According to a June 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, stay-at-home dads now account for more than 16 percent of at-home caretakers, a number that has more than doubled over the past decade- and this does not factor in dads who work part-time.
Since becoming a father in 2001, one of the most common observations I’ve made is that moms tend to mother in community and dads tend to father in isolation. I see this over and over with dads who don’t reach out to others for commiseration or, (god forbid) help! Many dads who see me in my private practice express feeling so grateful for having a space to talk personally about what’s going on for them. Often, when their first baby is born, they lose friends, and see their social activity reduce significantly. This is a natural and necessary shift as the focus becomes more on family time than on friend time.
In my previous blog entry, I noted that fatherhood is not a solo sport, this is especially true for the at home dad who doesn’t have a built-in network of connections. He has to work a little harder and even consider going to conferences (yes! there are conferences for dads), meetups, community groups or google hangouts to make those connections. The at home dad often has to be intentional to find his tribe.
I think we can learn from our parents. Take my mom. She gave birth to nine children from 1954-1966, and was a stay-at-home mom, like most of her peers. While she was totally invested in this role, she would occasionally let on that she had a desire to “be more” and even that she wished there was a salary for her daily grind — making lists and keeping track of appointments, recitals, sports and school events. What helped her stay sane through the whole experience was having friends and fellow moms in the neighborhood who were in the same boat– she had a strong support network. It was these moms who provided emotional and practical support along the way.
If you identify with the sense of isolation remember you are not alone, there are other dads out there who are looking for a tribe. Here’s a great NY Times article with more on the subject. And here are some resources to find community.
- Boston Dads Meetup Group is a diverse community of fathers who take an active role in their children’s lives. They seek to create an online meetup group to bring fathers together in person. They meet several times per week, with their kids, at parks, playgrounds, museums, parent-and-me classes, and living rooms across the greater Boston Metro and Providence, Rhode Island areas. They also organize parenting workshops and Dads Nights Out to give their members an opportunity to socialize, learn, and support each other as they navigate parenthood.
- Evolution of Dad Documentary is an excellent documentary about the psychological and social perceptions of being an engaged father. Written and directed by dad Dana H. Glazer, it explores the past, present and future role of dads in the American family. Glazer became an at-home dad and was thrilled to be with his son all day but “at the same time… felt like a failure.” He was empowered to make this film to better understand his own feelings and discover more about what being a father is all about in the 21st century.
- National At-Home Dad Network is a 501c(3) nonprofit dedicated to providing advocacy, community, education, and support for families where fathers are the primary caregivers of their children. The overall purpose is to empower fathers and cultivate a culture that recognizes them as capable and competent parents.
I encourage you to start with one of these resources and see where it takes you. Create your community today. You — and your children — will be better off for it!
John is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in supporting men and dads. His practice is in the Back Bay. You can find more information at http://johncarr.org.