Being a stay at home dad I find myself in this situation all the time. I will never forget my wife telling me a day or so before she went back to work, “Here is the email address of the girl I met who runs the mom’s group I have been going to. You should email her when I go back to work. It would be good for you!”
The thought of being the only guy in a group full of moms was probably the most unpalatable thing I could think of up to that point in my life. They would all be talking about cycles, weight gain, upset stomachs and various other decidedly non-man subjects and I would have to sit and listen. It just wasn’t worth it, “I can do this stay at home dad thing on my own,” I thought.
The first few weeks were really not that bad, my daughter and I went to the swings, park, bookstore for story time and out to lunch. It was a novelty to be alone with her for the whole day and get to do whatever I (we) wanted. I started running a lot more pushing her in the jogging stroller and actually got in the best running shape of my life pushing that thing around Central Park.
It started to get boring being by ourselves. One day I reluctantly dug out the email on the crumpled piece of paper my wife had given me and sent an email to the mom who runs the Diva Mamas. “What am I doing, the Diva Mamas, seriously?”
The first event I went to was a baby sign language class in a mom’s apartment. Ugggg, I was dreading the meeting and wondered what I was doing but walked up the street and went in. It was a cozy group of about three or four moms and me. The kids enjoyed playing together, and I found myself actually being interested in the conversations about feeding, sleeping, pacifiers and poop. Everyone was genuinely interested in sharing information about dealing with a new baby and exchanging tips, ideas and support for problems and excitements.
When I left I was completely converted and wondered why I had been so reluctant. I mean it’s in my DNA to resist coffee clutches in favor of tackle football but why had I had such a closed mind to the whole idea of joining a mom’s group? I was a mom, just a different gender. I do the same things every day that these moms do. Change diapers, feed, clean up, administer medicine and love and nurture my child as she grows. Even though I am a different sex and have a different set of ideas in my head, I realized that I was just like these moms because I shared so many of the same thoughts and feelings with them.
After a few meetings I was comfortably installed as the token Diva Dad and continue to be involved with the group. Some of my daughter’s closest friends are from the group. It was from this group that someone recommended the NYC Dad’s Group and lead to you reading this now. It was invaluable in the past few years for me to have like-minded adults to help me, support me, and listen to me when I wasn’t sure how to handle a situation. Whether the group is called Diva Mama’s or NYC Dads bears no relevance to the knowledge that can be shared and the support given by finding some kind of group to raise your child with.
I have found myself in many situations where I am in a room full of moms who are talking about cycles, weight gain, upset stomachs and various other decidedly non-man subjects. I have had moments of really feeling like the hole in the doughnut and not fitting in at all. It’s those times that I can just focus on my daughter and the other kids and play like a dad, then I get through them and accept that I am in a situation that is not the norm. In fact, I am so thankful every day that I have the opportunity to spend so much time watching my daughter master the small things in life that many fathers only hear about while they work and support their families at a job.
The innate belief that I would never be able to hang out with a bunch of moms while I was at home raising my daughter was so misguided I still cannot believe that I seriously thought that. I know that this forum is aimed at dads supporting dads and I am all in on that front, but the reality for many stay at home dads is they are going to have to hang out with women. In smaller cities and towns that do not have NYC’s 8 million people you’re going to have a hard time finding a dad’s group. If a stay at home dad decided that he didn’t feel comfortable hanging out with other mothers he would spend a lot of time alone and deprive his child of opportunities for friendship and learning with other kids. He would also deprive himself of information that could really help curing the hiccups (gripe water). Dads who stay at home raising their kids need to get into a mindset that they are really just another parent in the neighborhood and break through the gender barrier, mingle, befriend, seek out and enjoy hanging out with a room full of moms.
Jack (Jake) Howard Potter resides in New York City with his wife, Erica and (two year old) daughter, Skylar. Motivated by his study of human anatomy and movement, Howard-Potter works with steel to create large-scale figurative sculptures. His work has been on display throughout the world in outdoor sculpture parks, galleries and public art exhibitions. Aside from being his daughter’s primary caregiver, Jakee is an active endurance athlete competing in multiple half marathons and triathlons each year. To view his work or learn more, visit www.steelstatue.com or visit @steelstatue on Twitter & Facebook.
Originally appeared at NYC Dads Group.