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“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Eric Fontanot

The most important job I have is being a good husband and good father. It is important to spend as much intentional time as possible nurturing, teaching, discipling and most importantly loving my daughter. The time we have as parents to influence and build up our children is so short in comparison to their lives […]

The most important job I have is being a good husband and good father. It is important to spend as much intentional time as possible nurturing, teaching, discipling and most importantly loving my daughter. The time we have as parents to influence and build up our children is so short in comparison to their lives without our direct influence, so the ability to impress the benefit of experiences, life lessons, mistakes, successes and failures as a parent must be taken advantage of with conscious intentionality. This also means being an example, walking the talk so to speak, because children will mimic you long before they listen to you. It may not be realized by us as parents immediately, in fact there is little chance that we ever get to see the impact of our work as parents but that is not the point.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Eric Fontanot.

As a native Houstonian, Eric Fontanot is proud to have spent his professional career in the great city of Houston. After graduating from the University of Houston in 2004 with a B.S. degree, Eric found himself drawn to the world of real estate. Entering the industry as a loan officer Eric quickly pivoted into the title industry in December of 2004 when the opportunity to manage an upstart fee attorney operation for First American Title presented itself. Managing the operations of a title office ignited a passion for orchestrating small business operations and managing the needs of the individuals who make those companies run smoothly. Learning to scale based on seasonality and industry trends as well as working closely with sales professionals on creative ways to stimulate the flow of business brought Eric together with the Patten Law Firm and Ashley Patten in May of 2008. Joining the Patten family as the Houston Area Manager allowed for the passion of facilitation and integration to flourish further as the team navigated through the 2008 mortgage crisis. Reestablishing the Houston market area as one of the highest transactional volume offices in the state of Texas, Eric expanded operations to the Dallas market in order to capitalize on the ever-present growing investment business trend. With double digit growth from 2011 through 2015 the Patten team made the decision to transition the company’s four thousand plus transactions per year from the fee attorney model to a title agent model. The company restructured its leadership team electing Eric to president of Patten Title organization and entrusting him to lead the transition and implement the strategies the team created for growth, operations and sustainability.

Eric is happily married to his beautiful wife Audrey and father of an amazing daughter, Elise, and enjoys being active in their church and coaching Elise as much as possible in her extracurricular activities such as soccer and basketball.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Mychildhood was very traditional in upbringing. My father was and still is a hard-working man whom provided financially and supportively for my mother, brother and myself. My mom was a stay at home mom which meant she was rarely at home and typically bouncing between schools, PTO meetings, and sports practices. As busy as my Dad was back then, between a 45 mile commute each way to work, he was able to coach me and by brother growing up from baseball to soccer. We were fortunate to grow up in a family oriented neighborhood with lots of kids and plenty of places to ride bikes, play sports and just generally be outside. If I had to sum it up, it was the quintessential environment in which to be a kid.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Entering the industry as a loan officer I quickly pivoted into the title industry in December of 2004 when the opportunity to manage a start up fee attorney operation for First American Title presented itself. Managing the operations of a title office ignited a passion for orchestrating small business operations and managing the needs of the individuals who make those companies run smoothly. Learning to scale based on seasonality and industry trends as well as working closely with sales professionals on creative ways to stimulate the flow of business brought me together with Patten Law Firm and Ashley Patten in May of 2008. Joining the Patten family as the Houston Area Manager allowed for the passion of facilitation and integration to flourish further as the team navigated through the 2008 mortgage crisis. Reestablishing the Houston market area as one of the highest transactional volume offices in the state of Texas, I expanded operations to the Dallas market in order to capitalize on the ever-present growing investment business trend. With double digit growth from 2011 through 2015 the Patten team made the decision to transition the company’s four thousand plus transactions per year from the fee attorney model to a title agent model. The company restructured its leadership team electing me to president of Patten Title and entrusting me to lead the transition and implement the strategies the team created for growth, operations and sustainability.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

My day starts at 5 am with a trip to the gym. Then it is home to get ready and see my daughter off to school at 7:15am. When she leaves, I head out to the office, typically arriving around 8 am. From there, it is whatever that day has in store which varies from client and staff meetings to strategy sessions and one- or two-day trips to our other offices throughout the state. I typically travel between offices 2 to 3 times per month for a day at a time. On a typical day, I wrap up at the office around 7pm, head home to visit with family, read with my daughter before bed and have dinner. Before bed, I typically review what is in store for the following day address any late emails then call it a night around 10:30pm.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

If we are not being intentional in spending time with our children then we are giving them up to what other adults, friends and social society deems to be important. Those influencers teach our children how to behave, and what to value. As a parent, you must determine if you want your child to be a reflection of your morals, ethics and habits or someone else’s.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

The most important job I have is being a good husband and good father. It is important to spend as much intentional time as possible nurturing, teaching, discipling and most importantly loving my daughter. The time we have as parents to influence and build up our children is so short in comparison to their lives without our direct influence, so the ability to impress the benefit of experiences, life lessons, mistakes, successes and failures as a parent must be taken advantage of with conscious intentionality. This also means being an example, walking the talk so to speak, because children will mimic you long before they listen to you. It may not be realized by us as parents immediately, in fact there is little chance that we ever get to see the impact of our work as parents but that is not the point.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Work life is extremely busy, especially right now in my career, but there is certain time that is set aside just for us. We go on daddy/daughter dates, fishing and camping as a family, monthly (sometimes more often) ice cream dates where we visit and talk. We play imaginative games in the backyard and she assists with tasks that my wife and I are working on. She is treated like an integral part of the family because she is an essential person, not just child, to our family unit. To expound just a bit more on what is happening while we are spending those “quality” moments together is real conversation. Asking real questions and letting your child answer with unabridged responses; as a parent letting them work through those responses without dismissing them as they find their way to the point is so important. Real dialogue about what is happening in their life is so important so that they are comfortable talking to you as a parent throughout their whole life.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children.

Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

Being a parent requires the same skills that operating in a demanding business does: time management, prioritizing what is most important, saying no when it is time to say no, and sacrificing when it is time to put others ahead of yourself. In order to be able to balance demands it is a must to identifying specified blocks of uninterrupted and non-negotiable time dedicated to your family and specifically spending time with your child(ren). In my opinion, this is the only way to be successful in any arena, you dedicate time to being intentional and accomplishing whatever the goal of that moment is, and during that time there is nothing else. By subscribing to this approach, you are able to be in the moment fully. Examples for me would be if I am attending my daughter’s practice, I put down the phone, do not check my emails or texts and focus that one hour on her activity. Even though I may not have any other communication with her she knows I am there for her. When she looks over to see me I am engaged in what she is doing, not reading an article or answering an email. That will all be there when the hour is through and I have allotted time to handle those tasks and goals. The same goes for trips, meals together, games, etc. If the time has been set aside to spend it with your child, do not do anything else but give yourself fully to that moment.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent is one that showers your child with acceptance, and love for who they are, making sure that you as a parent will always be there for them while instilling discipline and respect for others. The example that comes to mind for me, was a moment where I saw my daughter behaving inappropriately with a group of children on the playground at school. She had taken a game too far, and one of the kids in the group was obviously being picked on by the others. As a parent it is heartbreaking to see your child, whom had the opportunity and potential to redirect the group participating in a game, participating and to an extent leading the charge. In a moment, she was removed from the playground and sat down for a discussion and was grounded for her behavior. We discussed what was taking place, how it got out of hand, how she would have felt had the tables been turned and why she did not protect and defend the other child instead of participating. Moving forward, we learned that the optics were a bit harsher than the reality, but the fact remained that the behavior warranted correction and an apology. My daughter, after the discussion and through some tears, volunteered to apologize and did so the next day at school on her own accord. Throughout the ordeal we continued to remind her that although the behavior was not acceptable that did not change how we felt about her, that we loved her and that she would always be loved by us. That even though she made a bad choice it did not alter in anyway how we, as parents, felt about her. But she also learned that love cannot always and typically will not be able to alter the consequences for actions, and that there will always be some sort of repercussion for decisions that she makes.

Following through with discipline in order to instill learned behavior when there is already remorse is the most difficult thing to do but does help one be a good parent.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Inspiration is a tough thing to gauge because often, especially with small children, you are not sure what they are picking up from you. Rather than inspiring to “dream big” I think it is critical for us as parents to find ways to teach our children how to pursue passions. I think the best way to encourage children to dream big is to encourage and enable them to experience as many things as possible, so they can develop passions. Once they identify what they are passionate about it is incumbent on us as parents to encourage them to never to be ashamed of those passions. To me that is first and foremost. It is a tough world out there — teenagers and children are often picked on for choices they make; from what sports they play, to what arts they like, to their religious affiliations, etc. Even though your child’s passion might not be mainstream or in line with what other children think is fun or purposeful your child must be confident enough in themselves to pursue what interests them. When they do discover what they are passionate about, or think they are passionate about, it is our job as parents to show them what it takes to become successful at it. That means being a good example in chasing down our own personal passions and it also means pushing them to levels of discomfort in order to show them what it really takes to obtain those “big dreams.” One thing that I see happen with kids is they confuse passion for ease of accomplishment. If it comes to them easily quickly, they gravitate toward it but then when it comes time to “dream big” there is not a drive to achieve. If there is no drive, there is no passion, and in my experience without the passion your child will never be able to realize that or any “big dream”, and that is a disservice to the nth degree.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success to me is being intentional and present in every situation. When I am at work I am focused on being the best businessman I can be. When I am at home I am intent on being the best husband and father I can be by being available and engaged. So long as those two things are not mutually exclusive, I am succeeding.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

The two most influential books for me have been the Bible and a book called the Untethered Soul. The Bible is the ultimate guide in what a father’s love should look like for his family, what it means to love unconditionally, the meaning of faith, and how to find joy even in the most trying of times all while pursuing the ultimate passion. The Untethered Soul was meaningful because it helped me begin to understand what it means to live fully and intentionally in each moment and then with acceptance and peace move from that moment onto the next.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

This is relevant every day as a parent and a decision maker because things do not always work out the way you anticipate or expect. Control over outcomes are nothing more than illusions. It is very easy to allow yourself to get stuck in the trap of second-guessing decisions. It is my belief that you do your best in each moment, make what you deem to be the right choice and continue to move forward.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I do not know if I will/can call this a movement, but I would like to see my company pick a local charity or organization and on a rotating schedule companywide, send one employee once a week, as part of their employment, to participate in that local community organization as a volunteer for a day.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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