A Daddy Support Community – It’s More valuable Than You May Think!
A little while ago, I was taking part in a panel discussion about flexible working. I was the only man on the panel. I found myself getting very frustrated with how the discussion was going.
Time and again the female panel members said it was important to have a network of friends to call upon for support. I should make clear that “friends” was code for “mum friends”. One of the panel said she was part of a WhatsApp group that featured 25 friends she called upon for help. Help such as picking kids up from school at the last minute, I simply had to respond.
The microphone was passed to me. I made it absolutely clear that a dad could only dream of that level of support. I’ll paraphrase, but I said that what dads desperately need is “mum friends”. That mums needed to be more willing to mix with and support dads. Even if I say so myself, my comments caused a bit of a stir and I’m glad they did!
Issues For Dads. . . + What To Do About Them
When it comes to seeking support and help, dads face a few barriers. In this article, I’ll focus on two of the main ones.
First of all, men are often raised to be strong, silent, solitary types. They can feel awkward admitting they need help or someone to talk to. It can seem like weakness.
My advice to any dad is to smash this barrier down. You’ll need help and support and your children will throw unexpected curve balls at you. You can’t and shouldn’t be expected to deal with this on your own. Re-evaluate what you were taught about men and how they should behave when you were growing up.
You are, after all, simply trying to care for your children. What could possibly be more masculine that that?
Second, informal support networks are often very mum-centric. Nursery groups, Parent Teacher Associations, school WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups can seem very mum-heavy.
As a stay and work from home dad of many years standing, I’d say it’s imperative on you have a presence in these networks. Mums need to get used to dads being active in these groups. The only way that’ll happen is if dads engage with them and make a positive contribution. It can be lonely and it isn’t always easy, but it would be in your interests to get involved.
What Support Exists For Dads And How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Network?
Okay, so let’s take a look at what support does exist for dads. At the beginning of the parenting journey are National Childbirth Trust groups.
I personally found the support from the NCT limited. However, if you are willing to get together for coffee with the boys from your NCT group, I’d strongly recommend it. I often hear of mums meeting up with NCT mums years after giving birth. Why not dads too?
I’d also suggest getting in touch with your local Sure Start or health centre. In most localities you’ll find some kind of group for fathers. The group in my area was called Saturdads. As the name suggests, it gave dads a chance to mix and mingle with other dads and their kids on Saturday mornings.
Just one observation I’d make about these groups. They usually meet the needs of working dads. Saturdays are often ‘mum time’ in households like mine where dad does most of the childcare. Stay at home dads who look after the kids during the week, are unlikely to want to mingle with dads and other people’s kids at the weekend.
This brings me nicely on to the subject of where at stay at home dads can look for support. Since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in 2015, there’s been an increase in fathers undertaking the ‘at home’ role, albeit often for just a few months. Even if these men are only fulfilling the main carer role for a few months, they still need support.
Outside of the trendiest parts of East London, stay at home dad support is incredibly thin on the ground. You’re best heading online where you’ll find communities such as the UK At Home Dads Facebook group. This group, is a great resource and in the pre-COVID days, organising the occasional face-to-face meet up.
TheDadsNet also has a variety of online groups plus local groups run by volunteers across the country. It’s worth having a look to see if there is something in your area.
Daddy Support Community Apps
Over the past year, we have seen the launch of a couple of apps. These give dads a chance to meet like-minded people. These are for stay at home or working dads. DadApp is one such app while DadAF is another (just don’t ask what the F stands for).
Online, Offline And A Little Dose Of Confidence
If you’re going to build a community you can call upon for dad support, it is likely to be a mix of online and offline communities. I’m afraid there is no escaping that mums do have more access to formal and informal support. But, if you look around, there are opportunities out there. I’d also say there the future looks rosier than it did when I became a dad over a decade ago. More recognition that dads need support exist and more has become available. Even if more is needed.
You may need a little dose of confidence to meet with dads (…and mums) you’ve not spoken to before. If you can muster that confidence, you’ll find some great networks do exist. Don’t worry, everyone you speak to will have been in exactly the same position as you!
Daddy support is just as important as mum support.