The 25-year-old father of four was inspired by something he learned from Brené Brown.

By Meghan Overdeep and Meghan Overdeep
January 27, 2020
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It was years ago, but Benjamin Holmgren still holds onto a tiny piece of advice he learned from Brené Brown. The 25-year-old father of four from Greensboro, North Carolina, had no idea what an impact it would make when he decided to share that wisdom on Facebook earlier this month.

"When you get home to your spouse/kids/dog, etc., before you open the door, put a smile on your face!" Holmgren wrote in a now-viral post (below). "It doesn't matter how your day went. Or what you're doing next. Or if you're starving. For 30 seconds, at least pretend that you're elated to see them. Make them feel like you were looking forward to getting back home. After all, they're your favorite people in the whole world. I hope."

Holmgren went on to explain that even though it might seem like a small act, it sets the tone for the rest of the evening. The way someone comes home could affect their marriage, their children, and their lives.

“So really, it's not tiny at all,” he noted. “It's a huge deal. Because you come home every day. And the things you do every day grind on you.”

Holmgren, a self-proclaimed optimist who has children ages five, four, two, and one, told Today that he likes to focus on the positive and show gratitude even when he is faced with challenges.

"I married young, I love my wife to death, we have four beautiful children, we have nothing to complain about," he said. "But life is hard. We see how much we have been spared, but if and when that loss or pain does come, we want to be as prepared as possible for it."

Though Holmgren credits Brown as the source for this life-changing approach, the researcher and author told Today that she actually got the idea from Toni Morrison.

Brown describes Morrison's advice on parenting (“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that.”) as "paradigm-shifting" for her, and she’s been building off of it for the past two decades.

And, based on the response Holmgren’s post has gotten on Facebook, it’s made quite a mark on countless others as well.

The young dad told Today that he hopes the idea will empower other parents. "I didn't invent this message. I learned it and I practiced it.  I hope that people realize that life is tough, but so are they. This is not about blind optimism or lying to your family about your feelings or ignoring suffering or problems.

"This is a reminder that you have the power to change it," Holmgren said. "You can be the one in charge of how you handle your stress and anxiety."