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Combating Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome

A house-broken, domesticated gathering of suburban men
Suburban Dads

There is a tendency when we are young to look at adults in their thirties, forties, or fifties and say to them, "Well, I'll never [say that/do that/act like that/let myself ___] when I'm older." Growing up, I remember conversations with my friends where we would say things like this about adults we'd see in the mall or about our teachers in high school. I remember thinking about it when I would take an occasional night class in junior college while sitting in a room with some of my older classmates. I especially remember saying it to my parents, often scornfully.

I also remember them responding straightforwardly: "Just wait and see."


When I looked into the mirror this morning, I gave myself an honest evaluation of where I am. As my eyes adjusted (they don't work as quickly as they once did), a rather unsightly image came into focus. As I took a mental inventory, I began to laugh with a mixture of sadness and disdain. In my voice, I hear the voices of my parents: "Just wait and see," they say.

Oh, I see clearly, and I hate what I see.


There is a way that many Americans live, especially among American men, that, to be honest, is the worst possible way to live. We live in complete comfort where the most dangerous item we likely will face is slipping and falling because we have no real control over our over-fattened bodies. We cram the worst food and drink into our mouths, our form of exercise consists of walking to the bathroom and back to our chair or couch, and we allow our bodies to corrode in idleness. Our eyes are deteriorating from too many screens in our faces. We can barely bend over and touch our knees (forget about our toes - many of us can't see them unless we prop our feet up in the recliner.) When we slightly stretch, we pull muscles instead of strengthening them. Our joints hurt, we are irritable, we can't jog further than the front door to the mailbox (forget the return journey back to the door), and eventually, we turn our children into our "Go-fers."

Mac gunning down excuses
It's all y'alls fault!

We also act like we are a tough bunch. We are prone to talking shit and ready to fight the world. We get angry at the slightest grievances, especially from "them." We do this because, deep inside, we are indeed mad. We are pissed off to High Heaven. Sadly, what we are doing is we are lashing out. We are spraying venom and barbs in all directions. We want to blame everything and everyone for our sorry state of affairs. Fuck the Boss! Fuck my nagging spouse and ungrateful kids! Fuck my asshole neighbors! Fuck the PTA! Fuck the coaches for not playing my kid! Fuck the store for running out of my beer! Fuck these new traffic circles! Fuck the government for not making everyone live how I think we should live!

Fuck everyone and everything.

Instead, we must get off our asses, walk straight into our bathrooms, and look in the mirror. That person you see? The one looking you in the eyes and sizing you up? That is the problem right there. That is the one you need to be angry with. That person is the source of all your problems. You are your problem. Deal with you. No amount of tong clicks will make it magically go away.

Fuck the man in the mirror
Fuck me! I am the only one to blame.

How we deal with ourselves is the tricky part. While there are many resources to help us, none are worth a damn if you aren't committed to taking ownership of yourself to get rid of your "Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome."

Whether rededicating yourself or making complete wholesale changes, you need a plan. While there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" plan, here are my six HAVE TOs when deciding to heal yourself:

  1. You HAVE TO REFLECT. Be completely honest with yourself about who you are, why you are the way you are, and who you want to be. If that involves consulting with friends and loved ones, go ahead, but ultimately you must do this for yourself. It's about YOU, not what others think or want you to be.

  2. You HAVE TO PLAN. Going into anything without a plan is guaranteed to bring on failure, leading to frustration, anger, and ultimately surrender. Don't half-ass it.

  3. You HAVE TO COMMIT. No commitment = No success

  4. You HAVE TO ADAPT. No matter how well you plan, it will never go exactly as you expect it to. Life is going to happen. To borrow from the U.S. Marines, you will have to "improvise, adapt, overcome."

  5. You HAVE TO SEE IT TO THE END. Don't let all your hard work go to waste by quitting. What a losing attitude to do so.

  6. You HAVE TO CONTINUE. Life is a journey that keeps going until we all reach the ultimate end of the trip. Maybe to continue means an extension of the program you are doing. Perhaps it means resetting and starting a schedule again. It may even mean doing a different agenda. Otherwise, if you quit, then you are returning to the original program you want to leave in the first place.


Depending on your personality and goals, several challenges and programs are likely. Find what best suits you that will allow you to meet the six HAVE TOs.

Pillars of your temple
Three Pillars of Self: BODY, MIND, SOUL

Depending on your personality and goals, several challenges and programs are likely. Find what best suits you that will allow you to meet the six HAVE TOs.

Many challenges and programs are geared primarily toward physical fitness, but the best include other aspects. My philosophy is the Three Pillars of Self: BODY, MIND, SOUL. Challenges and programs incorporating physical fitness, education and knowledge, mental and emotional health, and spirituality into the program make for a better overall experience and are more likely to be successful since they go beyond a singular goal.

Before you begin, let's define the difference between a challenge and a program.

Personally, I see a challenge as a finite entity. They are often measured in days, so it is common to see 30-day challenges, but there are shorter and more extended challenges. They typically consist of specific goals such as workouts and diets; some incorporate other items such as reading a book, doing an activity, etc. They tend to be rigid in their rules. For example, one challenge I explored stated that if you fail to meet any daily goals, you are "disqualified" and have to start over. Some are free, while others require an investment.

A few challenges to look into:

  • The Men's Health 30-Day Workout Challenge: You can get moving to get in shape—but you have to commit.

  • 30-Day Fitness Challenge by The 30-Day Fitness Challenge is designed to work every major muscle group in your body—every day.

  • 75 Soft: It is a fantastic standalone fitness and health challenge or a progressive stepping stone as you work your way up to being able to eventually complete the 75 Hard program.


I define a program as something that can continue for the rest of your life. More often than not, these programs require an investment, either as a program purchase or a monthly subscription. They come structured, evolving, or a mixture of both. Because they don't end after a certain number of days, they tend to be more encompassing of the Three Pillars of Self.

Here are some programs that are worth exploring:

  • The Strenuous Life: The Strenuous Life is a platform for those who wish to revolt against our age of ease, comfort, and existential weightlessness.

  • The Iron Council: The Iron Council was designed to help men level up their lives. The men here are doing more than just talking about being better men – they’re doing the work required to be one.

  • GORUCK Tribe: GORUCK Tribe is the next evolution of commitment — of mind, body, and spirit — to this more challenging path.


If you have read this far, you want a change. A change from how you've been living to heal yourself so you can start L-I-V-I-N! We wish you the best in changing from "Soft Suburban Dad Syndrome" into becoming someone new or returning to your true self.

Wisdom from Woodward

Author's Note: While this article is geared toward the suburban dads of America, the concepts are available for anyone.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Feb 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is beautifully written. So many people get a bit older, a bit busier, and let their responsibilities consume them. The physical manifestation of that is usually what knocks us back to reality but there's a lot going on "inside" as well. It just shows what an unnatural state being sedentary and overly "comfortable" is.

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