Achieving A Successful Dads Group
We facilitated a panel discussion at the 15th Annual At-Home Dads Convention to share stories, secrets, and best practices with a dads looking to create a group's like ours in other cities. Below is what we shared on how to start, grow and maintain a dynamic community of caring and involved fathers.
Disclaimer: There is no secret recipe and we continually learn from the error of our ways to we can identify ways to improve. It takes patience!
Please enjoy & use this material. Feel free to email it to dads in other cities. Feel free to cross post-it onto your blogs. This is an organic document....so please let us know if this was helpful.
STARTING Your Local Group
1. Set up an Internet site for your group.
At a minimum, set up an email account so people can contact you. You can set up a free blog with Wordpress or Blogger, or a website with Meetup.com for a small fee. You can also use Yahoo or Google groups to set up a group message board. You can design a more advanced website with your own domain name, but this is more time consuming. The objective of having a site is to offer dads a destination to connect, to provide contact information, to provide general information about your group, and to maintain a calendar of future group meetings/events. You need to decide whether to make the group private or public. The NYC Dads Group is public so potential members can get a true picture of the group before joining.
2. Establish a consistent meeting day and time (and place if possible).
Dads with kids live by schedules and structure so it will be easier for members to attend if they can plan ahead. NYC Dads Group meets every Wednesday at 10am. The locations change frequently based on the geography of the group – zoo, local parks/playground, museums, indoor playroom, or parent & me classes. One suggestion is to have different members hosting in their homes and rotating weekly. Remember to incorporate travel times, naps, school schedules, etc. Currently, the NYC Dads Group is planning more frequent and more localized events to bolster member participation.
3. Get your name out there!
• Contact local media organizations. A phone call or email notifying the media that you exist & organized a group with contact information is necessary. Type up a formal press release as well. There are the main broadcast stations, newspapers, and smaller community and parenting papers to contact.
• Make a simple flyer with contact info and meeting time/place. Post at playgrounds, library, children’s venues, pediatrician office, and mothers groups.
• Business cards can be made at a low cost. You can create these on your computer or at a local print shop. You can hand these out to dads you run into across town & encourage existing members to network as well.
• Link Love: Contact other dad websites or blogs with your website/group information. Also contact local mother’s groups so they can refer men who want to join to you. Register your site at www.rebeldad.com, www.athomedad.org, www.daddyshome.org., and www.drmoz.com.
• Social Media Networking: Utilize Facebook & Twitter so you can keep your group plugged in and offer another avenue for members to easily connect
4. Create membership criteria and upfront information
Will there be any criteria for entry? Will you charge a fee or suggest a donation? Also consider what you want to know about members providing information (name, age of kids, neighborhood, etc). Are Dads who work allowed to join? How about Moms? NYC Dads Group was originally created as an at-home dads social network. Now, our goal is to be inclusive of ALL involved fathers.
GROWING Your Local Group
1. Be confident, patient, and persistent.
Groups take time to build and dads are not always easy to organize. The first month was frustrating – only 2 or 3 dads at the first few events. Our group took over four months before we had a core group of members that participated weekly.
2. Empower your members and listen to them for ideas.
The organizer is the “heart” of a group, but they get their best ideas for future meetings and events from the other dads in the group. Everyone’s opinion counts! Dads are more likely to attend group events when they were responsible for planning it. Encourage dads to step up!
3. Plan interesting, fun, and meaningful outings.
• It is easy to hit the local playground or use someone’s home/playroom so the kids can play & interact while the dads socialize. These locations are easy to organize and should be a frequent group outing.
• Use your community: Contact the local parent & me companies, YMCA/Community Center, or play-spaces. It is amazing how the power of a unique group can get you a free trial class at a local children’s venue or inexpensive & affordable opportunities
• Dads Night Out: About once a month, it is important to schedule a fun night out without kids - sports bar, poker night, steak night, BBQ, etc. This forum truly enables you to get to know the guys better.
• Enrichment for adults: Aside from the usual social outings, it’s important to take some time to think about the bigger picture of fatherhood via author discussions and relevant parenting workshops (i.e. Limit Setting, Positive Discipline, Potty Training, Thinking about Preschool, Getting in to Preschool, etc). Authors with new releases are especially interested in meeting with local parents groups, especially if you provide the venue and audience.
• Volunteering: Look for a local family related non-profit that needs volunteers. Contact your local soup kitchen, Salvation Army collection center, or shelter. The NYC Dads Group works with an organization called Baby Buggy that provides gear, toys, and clothes to families in need.
MAINTAINING Your Local Group
1. Communicate with your group often.
Keeping in touch with your group as it grows is challenging. Send out a weekly email sharing upcoming events and other relevant news. Always give credit to dads that stepped up and planned a group event, assisted in their home, or helped in some other way. Make sure to send an email to the dad you haven’t seen in a while to see what he is up to.
2. Offer opportunities for your group to communicate with each other.
Set up an email list so people can stay in contact with one another. Create a message board so dads can share best practices, frustrations, or ask questions. Encourage the dads to make plans outside of the “scheduled” group outings so they build lasting friendships. Use social media networking like Twitter & Facebook to keep dads connected.
3. Don’t do it alone.
o An “organizer” is just a title. Ask for help from your group. Ask for meaningful feedback or constructive criticism after group meetings on ways the group can improve or be enhanced. Talk to other group organizers (including moms groups) for ideas or solutions to challenges in maintaining a vibrant group.
o Establish a Leadership Team (i.e. assistant organizer, community outreach liaison) within the group that meets frequently to discuss the future of the group. The goal is to empower more members, relieve the workload for the organizers, and develop best practices to create a more social, supportive, and enriching community of dads.
*Some information was borrowed from Phil Andrew & Mike Njus of the Lincoln/Omaha At-Home-Dads Group as well as Tony Peters & Bill Beagle of the Dayton Dads (information posted on Rebeldad website). My appreciation goes out to those dads for sharing the information that has made their group a success.
A Few Reasons To Join A dads Group
NYC dads group reached 250 members. This group is a true melting pot of dad-diversity. There are full-time at home dads, part-time at home dads, dads who work full-time in an office, freelance journalists, photographers, teachers with ample vacation and summers off, self employed guys, work from home fathers, numerous dads who chose their role to be an at-home dad, a few forced into the role by the economy, dads born on U.S. soil, guys born abroad, fellas of all ethnic backgrounds, dads who are diehards that come to all of the events, dads who only attend events in their neighborhood, and some dads who don't attend any group events. That said, we all share a common bond of being active and involved fathers in NYC who put our children first.
Truth be told, if it were not for the support of the group, I probably would have been back at work months ago. It's been nice to hear similar statements from several of the core group members who are at-home dads as well.
Reaching a milestone with the group has left me in a mode of reflection. If a dads group has been so instrumental for me in providing a support network, a necessary tool to beat the isolation, and a safe place where my son can interact with other kids...then, it was time to collaborate with our dads group members (using an unscientific survey method) to develop a TOP TEN LIST on why dads should join a dads group. I figured that there are still so many dads out there (in New York and around the country) in need of support and more resources...so here is what we came up with.
Why Should You Join a Dads Group?
10. It's a healthy social outlet - meeting up with other dads and their kids can be a great way to spend part of your day hanging out (or talking sports) with people in a similar situation as yourself
9. Feels like a fraternity (a dad-ternity) with guys who understand your situation
8. Safe place to share best practices, enjoy successes, and vent frustrations
7. You can learn a lot from other dads, like what to do when your toddler's answer to every question is, "No!"
6. Dads Night Out (DNO) once a month - "Nuff said" - True story: parenting had been so challenging for one particular dad in the group that DNO actually forced him to get out socially without his wife for the first time in over a year
5. To support each other through an extremely challenging job
4. Enable our kids to frequently socialize, bond, and play together
3. To have a place where you can continue playing Fantasy Sports (or participate in an NCAA bracket pool) - "Because 2-year-olds aren't going to help you decide between Drew Brees and Peyton Manning"
2. Participate in fun and interesting things that you probably would not do on your own
1. So you do not have to go through it alone! Let's face it, guys do not always like to ask for help and directions
Hopefully, this top ten list will give a few dads the gentle nudge they need to throw in the towel and just join a group (or start their own group if one does not exist).
Dads Groups Should Be More Inclusive
From time to time, I get the opportunity to be a "guest blogger" over at Daddyshome, Inc. - the National At-Home Dads Network. Below is my latest rant on addressing why dads groups across the country should become more inclusive and open our doors to all fathers.
From the desk of: NYC Dads Group
At last year’s at-home dad convention in Omaha, Nebraska, I vividly remember a meaningful conversation regarding the exclusivity of being a stay-at-home dads group vs. being a stay-at-home ‘parents’ group (and allowing moms to be members as well). The overall consensus from the participants of this conversation seemed to be in the court of remaining a stay-at-home dads group. After all, there truly are fewer resources out there for stay-at-home dads, so these groups are a welcome and necessary support oasis.
Let’s fast forward one year, and let me toss out some other things for all of the developing stay-at-home dads groups across the country to strongly consider. First, let’s face it, we call ourselves at-home dads, but truth be told, we are not really at-home all that much. Nope, we are on playdates, running errands, in parent & me classes, shuttling the kids from school to extracurricular activities, on the playgrounds, and the like.
This notion of not being at home much combined with the insistence of other active dads group members shifted our NYC Dads Group to become more welcoming to ALL dads. Basically, our at-home dads groups should become more inclusive, rather than exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel dads groups should continue to be a safe haven for dads only (sorry moms), but now we should realize how necessary it is to include all active and involved fathers. Dads Groups are role models for supporting the new & expectant fathers, providing camaraderie for the veteran fathers, a place to share best practices on navigating parenthood, and a safe place to socialize for all dads and their kids. Consequently, I ask other dads groups to heed this call: Open up your doors (wide) to all fathers who want to spend quality time with their kids. This includes expectant fathers, part-time at home dads, dads who work full-time, freelance guys, teachers with summers off, self employed guys, work from home fathers, dads who have flex time, at-home dads who chose their role, a few forced in by the economy, dads born on U.S. soil, guys born abroad, fellas of all ethnic backgrounds, dads who will be “dad-ternity” group diehards that come to all of your group outings, and some dads who don’t attend any group events, but enjoy the sense of community it promotes. You see, we all share a common bond of being active and involved fathers who put our children first.
How do you implement this change in your dads group? Is it simply changing the wording on your website and mentioning it at your next outing saying something like “we now welcome dads of all stripes?” Well, that certainly helps, but the change happens best when it is embraced by the entire group and therefore empowering your members as well. It means not only planning the tried & true dad group events that cater to the at-home dad, but creating opportunities for all dads to learn how to succeed: Holding evening events beyond Dads Night Out (i.e. surveying your members to establish meaningful parenting workshops & hosting author discussions) and weekend outings (i.e. a morning playground meet up so dads on shift on the weekends have a place to go) to include more dads.
What does all of this mean? We are in a tremendous time of change. Look at all of the amazing dads resources that have come out in the past year. On the dad group front, we are in a position to be true pioneers and offer so much more for all fathers that are seeking a place to bond, vent, talk sports, learn, and find a sense of belonging . Let’s offer this to them…
Top Ten Tips for Stay-at-Home Dads (& At-Home Parents)
10 Tips for Stay-at-Home Dads (From Other Dads)
by stay-at-home dads Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider (published on HealthyWomen)
A few years ago, we chose the role of being at-home dads and knew that we were headed into the most amazing and challenging years of our lives. We were amateur dads then, and even as veteran fathers now, we are far from experts. Fortunately, we are surrounded by a large community of at-home dads, working dads and dads of all stripes in our NYC Dads Group so we have a network to draw upon for some tips and best practices. Here are our top 10 tips geared for stay-at-home dads. That said, we sincerely believe these tips to be a valuable asset to any parent choosing to be the primary caregiver to his or her child.
1.Clear communication with your wife/partner on responsibilities
It is imperative to discuss expectations and responsibilities early and often regarding all aspects of parenting. Discuss expectations about cooking and home care, contributions to parenting at night and on weekends, managing relatives, etc. Setting clear expectations up front will reduce conflict and resentment.
2. Find time for yourself
Now that you are an at-home parent, parenting does not have to consume your entire life. It is extremely important to carve out personal "me" time for yourself to still get together with your friends, hit the gym or pursue a hobby.
3. Take your job seriously
As with any other job, you should navigate parenthood with the goal to be the best dad you can be, the same way you strive to succeed at any job.
4. Consider the future
Being an at-home dad may not be your job forever so it is important to continue networking within your field or area of expertise, staying sharp and keeping up on current events.
5. Connect with other parents
You are not alone in this journey of parenthood although it may feel isolating at times. In fact, isolation is one of the chief complaints of stay-at-home parents. It's so important to socialize, network and share your tips and frustrations with other dads. Join a dads group (there are so many of them now) or a local parenting group.
6. Establish a routine
Having your child(ren) on a consistent schedule (eating, napping, bedtime routine) is important for them so they know what to expect every day and for you so you can confidently plan your day.
7. Get out of the house
It's easy to feel overwhelmed at home with housework or parenting responsibilities. Getting fresh air is so important for you and your child. Make sure you get out once or twice a day (even during winter) to take a walk with the stroller through a park, run a few errands, enroll in a parent and child class or to hit the local library or bookstore.
8. Seek advice or help
Let's face it: dads don't like to ask for directions or read the manual. We recommend approaching parenting a little differently—you can't do it all by yourself. Ask for help when you need it whether it's hiring a cleaning person to help with housework or calling another parent with a challenge regarding child discipline, potty training or sleep wakings.
9. Embrace the experience
Sometimes it may be hard to realize, but caring for your child during the first few years of his or her life is a wonderful opportunity. You not only get to observe and witness the major milestones, but, you get to share and enjoy the small wondrous moments that happen every day!
10. Shattering stereotypes and informing society
At-home dads oftentimes get a bad rap based on negative perceptions in media and society at large. It's your duty to inform others, as well as demonstrate through parenting, that fathers can be nurturing, competent and caring.
There you have it. It's not groundbreaking, but you could consider these tips as you embark on your role as an at-home dad/parent or if you are considering taking on the role.