think there are times where you have to check your luggage at the door. Going into a meeting, you can’t let people know that you are having a bad day, or that you want to cry because you miss your kids. You know, there is a time, and place for that so you have to know when to turn it on, and when to turn it off. In business, you really always have to bring your best foot forward.
I personally can’t help but express how I feel, I am a very expressive person to begin with so as a father, that kind of goes into that. I think that some fathers who are away from their children can just shove it down and put it in a compartment - compartmentalizing their pain, I don’t function that way. I am very intune with my spirit, my soul, my heart, and the people I love in my life. All of those things are connected for me as an artist.
I just don’t know how to ignore that I’m a father. What a beautiful gift, and responsibility it is . Even though it’s frightening sometimes, and there are a lot of unknowns, it’s more rewarding when you have purpose that is outside of yourself. It’s different than being a photographer. Being a parent is a special type of love that really only parents can understand. In a way, though it has been challenging, it has also been very liberating - for my heart, for my creativity. Knowing that I have no other choice but to succeed because my children are counting on me.
On The Most Significant Learnt From Fatherhood:
To be gracious to myself. You’ll always wonder if you’ve done enough. Did I do the right thing? Did I say the right thing? Did I handle a learning situation in the best way possible? What I’ve learned is to just have a little trust in myself, and to know that whatever comes at me, I’ll have the answers for them. They may not always be the easy answers, but I’ll give them the honest answer. Once you’re a father, you’re a father forever. No matter how old you are.
Every heartache I went though taught me how to be more, and how to expand. By being in those spaces of uncertainty, and unfamiliarity, or fear, I learn more about who I could be. So, the idea of living without regrets is something I think we all relate to coming to New York with a dream.
When it comes to parenting, I just don’t want to regret having to be a part of my kid’s lives. It’s the most important thing I could do as a man. First, having to be a good father, everything else follows that. Being a good son, being a good artist, being a good brother.
Seeing your child come into the world is the most spiritual experience. Once you see it happen in front of you, and you know that somehow, you’re connected to this perfect being who could become anyone or anything good in the world, it’s wonderful. It’s the kind of love you just can’t describe. It’s a really beautiful feeling. That love doesn’t have to be biological by the way. It’s just knowing that you look forward to being a parent.