fatherhood support

Don’t Try This Alone: Fatherhood is Not a Solo Sport

Several years ago I ran a “dads only” workshop on discipline at my kid’s pre-school. I went around the room of about 25 dads and asked them to say briefly why they were there and what they hoped to get out of the workshop. One dad would say: “to learn some strategies on how to discipline my pre-schooler”; the next would say- “to learn how not get so frustrated or angry”; the next would say- “to try and figure out why it’s so infuriating that my wife parents the way she does.” One dad after the next would say pretty much one of these three things.

We got about half way around the room and the next dad said: “I think I’ve already gotten something out of this.” He continued: “It’s really helpful to realize that I am not the only one going through this.” I could have stopped the workshop right there and said, okay, your assignment now is to go out and form connections, form a community of dads and stay connected and support each other because being a dad is hard… it is not a solo sport.

I’ve always noticed that moms tend to mother in community and dads tend to father in isolation. Why is that? I wonder.

We all know the stereotype that men don’t ask for directions. You ever notice how the stereotype has lost its legs with the arrival of Siri. Interesting. My guess is that Siri is a lot more comfortable for guys because it cuts down on public humiliation and in my opinion guys don’t ask for help because that’s what they are trying to avoid — public humiliation. I don’t know too many guys who enjoy looking like they don’t know what they are doing, or where they are going. Who in their right mind wants to look stupid or incompetent or lost?

Yet this is exactly what being a father induces– a feeling of incompetence. No other job in the world will humble you or make you feel more deskilled then caring for a baby who is teething or colicky. While there are thousands of single dads out there, I bet every single one of them has discovered they can’t do it entirely on their own. Single dads, step dads and every other dad under the sun needs help, support, advice and companionship.

As a psychotherapist who works with dads and men, I see and hear how hard it can be for guys to ask for help. And I’ve seen how powerful and courageous and wonderful it can be to witness them doing the exact opposite; to get to a point when they realize they can’t do it alone. The majority of dads who seek me out have mustered up the courage to not do it alone. They realize they need help and there is no shame is doing so- (or at least, we can work through the shame but it doesn’t need to stop you). The dads support group I am starting this fall is designed exactly for guys who need a place to process how hard this is and get the support, advice and companionship. Here are some benefits for being a part of the group:

  1. You get to see that you are not alone
  2. You get supportive feedback from guys who might know of a slightly different way of doing things
  3. You gain friends- some of the best friends are made during challenging times
  4. You are modeling what it looks like to be a healthy man.

Just knowing you are not alone… is that enough? Probably not, you probably want some answers to why your 9 month keeps throwing her food or why your 3 yr old isn’t potty trained or why your teenager is so embarrassed that you come to his games. The list goes on. For starters, though, wouldn’t it be nice to have some comrades who care about your well being and want you to be the best dad you can be?

For more information, visit http://johncarr.org