Champion dads

Mark Mulroney

Mark Mulroney has spent his entire career working in financial markets, spending time in New York, Toronto and London. Mark currently serves as a managing director with Scotiabank’s global banking and markets team. He is a graduate of Duke University and is married to Vanessa, whom he met while working for RBC in the UK. They have three sons and a daughter: Maximilian, born in 2010; Dylan, born in 2011; Ronan, born in 2013; and Mila, born in 2016. Mark and Vanessa are very active in their community and support causes such as mental health, children at risk, and the arts.

Words from Mark:

My Dad’s wisdom as a father has permeated our relationship, although he never makes it sound like he’s giving advice. He might say to me, “I am not exactly sure what you’re talking about, but this is what I think…” He’s a labour negotiator, so he’ll soften me up and then get to the point after disarming me.

A few years ago, our conversations changed: there was no “thing,” no reason for him to call except to be in my life. He might say, “I was just thinking about you,” or “I want to say I am so proud of you…” It’s uplifting. It’s a release for me. It settles me down. It puts everything into perspective. In my mind, it’s what a father should be. Right away, I want to tell my wife, “I just got the best call from my dad.”

Even when he might be telling me something that is hard to hear, or that I don’t agree with—I always know he’s got my best interests in mind. If I think back to when I was four years old, for example, he could be fiercely proud of me, but if he was disappointed, he didn’t hold back. It was never a threat, but the thought of Dad being disappointed, oh my God, the weight of the world was on my shoulders.

When it was me causing the problem, what I feared most from Dad was the quiet. When his voice lowered, that’s when you knew the hammer was going to drop. It was calm. There was no yelling. There were times I would’ve preferred some yelling over the quiet treatment. I wouldn’t say he used discipline as much as he taught us self-discipline.

Now, it’s my siblings and I that are dropping the hammer. We are super disciplined. We’re also delicate. And accurate!

People look at me with a big family and say, “It’s insane.” Well, yes—it’s my insane, this is my crazy. It’s controlled chaos and I am embracing it with everything I’ve got! My wife and I get a lot of questions from new parents about how we make it work. I believe it all starts with a sturdy couple and teamwork. Everything flows more easily when we are on the same page. We have talked through our various roles (we call them “departments”) and how to handle things.

One thing that stands out for me is that in our family we’re demonstrative, we do all the hugging and the kissing. That’s one thing we’ll never shy away from. My dad hugs and kisses us, always has. He’ll say goodbye to me and give me a kiss. I give my kids lots of affection and I love how it feels.

People assume we had a tough time as children. They say, “It must have been awful because your father was always away.” The fact is I have no memory of him not being there. What I do remember clearly is a present father. When the opportunities were there, he was a full-on involved father. I don’t recall him being inaccessible. If there was a problem and I called him, regardless of where he was he’d say, “It’s my son on the phone, I have to take this.” That was way before any other dads were making space for children in their careers. My dad was a trailblazer on that front. He’d have ministers in his office, but he’d allow me to interrupt, to give him a hug, to tell a story, and he never made me feel that I was secondary. “Okay,” he’d say. “Dad’s going to finish this meeting now. I’ll see you for dinner. Have fun.” He somehow made me feel special, valued. It was just normal for us, but now I know that he was—and is—exceptional.

Editor’s note: Since Mark’s appearance in Forty Fathers he and wife Vanessa have welcomed one more boy into their family, baby Axel is now 2!

Excerpted from “Forty Fathers: Men Talk About Parenting”, with permission from Douglas & McIntyre, 2022.

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