Women have long relied on support networks to help navigate motherhood. Playgroups and “mommy and me” classes provide a forum for women in similar stages of pregnancy and parenting to come together, swap information, vent, empathize, or just find adult company during the long afternoon hours when toddlers are awake.
Historically, there have been very few dad groups – presumably because in the past dads were off at work while the moms stayed home to parent. But now that our social structure has shifted, and more dads find themselves taking on a larger role in their kids’ lives, dad groups are becoming increasingly popular. I personally think dad groups are important to talk about because they normalize engaged fatherhood.
Keegan Albaugh started Dad Guild in Burlington, Vermont to create a supportive network for new fathers. I think this is great model for dads supporting dads at a community level. Pre-pandemic, members would meet up on weekends with their kids for play dates. Since March they have been connecting virtually using the Marco Polo app.
Fathering Together is an online group that pulls dads together from all over North America, with even a few international members. Its primary source of communication is a Facebook page where dads can post questions or comments on broad parenting topics, or just share a selfie with their kiddo. But it also offers smaller community groups for men to connect around specific issues. My favorite? No surprise - Dads for Gender Equality.
Moms Rising is a successful model of how mothers have the power to inform important policy positions, like maternal health care and gun control. Ever wonder why there isn’t a Dads Rising? Well, now there is. Dads Who Care is a listserv bringing fathers together in order to advocate for policy issues around equitable families.
How do I feel about these organizations? I absolutely applaud their work, because I think we are all pushing towards a common goal. I also appreciate their honest self-reflection. Elliot Haspel, co-creator of Dads Who Care, summed it up nicely in a recent conversation….
“It is sort of like players showing up to a football game in the 4th quarter. Sure – everybody is glad we are here. But we also need to acknowledge that we missed the first three quarters of the game.”
I think we should simultaneously welcome men’s groups to the gender conversation, while honoring the work women have done - and continue to do.
I also want to add a note here that not all people with kids identify as a “mother” or “father.” For this reason and others, I think parenting communities are also important because they keep us from falling into a gender binary. More on that another day!
Planning for a Shower?
Is anyone out there planning a baby shower or wedding shower and looking for some funny ways to sneak gender equality into the event? Let me know – I have some ideas and would love to talk to you! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking of baby showers, if you are looking for a great gift for a new parent of a little girl, don’t forget about Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. This short, easy to read book feels like a conversation with a good friend. Suggestion #2, Do It Together, is my personal favorite. Adichi begins this chapter by writing “Remember in primary school we learned that a verb is a doing word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother.”
See you after Election Day! (Deep breath. Deep breath.) If you think a friend would enjoy this newsletter, please feel free to share.