Becoming Dad Founder Darren Mattock talks about how becoming a father awakened him to his purpose of preparing men for fatherhood.
The time was February 2009. I was fresh in the deep transformations of my becoming dad journey—as a man, partner and father. My son Charlie was eight months young. In so many ways, becoming dad had been an awesome, amazing, and wonderful experience. Yet in others, it was a constant challenge and struggle. I didn’t realise how much I was just getting by until I became a single dad and my coping bubble popped.
Intuitively, in my gut, I knew this was a critical time in both my life and as a dad. I didn’t want to screw this up. I loved way too fiercely and purely. Charlie meant the world to me. I also knew in my heart and soul that I had already lived and made it through harder times, and that I could make it through this. That there was a greater purpose to this suffering.
I had made a pact to myself as a boy that I was going to be a different dad than my dad was to me. That I would be fully there. Unselfishly. The first time I held Charlie in my arms, when we discovered he was a boy, I knew the gravity of having a son. That there was no way now to escape my masculine lineage. There was no turning back.
Clearly, I’d been called up to serve as a man and father to Charlie. That he’d been gifted to me as a miraculous opportunity to love, heal, and grow. As he came to my chest, I looked Charlie’s eyes and silently made a promise to him to be his dad with all that I am, knowing with full awareness the places in myself that I would need to inevitably go in order to be that dad.
All of this shaped my way of being in the shock, grief, and lostness of being a new single dad. This wasn’t part of my plan or vision for the dad that I wanted to be! Fuck. But I knew there was no point arguing with reality. This WAS all going down and I had to deal.
I knew that I needed support. That me not reaching out sooner had contributed to the situation I found myself in now. So I actively searched my local community for services and supports for men and fathers. Thankfully, I found my way to the Men & Family Centre in Lismore.
I signed up for a Men’s Group, ‘Changes’, a 10-week program. It was one of those fortuitous and synchronous ‘right thing, right place, right time.’ I’d never done anything like this before with other men, but was called to dive into this experience and give it my all.
The group was led by two experienced and well-journeyed men who role-modeled healthy and whole masculinity in a way I had only ever glimpsed. They created and held space for us men participating with skill, heart, strength and wisdom. I felt the man in me heal, awaken and expand. I witnessed the other men joining me on this courageous path experiencing this with me, in themselves. It was simply and truly awesome. To give myself so fully to this.
Words don’t come close to grabbing how it felt and what it meant to me at the time. I had a place to go once a week where I knew I would be unconditionally supported, encouraged, seen, heard and felt. I was being challenged, inspired, touched, lifted, valued, respected, helped, healed, and so much more. Together as men, we talked, shared, laughed, cried, made art, played games, breathed, grunted, yelled, clapped, and sang. We embraced diversity, celebrated progress, showed compassion for struggle and just kept giving and showing up. The generosity of the collective group blew me away. Each week, I felt like I was learning more and more about the man that I wanted to be through the example that was being set by us.
During the third week of the program, I experienced a profound moment of clarity as I became completely present to the gift and privilege of this group. The gift: having this opportunity to join with other men to share my life and journey in a safe, real, supportive and inspiring space. The privilege: to bear witness as other men healed, learned and grew as I was. In that moment, I knew that my life’s work would be with men. That all of my journeying as a boy, young man and now 30-something new single dad had led me here to step into this calling of purpose.
That was one of my greatest turning points in setting out on my Becoming Dad mission. The others are stories in their own right. It’s now so clear to me how men’s work changed my life. For the better. I’ll always smile back on that time and experience with the deepest respect and gratitude for what it gave to me, awakened in me and changed in me. I know Charlie will love this story when he is old enough to understand the depth of it and be grateful, too.
Originally published on BecomingDad.com.
Photo—Thomas G. Fiffer