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Doug Veal's Transition: Redefining Roles from Detective to Devoted Dad

Dads With Daughters

Release Date: 06/10/2024

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More Episodes

This week on the Dads with Daughters Podcast, we welcome Doug Veal, a devoted father and past Police Detective. In this episode we dive deep into learning more about Doug's journey and what he had to do to be the dad that he knew that he wanted to be.

The Pivot to Parenthood 

When Doug Veal discovered he would become a father, the ensuing excitement was matched by an awareness of his wife's heart condition. The joy of fatherhood came with a responsibility to pivot his focus from being a police officer to providing for his family during their medical journey. Veal's decision to take parental leave, an unusual step in law enforcement culture, underscored the emerging shift in parental roles and the importance of being present during critical family moments. Taking leave amid the challenges of a demanding career, Veal showed that fatherhood demanded flexibility, courage, and an unabashed willingness to break from tradition.

Shaping a Legacy

Doug Veal's discernment in prioritizing family well-being over career progression serves as a testament to the evolving nature of fatherhood. Inspired by his belief in being a balanced role model and the potential of his children's future, Veal's journey from the force to becoming a stay-at-home dad exemplifies the sacrifice and adaptability required in modern parenting. He advises fathers to be patient and considerate in their interactions with challenges, knowing that these qualities shape their legacy far beyond tangible achievements.

The Power of Community and Support

Acknowledging the pressures and complexities associated with his transition, Veal harnessed the support of employee assistance programs and peer support groups to navigate stressful periods. His experiences highlight the crucial role of community in providing different perspectives and shared experiences. Belonging to a network of fathers allows for a collective wisdom that individual experience alone cannot replicate, providing grounding and solidarity in the adventure of fatherhood.

Maximizing Family

Time In today's world where work encroaches on personal life, Veal emphasizes the importance of boundary setting. Whether it's outdoor adventures or being present from morning till school time, he urges fathers to maximize quality interactions with their children. Veal's proactive approach to fatherhood—choosing meaningful experiences over work commitments—serves as a powerful reminder to dads about the essence of being present and cherishing fleeting moments.

Reflecting on Being a Dad

In the 'fatherhood 5' segment, Veal refers to fatherhood as an adventure while sharing fond memories like his son's merit for respect. His vision for the future is to be seen as fun, involved, and particularly, available. This segment cements the notion that fatherhood is an evolving journey marked by pivotal moments that shape not only the life of the child but also the personal growth of the father.

You can learn more about Doug's journey as a father in the new book by Sarah Maconachie, Working Dads and Balancing Acts.



Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:05]:
Welcome to dads with daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads, resources, and more to help you be the best dad you can be.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:16]:
Welcome back to the Dads with Daughters podcast, where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughter's lives, raising them to be strong independent women. Really excited to have you back again this week. Every week, I love being able to sit down with you, to walk with you on this journey that you're on. And to be honest, you and I are on this same journey together because I've got 2 daughters, you've got daughters, and it's always important to be able to learn from each other and be willing to learn from each other, but also to learn from others to help us to be the dads that we wanna be. And we do that every week by having some great conversations to delve deeper into what it means to be a dad, but also we get to learn from other dads in the journeys that they've been on to be able to help them to be the dads that they've become. And this week we've got another great guest on the show. You might remember that we had a one of our past guests, Sarah McConachie, was on the show just recently talking about her new book that is out called Work Hard, Parent Hard. And she's got books for dads and moms.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:23]:
And we talked about her book for dads. And from talking to her, I got an opportunity to be able to get connected with some of the dads that she connected with in her book. And today we've got one of those dads with us. Doug Veal is with us, and he's a father of 2 sons. And he's going to talk a little bit about some of his own journey, not only with his 2 sons, some of the journey that he went on to go from working. And I'm not going to share too much yet because we're going to be talking about what he did, but working in the police force to becoming a stay at home dad and working with his dad, taking advantage of time to be there for his kids and and really delving a little bit deeper on that. So I'm really excited to have him on. Doug, thanks so much for being here today.

Doug Veal [00:02:06]:
Yeah. Thank you for having me. I'm really excited.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:02:08]:
I'm excited to have you here as well. And first and foremost, I love being able to turn the clock back in time. So I wanna go back a couple of years, and I wanna turn the clock back to that first moment that you found out that you were going to be a father. What was going through your head?

Doug Veal [00:02:24]:
I've always wanted to be a dad. I was really, really keen, but I wanted to make sure that we were set up in the best position we could be. And that said, we weren't really planning to have kids as early as we did, and I think it was about 6 months after we got married, to be honest. And it was, yeah, just absolute excitement, and then just that moment of going, oh, okay. Now the things are getting serious. Now we need to plan. So it's a pivotal moment, and it was a case of, alright. How do we well, what do we go from here? So I knew that the impact that it was gonna have on my wife and I was gonna be slightly more complicated than just, that overwhelming joy and excitement because my wife had a heart condition, so we needed to look at how that was gonna impact her health and, what that would mean.

Doug Veal [00:03:12]:
I think it's the common thing would be, yeah, we had a lot of excitement and a lot of nervousness to go, okay, what happens next? And how do we bring that into our lives?

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:20]:
Now you just brought up, one of the things that I I know that you dealt with very early on and not only through the pregnancy, but into the birth of your first child, which was that your wife did have some health challenges. She had a heart condition and had to have some significant heart surgery after the birth of your first child. So as a part of that, I know that you had to do some pivoting. You had been working as a police officer for many years, doing work with your government as well. Just very involved in the work that you had done in your career. Talk to me about first and foremost, so at the birth of your child and the health issues of your wife, I know that you had to take a more supportive role during your wife's health challenges. And how did that impact your approach to parenting and work life balance?

Doug Veal [00:04:10]:
On the lead up, so when Edison was born, he's my my first son. And when he was born, I knew that I'll be taking the time off. I knew that my work was especially replacing the benefits that I had access to allowed me to take that time off, and I took 3 months off. There were some interesting conversations with some detective senior sergeants. At the time, I was working as a detective investigator doing money laundering investigations at state crime level and then moved into corruption invest in a corruption task force. And the discussions initially to take that time off were quite challenging. I was talking to a quite seasoned and, I'd say, old school detective who hadn't really understood the support mechanisms that we like to try and enjoy at the moment. And I'm I'm really glad that we do have access to things such as parental leave.

Doug Veal [00:05:02]:
And I'm really glad that we've got access to things like parental leave, and we've got those supports and that the decision making for those to access that leave isn't to your immediate supervisor or to your district. It goes beyond that. It's on a more of a government level because being under that umbrella of a government employee. I think it was access or the pivot. So when Edison came along, I was going to be playing a a large role. I took took that time. It was time that I knew that I would like, but it was also time knowing that my wife had a caesarean section. There was some further support that was needed.

Doug Veal [00:05:41]:
So I really cherish that the month after Edison was born, being able to offer that support to be able to get that really good contact and to get to know my son and actually will rewind a little bit immediately after he was born. Well, the birth itself was quite an interesting birth. I think we had 27 people in the room for a cesarean section, which was quite a dramatic affair. So we had the normal surgery team. We had NICU people because Edison was slightly premature because there was some complications, and then we had a full cardio surgery team on standby to have given a 30% chance that my wife would have a cardiac event immediately following the delivery. So Edison was born, cried, and it was the best thing I'd ever heard, followed by the most scared I've ever been because now came the danger period. So after delivery, Edison went to the NICU and my wife, Nicola, went to the ICU. And I was in an interesting position I hadn't really planned for because do I walk one way or do I go the other way? Do I go to where my wife was or do I go to where my new child was? And I'm not gonna say we're trying no.

Doug Veal [00:06:55]:
I went I went, to where my son was and making sure that I could jog between the 2 because they were all housed in the same hospital. So that really cemented to me that I needed to take that time to make sure that us as a family unit, we're gonna be having the healing that we needed to be able to get through the next stages. So after 3 months, I did go back to work. And then knowing that after a few months, Nicola would need to have that heart surgery. So I ended up having open heart surgery. Again, that put me in a position of having an extended period of leave. And then almost it was 6 months to the day after the heart surgery, we fell pregnant with our second son, Terrence. That's quite funny.

Doug Veal [00:07:38]:
I can pinpoint the exact moment. One of them we found out and second of when the dirty deed happened because I was in between army training blocks, and I only came home for a weekend, which is quite an interesting little time peg, to be honest. But it's been quite the journey on the health front and the children front. But as far as making the decision or my decision to to leave placing, there was a few things that had occurred throughout the first pregnancy that I was slightly uncomfortable with as far as decision making and my ability to be able to invest what I normally do, which would be about 60 to 80 hour week because there's exactly what we're doing now. Part of the investigations were overseas. It was a case of you can't let off on the tempo when you're fully involved in an investigation. I wasn't in a position that I wanted to continue doing that. It was a choice that I made to take a step back.

Doug Veal [00:08:36]:
It's not something that I could've continued down that path in my current career choice. So I'm just saying I'd have to take my foot off the gas on the detective front. My transition to back to uniform. I was promoted after my leave, which was quite good. It was saying that was quite important to me knowing that I could access those entitlements and then that not having a lasting impact on my career after being warned by my detective senior sergeant that it would have an impact. It was quite good that it wasn't the case. However, a 3 panel roster is unforgiving for anyone else out in the law enforcement community and just shift work generally. Knowing that I did have weeks when my boys were quite young not seeing them, because we would have a, you know, starting a shift at 4 PM and then coming home at 2 o'clock to sleep until 10.

Doug Veal [00:09:28]:
It's not really a family friendly roster. So there was too much impetus on my career at the time, and that needed to change.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:36]:
I appreciate you sharing that. Now, one of the things you just talked about was the fact that, you know, as a police officer, there's a culture, there's a expectation in regards to the work that you're required to do and probably some old school mentality versus new school mentality as it comes to thinking about parenting and being present in your kids' lives. You've mentioned the fact that you took some extended parental leave as you were a police officer, and that might not have been the norm at the time in regards to what you were doing. What motivated you to prioritize family time and to set your career on the back seat for yourself as you were focusing and putting the effort on your family versus the career at the time?

Doug Veal [00:10:28]:
Yeah. And I think this gets to the heart of the issue of of that balance. I've always had quite strong role models. So I looked at how my father was and the parts that I wanted to emulate and then the parts that I didn't wanna emulate, knowing that he's human like everyone. There's there's part, and he was a different situation. But looking at how I could shape my situation and knowing I had access to those lives, but also knowing that I get to shape the reality for my children. Parents have such a large influence about especially early on in what you can expose your kids to, how you can show value, how you can demonstrate those or model behaviors. That you know that your 2 year old, your 3 year old, your 5 year old's gonna emulate.

Doug Veal [00:11:14]:
So really wanting to set that strong role model and give them a balanced perspective. It's not about just being a champion or being an ideal or just a figure. So I look at who I've looked up to and which leaders and things that I've gone, oh, I wanna be like that person, and then started to really look down and go, well, I like them for 1 attribute or 2 attributes or a behavior, not across a set of behaviors. So I really knew that I needed to balance out and not just be one one figure. So and I think a turning point came to me, and it was an interesting one. I think it hit quite hard. So I got my army photos, and I've got my policing photos, and some parts where I've been at training, and some parts where I've done some other tactical training. And boys being boys, fascinated with guns.

Doug Veal [00:12:08]:
And then I had my 3 year old come up to me and ask me, basically, oh, so you're a policeman. You shoot people. And I was like, oh, this is a very difficult conversation, knowing that it's a touchy subject. And I'm not gonna go too much into that subject in this podcast. However, it was something that made me reflect and go, I need to really broaden the exposure or or how I present and to set that example for my children.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:12:35]:
Now I know that in what you wrote in Sarah's book, you talked about the importance for you to access support through that journey for yourself being away from work, but also being present at home. Can you talk to me about the support services that you did take advantage of? I know you talked in your writing about employment assistant programs. How did seeking professional help contribute to your well-being during those stressful times that you were having, whether it be at work or at home?

Doug Veal [00:13:09]:
I've used the employee assistance program a number of times, and when I was able to engage it during the stress that we felt over the, pregnancy and through early childhood, it was a a huge benefit. It's like that I was able to go with Nicola and talk through some of the issues and talk through some of the difficulties that we're facing and trying to really put it in perspective. So looking at larger health concerns, we had a period where we bounced from crisis to crisis and where we actually struggled wasn't in the crisis times. It was in the periods of slightly less crisis because the priorities weren't quite as clear, yet there was still an enormous amount of things to be done. So accessing that support was really helpful in setting those priorities, talking through some things, and then getting beyond the immediate with some of the future planning. Another really good support that we've got, and I'm not sure if it's as prevalent in the US as it is in Australia. We've got dads groups, which are normally a Facebook group and you meet up at a park and it really grounds the fatherhood experience. You look at it and you go, oh, and it takes the edge off of what, yeah, the larger issues because you find out that there's 15, 20 different ways to deal with the same thing.

Doug Veal [00:14:28]:
For an example, Edison had clubfoot when he was born, and that was such an interesting experience, especially when I was I was taking that time off from work. I'll be taking Edison around the shops, And I'll get people stuff and go, oh, such a good dad and things of that nature. And he was on in a cast and things at that time, which was an interesting experience. And then I'll go out with my wife, and we'll get it just wasn't the same experience for her. It was always questions about how he broke his leg. And it's like, he hasn't broken his leg. So it was concerns about parenting so much more with my wife. And when I was out there, it was a conversation piece.

Doug Veal [00:15:09]:
So there was nothing but praise, which I found quite odd. Not saying take advantage and have some interesting conversations and enjoy it, but there was a big difference in the way that even saying it as small as going to the shops, the impact that that had. So talking through parts of that. And also I ended up joining a mother's group because I was the primary carer when Edison came. And I was sharing some experiences because my family had fostered for a large period of time. So I've always had kids in the house and quite young kids, which set me up a little bit, quite well for dealing with my kids. However, it's a completely different experience. I think we ended up in the mid nineties as far as the children that came for short stay through our house.

Doug Veal [00:15:56]:
So we had a range of different children with different backgrounds and experiences that we've worked through. So, yeah, quite interest. So back to the mother's group. So we were talking and we're sharing some experiences, and I could see that there were some people in the group that were getting quite fatigued and their resilience was quite down. And that was one of the huge benefits that we had with both of us being off work at the time or both of us being able to take some time off is that we could really get into some shift work and that wasn't a stranger for me. So I didn't mind doing some night shifts every so often. So going through the mother's grief and just trying to bring a bit of a calming influence of, yes, it will pass. There's a limited amount of things that the baby's going to be crying for and trying to bring something that I understand to be really quite an emotional experience down to, okay, hungry, wind, wet nappy.

Doug Veal [00:16:49]:
Like there's normally a finite amount of things that can be checked and monitored so we can, yeah, hopefully stop the crying for a bit and give you that 4 hour window of a little bit of sleep. It all changes after the second one, which I'm sure that your listeners are aware. Sleep when the baby sleeps is really good advice until you got 2, and then it's when it's just a challenge.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:17:11]:
Yeah. Especially in those early years, you definitely go through that zombie period where you don't know what ends up and you're going on so little sleep. And and when I talk to people that are like, oh, my kids slept all the time. And I'm like, oh, I wish that I would had been the case. Because that's not always the case.

Doug Veal [00:17:27]:
No. No. It's not. And, yeah, some people, they need to know it's normal and it does end. It does end. But, yes, I remember there was a period, I think it was about the 4 month mark with Terrence, my second son. Well, I didn't want to go to bed. I knew that as soon as I go to bed, it's just going to be interrupted.

Doug Veal [00:17:45]:
I'd rather push through. And it was really challenging for about a month or 2 months. That period of sleep progression that was unfortunately teed up with, I think, with potty training with Edison. So there was just a lot of things going on, a lot of washing and not much sleep.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:18:01]:
Now I know one of the things that you and especially regarding family time. For you, how do you ensure that your work commitments don't encroach upon those boundaries?

Doug Veal [00:18:20]:
Well, I'm lucky enough at the moment. So I'm currently an assistant director working for a federal agency. So most of the people who I supervise so the eastern states shut down. They're 3 hours ahead. So I've got a great flexibility in how I set my work schedule up, which is really quite handy. But with my boundaries, I really look to how I can maximize my interaction time with with my kids. So after work is kids' time. So you'll rarely find me on the phone after 5 o'clock my time.

Doug Veal [00:18:53]:
If the sun's out, we're going to the park. If it's good weather, we're outside. If it's not great weather, we've got a I don't know how many of your listeners are gonna be Bluey fans, but we've got that big green shed hammer barn, which is called Bunnings. They've actually got a playground in them. So we'll go to Bunnings for a bit. So school time, family time. Weekends, it's gonna be fishing, camping, going on adventures, taking the 4 wheel drive out. And I don't expect sleep ins, to be quite brutally honest.

Doug Veal [00:19:23]:
So it's a thing of the past. I was half when I wrote my chapter, I was happy with 1 every week, but like I'm just gonna say, if I'm not watching the sunrise or if I'm in bed after 6, then there's probably something wrong. No. It's good. I've got 2 young boys who are eager to start the day, and I'm eager to start it with them.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:19:42]:
That's amazing. Now I know that one of the things that you wrote about too, and some of this goes back down to what you said earlier that you were working 60 to 80 hours a week. Your job was taking you to many different places. But I know travel also seemed to be a recurring theme in your life. How would you say that your global experiences influence your parenting approach and your child's upbringing?

Doug Veal [00:20:08]:
I've really enjoyed traveling. I've been lucky enough to get out and about. I've done 6 out of the 7 continents for a month or more. COVID kind of put a really quite a big dampener on international travel. So when the restrictions ended, I jumped at the opportunity to take my boys and go to London to visit their uncle or my brother. So we went off to London. So there's a direct flight from Perth to London. It's a 17 hour flight, and I think I'm just gonna rename that the challenge.

Doug Veal [00:20:43]:
I think it was the better of 2 evils to be quite fair. I don't think a 8 hour flight and then a stopover and then another 10 hour flight or 12 hour flight would have really been any easier. But I'm set on giving my kids a series of experiences that's gonna round them out quite well. There's 7,000,000,000 people in the world. No one's got it completely right. We can learn by, well, one, getting out into our neighborhood, but then going beyond our neighborhood and looking for those different experiences and meeting different people. Yeah. London was a really interesting experience.

Doug Veal [00:21:16]:
They're not set up for Australian sized prams over in the UK. So, yeah, the footpaths aren't pram friendly. So my wife joined me for the first couple of weeks and then took a nice relaxing flight home. I soloed outed over in, yeah, a very, very busy city for a few weeks after that and tried to really give them the experience. I think it was more for me. I'm satisfied that it's more for me going to museums and galleries, but some really good photos. And even when they've had enough, I'll take a photo. I've got a really, really good one of Terrence in front of Van Gogh's Sunflowers where he's decided that he doesn't wanna play anymore at the National Gallery in London.

Doug Veal [00:22:00]:
And, yeah, it takes a while to get out of those places. And especially when the the more quiet it is, I don't know, they seem to hide the exits. We did the same in the National Library trying to get our escape route. But then slowly after we got some good experiences, we hit the parks. We hit the parks pretty hard. The boys love slides. So, yeah, from everywhere, from Axbridge to London Bridge, I think we've done every single one of those packs.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:22:26]:
Very fun. Now, I guess, as we finish up today, what advice would you give to fathers who are similarly navigating the complexities of career advancement while at the same time trying to strive to be that actively engaged dad that they wanna be.

Doug Veal [00:22:46]:
Well, I know that I'm no expert have what you would like to do and the impact that that's gonna have. You get one run at it, so I would choose the things that last. So and that's one of the reasons that I've, in my balance, I'm probably tilted slightly more to the family side. I love my career. I'm quite particular in the steps that I take. However, I know that I'm a dad first, and that's really quite a large change. Having always been a police officer. I've been that for over a decade, having that as a large personality, trait to making that shift, especially when my kids came along.

Doug Veal [00:23:32]:
Life's full of choices. Some have much larger impacts and impacts that you're not aware of. And that's forefront in my mind when I'm looking at how I'm raising kids. But it's one of those thing that it's a privilege. It's at times overwhelming, but it's an adventure. So there's gonna be some great bits, some funny bits, some sad bits, scary bits, but some brilliant moments. So lean into it and enjoy the ride.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:24:02]:
Now we always finish our interviews with what I like to call our fatherhood 5, where I ask you 5 more questions to delve deeper into you as a dad. Are you ready? Yep. In one word, what is fatherhood?

Doug Veal [00:24:11]:

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:24:12]:
When was the time that you finally felt like you succeeded at being a father?

Doug Veal [00:24:16]:
That would have been about oh, it was last week. Edison fur oh, so he's going to school, 1st year in school, and he got a merit certificate in the 1st assembly for respect. So I was, yeah, a real proud dad moment.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:24:33]:
Now I know your kids are young right now, but if I was to talk to them, how would they describe you as a dad?

Doug Veal [00:24:40]:
Depends on what we were doing immediately before. I think Edison would describe me as fun, and he would describe me as always wanting to give it a go. There's not too many projects that we haven't tried. We definitely take on some projects and give it a red hot crack. So, yeah, I'm gonna stick with give it a go.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:25:01]:
And as you think 10 years down the road, what do you want them to say then?

Doug Veal [00:25:05]:
Available. If it was one word, they'd be available. Looked at different ways and behaviors that I'm gonna try or that I've brought in and values that I have about getting involved in community and service, and that's not military service. It's community service. So one of the ways I'm doing it at the moment is as a volunteer firefighter. Yeah. I find that I want to be able to impart those things. However, the one thing that I would like to resonate with them is availability.

Doug Veal [00:25:34]:
If they need me, I'm gonna be there.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:25:37]:
Who inspires you to be a better dad?

Doug Veal [00:25:38]:
The cliche is my dad. So to a large part, it's that, but they do. So it's the dichotomy. It's they do because they are an absolute ball of potential, and their future future is not written. And it's my job to be able to assist, shape that. I can't control it. I can't do it all, But I'm gonna give it a really red hot crack in making sure that we get the best results we can.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:26:05]:
And as we and finally, what's one piece of advice you'd wanna give to every dad?

Doug Veal [00:26:11]:
Patient. You shouldn't be able to be wound up by your 3 year old or 5 year old or probably even your 10 year old. You're gonna get wound up by your 16 year old, but but I think that's a slightly different different area. But, yeah, patience. The problem isn't the problem. It's how we interact with the problem.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:26:29]:
Well, Doug, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey today. If people wanna read more about you in Sarah's book or find more about you, where should they go?

Doug Veal [00:26:40]:
Yeah. So I can go to workhardparenthard.com.au. You can find the books there. We've touched on some really cool things in this, but there's a fair few more things that we can you can read about. And there's, yeah, tons more people adding their experience to it. So, yeah, it's it's quite an exciting venture.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:26:59]:
Well, Doug, thank you for being here, and I appreciate you sharing your journey, and I wish you all the best.

Doug Veal [00:27:06]:
Excellent. Thank you very much.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:27:07]:
If you've enjoyed today's episode of the Dads with Daughters podcast, we invite you to check out the fatherhood insider. The insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual and most dads are figuring it out as they go along, and the fatherhood insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, step by step roadmaps, and more, you will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly, dads like you. So check it out at fathering together.org. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the Dads with Daughters Facebook community, there's a link in the notes today. Dads with Daughters is a program of fathering together. We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week, all geared to helping you raise strong empowered daughters and be the best dad that you can be.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:28:05]:
We're all in the same boat, and it's full of tiny screaming passengers. We spend the time, we give the lessons, We make the meals. We buy them presents and bring your a game. Because those kids are growing fast, the time goes by just like a dynamite blast. Calling astronauts and firemen, carpenters, and musclemen. Get out and beat the world to them. Dad you can be.