October 10, 2019 / All Stories

Celebrating AbbVie’s 2019 Working Dad of the Year

Up close and personal with superhero dad Nelson Caudillo.

Nelson Caudillo and 11-year old son, Holden, enjoy a quiet moment on the front steps of their Illinois home.

For more than 30 years, Working Mother's 100 Best Companies List has set the bar in their evaluation of corporate benefits and policies that help moms succeed at home and work. Understanding that trendsetting organizations recognize the increasing need to help fathers be equal parenting partners, Working Mother now also recognizes companies that help fathers succeed. We are pleased to make “Working Mother’s Best Companies for Dads” list for outstanding leadership in flexibility, childcare, paternal leave, remote working and more.

In this feature, we recognize and celebrate our incredible 2019 Working Dad of the Year, Nelson Caudillo.

On finding out he was going to be a dad …

I found out I was going to be a parent at the young age of 20. I hadn’t graduated from college and was working for a large retail store in New Hampshire, over 1,000 miles away from my entire network of family and friends. I was absolutely convinced I was not ready to be a parent. And that’s when my manager (and informal mentor) shared some powerful advice that I will never forget. He said, “Most parents, even those who are not surprised by having a child, start to worry about being ready the moment they learn it’s actually happening. You’ll soon see that being ‘ready’ to be a parent is simply about loving your child and always working to give them the best in life, no matter what your personal situation.” These words resonated deep within and gave me the courage to move forward at a time when my world had basically been turned upside down. They helped serve as a guiding mantra for my impending fatherhood: always love your child and work to give them the best in life no matter what. I will never forget this advice; it was exactly the push I needed to step off the precipice of uncertainty and dive in head first to my new role as expectant father.

Father and son get their baseball on with a practice game of catch in the park.

On his favorite part about being a dad …

Seeing my 11-year old, Holden, become his own person; watching this unique little human being gain his own sense of identity. As much as I attempt to impart valuable life lessons upon him and support him the best I can throughout his various childhood experiences, I can never fully predict the ways in which the world around him will influence his character. More often than not, the results play out in unexpected and surprising ways. It’s these daily ‘surprises’ that leave me smiling in awe and make everything worth it.
 

On it “taking a village” to raise a kid on your own …

Whether co-parenting a child or tackling it on your own as a single parent, it definitely takes a village. My village, or what I like to refer to as “Team Nelson,” consisted of my parents, my two sisters and various close friends throughout the years; all played an integral role in helping to raise my son as a single father.

My parents really stepped in to provide a parental role in my son’s life. And I am blessed to see they have provided Holden with similar values reinforced in my household growing up: the importance of hard work, determination and placing family first. My younger sister, Cleo, was truly a co-parent at times, and as a certified family therapist, was such a wonderful beacon of advice on how to handle situations anytime I had self-doubt or nagging questions. Even my older sister, Chloe, would travel back and forth from New York City to provide support and chip in whenever possible. I will forever be grateful for the never-ending support they provided, and continue to provide, to my son.

Nelson and Holden spend some time bonding in the great outdoors.

On struggles with recent health issues …

As a single parent always on the go, I’ll admit to not having always prioritized my own health and well-being. Before my recent bout with health-related issues, I was not known for cooking the healthiest of meals and exercise, at home or in a gym, was relatively non-existent. My unhealthy practices finally caught up with me one evening when I was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with ketoacidosis (a serious complication that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids) and ultimately with Type 2 Diabetes. Sitting alone and frightened in the ICU that night was lifechanging. The epiphany hit me like a lightning bolt; I must start making my health priority #1. My own life, and the life of my son, would depend on it.

After being released from the hospital, I was determined to change my ways. I informed Holden it was time for a change and the only way I could succeed if he was by my side. True to form, Holden responded with: “Of course, Dad, where else would I be?” Nowadays, we are both more conscious about the types of foods we consume. At the grocery store, Holden checks all food labels and assesses how many servings we’re allowed to have. To help bolster our health, we now also dedicate mornings and evenings to father/son workout regimens. Now on the path to getting healthier, I realize that nothing else matters in life if I don’t live long enough, or well enough, to enjoy each and every moment with my son.

On a happy (and healthy note), I am now not only insulin-free but may soon be deemed to be no longer diabetic. It’s a huge testament to the work Holden and I have put into our diet, exercise, and complete change of mindset.
 

On typical Saturday nights in the Caudillo household …

I am always teased by family and friends that I can’t have a weekend if it’s not planned down to the milli-second. From visiting loved ones both near and far, to adventures in cities we frequent and new places to explore, we are always finding new and exciting activities to tackle. The rare “quiet” evening might involve catching a new flick at our local theater, having friends join us for dinner at our favorite taco joint and then jamming out to the musical videogame “Rock Band,” a favorite pastime of ours.

Another favorite activity at home: watching movies in the comfort our own living room. We are both huge movie buffs and are pretty much obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since we have been enjoying the adventures of Captain America, Ironman, Thor, and all The Avengers for the entire span of Holden’s life, we both feel (oddly) connected to the whole pop-culture movement of this mega-blockbuster movie franchise. So much so that we had a one movie a week viewing party countdown a few months before they released the final Avengers Endgame installment this last summer. If by chance, a world with superpowers and superhuman strength really did exist, what amazing feats would Holden choose? The ability to conjure up anything; some examples being either a sword for battle, or a hamburger to fight hunger.
 

An Afternoon with Nelson’s AbbVie ‘Vitality’ Softball Team (in pictures):

On juggling single parenting while earning a bachelor’s degree …

On juggling single parenting while earning a bachelor’s degree … After high school graduation, I took some community college courses off and on, but never found the time or motivation to earn my college degree. But when I learned that I would be obtaining sole custody of my son, I made a conscious effort to finish my college education. I needed to make sure I could provide the best life possible for my son, and a college education seemed the best choice to make that happen.

I was raising my son as a single parent, attending Northern Illinois University in pursuit of my Management degree and working the weekend overnight shift for my full-time job. And although Holden’s childcare was being covered via the help of my parents, sisters and close friends, my life was extremely chaotic and overwhelming. After working Sunday shifts through Monday mornings, I needed to transport Holden from my parents to kindergarten, drive back to campus to attend my own classes, turn back around to pick him up, take him to Cubs Scouts, somehow tackle my homework, and then leave him off again with family again so I could head back to work, only to run the same routine Tuesday mornings and afternoons.

Thinking back now to the craziness of it all, I’m not quite sure how I actually survived this time in my life. And although extremely challenging, I always try to remind myself why I was doing it and what made it all worth it: to ensure a better life for my son.

Nelson and Holden have some fun swinging around their backyard.

On 11-year old son Holden’s many extracurricular activities?

Guitar, piano lessons, soccer, basketball, chess club, engineering club; Holden’s list of weekly extracurricular activities literally feels endless. On top of all that, he is an active Boy Scout. My nickname for him: the “renaissance kid,” because he is involved in so many varied activities. As a single parent, I am extremely thankful that his school offers childcare though an extended day program. This not only allows for Holden to spend time tackling his homework after school, but also with the opportunity to participate in his various clubs, sports and extracurricular activities while I’m fulfilling my professional responsibilities at AbbVie.

It’s a huge source of calm (and relief) to know his school has got my back; that he is being taken care in my absence, as well as receiving such a wide spectrum of different experiences. And although at times it may feel as though Holden is juggling too many activities at once, I am always quick to remind him (and myself) that I will always be there to support him 100 percent in all of his many endeavors. Because that’s what dad’s do!

Nelson and Holden try to outwit, outplay and outlast one another in an intense game of chess.

On Holden’s boundless love for his “Mino” & “Mina” …

When Holden came bounding into our lives, my mom made it abundantly clear that the term “grandma” was not going to fly. Instead, she decided to coin herself with a nickname stemming from the Spanish term for “goldmine” … so Holden has only ever known grandma as his infamous “Mina.” Although no masculine form of the word exists in Spanish, the family quickly settled on the nickname “Mino” for grandpa. For Holden, the world spins around his Mino and Mina. So much so that our pseudo-nickname for Holden is “Mini Mino” because he gravitates (and emulates) his loving grandpa Mino.
 

On AbbVie’s many available resources for working parents …

AbbVie, and its various programs, have literally saved me on more than one occasion. The company has been extremely accommodating and understanding of my dual role as single parent and full-time working professional. The flexible work schedule offered by the company is lifesaving. I was very clear and up front about my personal situation from the get-go, and the company has always been willing to work around my sometimes challenging schedule, whether it means scheduling meetings around doctor’s appointments, leaving early one day a week to pick up my son from school, or even allowing me to work from home so I can be present for Holden on his days off. Another amazingly helpful program, childcare through the on-campus daycare; this was truly a blessing over the past couple of summer months. Holden was able to attend programs located right on campus while I spent the day at work. Holden absolutely loved it and made friendships for life.

Nelson and Holden play a friendly game of practice soccer in the park.

On 11-year old son, Holden, being dad’s “North Star” …

Like most dads, I want the world for my son. I want him to attend the best schools; have access to the fun, material things he wants in life, as well as instill in him the foundational lessons I learned growing up with my own parents. I really strive (daily) to place Holden on this pedestal as a reminder that he is my entire universe, the reason for everything I do. He is never an excuse, but always a purpose and a driver for me.

When I want to remind myself of this fact, I recall a bad day I had recently. I was unable to vent to anyone before arriving at Holden’s school for pick-up, so I was still feeling down. Holden comes bounding out of afterschool, smiling from ear-to-ear, jumps right into my arms, hugs me tightly and starts chattering on about his amazing day. All the negative just kind of melted away in that moment and serves as a wonderful reminder … Holden comes first above all else. He is, and will forever be, my bright and shining “North Star.”

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Name: Liz Lloyd
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