At last year’s at-home dad convention in Omaha, Nebraska, I vividly remember a meaningful conversation regarding the exclusivity of being a stay-at-home dads group vs. being a stay-at-home ‘parents’ group (and allowing moms to be members as well). The overall consensus from the participants of this conversation seemed to be in the court of remaining a stay-at-home dads group. After all, there truly are fewer resources out there for stay-at-home dads, so these groups are a welcome and necessary support oasis.
Let’s fast forward one year, and let me toss out some other things for all of the developing stay-at-home dads groups across the country to strongly consider. First, let’s face it, we call ourselves at-home dads, but truth be told, we are not really at-home all that much. Nope, we are on playdates, running errands, in parent & me classes, shuttling the kids from school to extracurricular activities, on the playgrounds, and the like.
This notion of not being at home much combined with the insistence of other active dads group members shifted our NYC Dads Group to become more welcoming to ALL dads. Basically, our at-home dads groups should become more inclusive, rather than exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel dads groups should continue to be a safe haven for dads only (sorry moms), but now we should realize how necessary it is to include all active and involved fathers. Dads Groups are role models for supporting the new & expectant fathers, providing camaraderie for the veteran fathers, a place to share best practices on navigating parenthood, and a safe place to socialize for all dads and their kids. Consequently, I ask other dads groups to heed this call: Open up your doors (wide) to all fathers who want to spend quality time with their kids. This includes expectant fathers, part-time at home dads, dads who work full-time, freelance guys, teachers with summers off, self employed guys, work from home fathers, dads who have flex time, at-home dads who chose their role, a few forced in by the economy, dads born on U.S. soil, guys born abroad, fellas of all ethnic backgrounds, dads who will be “dad-ternity” group diehards that come to all of your group outings, and some dads who don’t attend any group events, but enjoy the sense of community it promotes. You see, we all share a common bond of being active and involved fathers who put our children first.
How do you implement this change in your dads group? Is it simply changing the wording on your website and mentioning it at your next outing saying something like “we now welcome dads of all stripes?” Well, that certainly helps, but the change happens best when it is embraced by the entire group and therefore empowering your members as well. It means not only planning the tried & true dad group events that cater to the at-home dad, but creating opportunities for all dads to learn how to succeed: Holding evening events beyond Dads Night Out (i.e. surveying your members to establish meaningful parenting workshops & hosting author discussions) and weekend outings (i.e. a morning playground meet up so dads on shift on the weekends have a place to go) to include more dads.
What does all of this mean? We are in a tremendous time of change. Look at all of the amazing dads resources that have come out in the past year. On the dad group front, we are in a position to be true pioneers and offer so much more for all fathers that are seeking a place to bond, vent, talk sports, learn, and find a sense of belonging . Let’s offer this to them…