Want to start a dads group?
When you think about becoming a father…..how huge a life change that is! I can’t imagine going through all the challenges becoming a dad brought into my life and identity and soul without having a group of men to talk with.
It is Wednesday evening and we are not here to talk about the 49er’s or the “fiscal cliff” our discussion tonight will focus on what our child taught us about being a father over the last two weeks. This courageous group of new dads, dads with kids under 5 years old, is having their bi-monthly Fathers’ Forum meeting. It’s carpenters, engineers, writers, psychologist, salesmen, all different careers, backgrounds and lives, but all going through the challenges of understanding who they are as men now that they have become a dad. The stereotype that “men don’t share their feelings” is obviously not true here; the dads have a lot to say and I struggle to bring our meeting to a close.
I think men don’t have the opportunity to have a place where the focus of the conversation is about the important changes and events in their lives as fathers. My 25 years of working with dads has proved to me that given the opportunity men can talk about very deep emotions and experiences candidly. That’s what the Fathers’ Forum is about.
Over 30 years ago when my son, Morgan was born, I was in a men’s group. Great group of guys and many of them I still know today. But being one of the first to have a child I didn’t feel that they were getting how hard it was for me. I remember the conversation one night. I was going on about not sleeping, having a baby that was crying all night, a wife who was someone completely different than one month ago, yikes what was happening! Then the evening’s facilitator said “Bruce you have talked a lot about becoming dad, but Jeff here has been going out with his girl friend for three months now, he things it is really serious”…”really serious” I said, “I am so far beyond really serious I can’t tell you how much trouble I am in!!!” It was at that point I knew I needed to meet with some other dads…would they feel the same way as I do or am I just crazy?
I decided to find a few other men who had recently become dads to get together for some weekly meetings. To find out I was not alone with these feelings of being overwhelmed, losing the life I had known and discovering a whole new way of being in the world was happening for them too! Feeling frightened and scared and proud and in love with my son, in awe of my wife, confused about how I felt at work, trying to exist like I was in a sleep deprivation experiment, having all kinds of relatives descend on our lives, wow…..this was a lot…thank goodness I found a few guys who were going through it too…I wasn’t crazy!
This is how the Fathers’ Forum was born. I realized that becoming a dad was a “tipping point” in my life. It pushes me into a need to redeem the very special friendships that come from sharing intense experiences with other men at an important time in life. I did not want to “go it alone.” I later found in my research that special bonds are developed between men who share this time of early parenting. It is a time we need a place where there is room for the soft, emotional self and the competitive, controlling part can take a step back. A new inner world is emerging. We are learning about new aspects of ourselves from our conversations.
Now after 25 years of groups and over a thousand men who have participated in my small office here in Northern California I hope to find a way to help other new dads start their own groups. I am not sure how to do this or what it may become. But I learned when I first became a father, that is how it goes sometimes. I hope with a little tolerance for uncertainty I may find a way to do this. Want to help me change the world…one dad at a time?