By Melissa Grant
Joining a mothers group is pretty much a given for new mums.
For years, mums have had the chance to connect with other new parents in their local area.
Dads haven’t really had the same opportunity. However, that is finally changing.
Dads Groups are popping up all over the country, including the Yarra Ranges.
An organisation called Dads Group is the driving force behind the groups and a number of other initiatives targeted towards fathers.
Their mission is to change the culture of fatherhood for the better, while reducing isolation for new and expectant fathers.
WHO CAN JOIN
Victorian State Manager Adam Tardif says all fathers and father figures are welcome.
“Some people have the idea that it’s for dads that are struggling. It’s not. It’s a place for dads to form friendships with other dads in their local community,” he said.
“You don’t have to be the paternal father – you can be a grandfather, uncle, stepfather – anyone who is a father figure.”
However, the dad or father figure must bring their child along.
The catch-ups are generally just a chat over a coffee at a cafe or a playground.
Adam says joining a Dads Group allows dad to bond with their child, gives their partner some alone time and makes them ‘learn on the fly’ when it comes to ‘managing situations’.
“It’s common that dads come along with a 3-month-old and it’s the first time they’ve been out alone with their child,” he said.
“Some mums don’t trust the dads. I’ve got group leaders who have told me their partners weren’t comfortable with them going out with the child without them.”
Adam said Dads Groups help dads feel connected, while gaining confidence and enhancing competence in their parenting abilities.
“We allow mums to come by if need be,” he said.
“But they come back and see bub has all their limbs and that baby is okay – they can see that dad can do it.”
Adam says the impact of Dads Group is clear to see and in some cases has been quite profound.
“We have had dads tell us point blank that it has saved their life, saved their marriage, saved their relationship with their children,” he said.
THE STORY BEHIND DADS GROUP
The first Dads Group dad is Tom Docking, who started the organisation with wife Kate in 2014 after realising how little support there was for fathers.
Kate fell pregnant a few weeks into the couple’s two-year around the world adventure, sending Tom into shock.
After bubs was born he went searching for support for new dads. He discovered there really wasn’t anything available.
One day he spent time with a couple of other new dads and their babies. It was then he realised what was missing – a place for dads to feel connected in a way that wasn’t clinical and sterile.
DADS GROUP IS GROWING
It’s likely you’ll start hearing more about Dads Group. Over the next three years, the organisation is aiming to support at least 10 per cent of new fathers in Dads Groups across Australia – that’s more than 30,000 new fathers!
The organisation has also started rolling out programs in hospitals, where they are essentially working with midwives running classes for first-time parents.
Adam says this is all about creating change in the health system. He said many slides in parenting classes don’t even mention the word dad.
“Part of the project is we review the slides they are providing and ‘dadifying’ them,” he said.
MAN WITH A PRAM
Man With A Pram are local events that bring fathers and families together on Father’s Day for a walk to combat isolation and bring the community together. Anyone can put their hand up to run one – and it doesn’t have to be on Father’s Day. So far, more than 25 of these events have been held across the country.
DIGITAL DADS GROUPS
When Covid hit, Dads Group teamed up with their partner Movember to create Digital Dads Groups.
At 10am every day, dads can visit https://www.dadsgroup.org/, click on a Zoom link and connect with any dad across the country. The calls are hosted by an experienced dads group leader and there are usually between four and five dads on each call.
HOW TO FIND YOUR DADS GROUP
Visit https://www.dadsgroup.org/ and click on Dads Groups. Scroll down and you’ll find a Google Map where you can search for your closest Dads Group. If there’s none in your local area, you can send a message to Dads Group and they will work with you to start one.
There is already a Dads Group listed for Belgrave.
You can also follow Dads Group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dadsgroupaus