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YouTuber Rob Kenney on “Dad, How Do I?”

Starting Strong

Rob grew up in a large Catholic family as the seventh of eight kids (three girls and five boys). His parents’ marriage and his family life started well. Working for Boeing and NASA was his father’s dream job, and his mom was a teacher before they were married. When they lived in Kansas and had the family support system from his mom’s side of the family, things were good. When his father’s job laid him off, they had to move a few times until they ended up in Washington state where his father followed his career. His mother wasn’t happy to be so far away from her family and things started going downhill from there. She struggled with anxiety and depression and found comfort in alcohol. She tried to get help but when she saw a therapist, he brushed off her concerns. In the 1970s, there wasn’t much support for those struggling with mental illness. Consequently, Rob’s parents separated when he was 12 years old and divorced soon after. 

Left Alone 

After the divorce, Rob’s dad had his mom declared as an ‘unfit parent' since she was an alcoholic. His dad got full custody, but he wasn’t up for the task. He was more interested in his new girlfriend. Every week, he would stock up on groceries for the kids and leave to be with his girlfriend. The kids were left to fend for themselves. One day, Rob remembers his dad coming home to tell them that he was done parenting. The kids who were over 18 could either take care of the younger kids or they would be put into foster care. Luckily, Rob’s brother who had just finished three years in the Army was newly married and offered to take Rob in to live with them. 

Turning Things Around 

When Rob met his wife Annelli and their first child was on the way, he lost his job. The pressure of not being able to adequately provide for them brought him to his knees. Rob explains, “I cried out to God: ‘If you exist, God, then please help me...Slowly, surely, God started opening my eyes. I landed a job. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that things started to fall into place, so I needed to go deeper.’”

God answered him and Rob’s faith began to grow. He didn’t feel like he fit into the Catholic church anymore and tried to attend a non-denominational Christian church but eventually found his home in the Reformed Christian Church. Once they had two children and raised them, Rob began searching for what he should do next. His daughter helped him make YouTube videos that would help other kids who grew up without a father around. So, what began as a way to help a few kids hit a nerve and his posts went viral. He explains, “When I created my YouTube channel, I did so from a place of sincere generosity. I simply wanted to help people. I believe that’s one reason the channel has succeeded to a big degree.” 

Today, he has over three million followers and has been featured on shows like Today and Good Morning America and many more. 

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