Our Workingdads.co.uk survey found dads are really keen to have a space for themselves to discuss all aspects of fatherhood. Beena Nadeem delves further into the results.
What do working dads use the net for? Catching up on industry news, dipping into the sports results, scouring Facebook, perhaps? In fact, our working dads’ survey found a significant chunk of dads (75%) would actually value a dad’s community — somewhere where dads can hang out, chat and read about fatherhood in all its guises.
Of all the dads questioned, the topic you most wanted to read about was fatherhood (66%), shadowing thing likes industry news (20%) and even topping subjects such as health and fitness (60%).
Only 19% of you feel there’s enough information online specifically catering for you — and how it’s presented is crucial.
Writer and dad Oliver Bennett reminds us there’s more to rehashing a successful site such as Mumsnet and reapplying the formula to dads. “A Dadsnet type site, I don’t think so. It would be full of football talk, 10 km bike rides and owning Talking Heads on ‘the original vinyl’ [It will end up more like a] peeing contest,” he says.
Meanwhile, full-time marketer and dad to a seven-month-old daughter, Tom Hallett, says he doesn’t have time to check any dads’ sites. “I use the net to search for ways in which to make my life more efficient… I research queries about my baby or my working rights, industry news and so on”.
Recent research by PhD student Tawfiq Ammari from the University of Michigan found mums are much more comfortable posting support about personal matters. While dads might do this about, say, DIY or cooking, when it comes to personal issues, ‘they post on sites where their identities can be hidden’.
Dan Flanagan, the founder of dads’ only parenting group Dad La Soul, agrees.“The perception that men don’t talk isn’t true; it’s just sometimes easier from behind a keyboard,” he says. “Now there’s lots of communities on Facebook, some can be very niche talking about sensitive issues such as mental health, custody, partners who have suffered multiple miscarriages… These tend to be the private groups.”
Award-winning dads community site music.football.fatherhood was launched by founder Elliott Rae three years ago. He says there was nothing that gave him what he needed.“I wanted real examples of how fatherhood would change my life,” he states. These days he says a lot of the dads use the community side of things to make friends as well as to learn how to handle tumultuous parenting events. “For example, how to deal with things like bullying. Dads might want to handle it in a very different way from mums,” he says.
When writer Eugene Costello posted on a site which was predominately used by women, he ended up being aggressively trolled about his relationship with his daughter.
“Dads can be viewed with suspicion and mistrust… The idea of a group where dads can meet up, virtually hang out and access the ‘hive brain’ for issues relating to dad-dom sounds like a great idea… to have that kind of support would be fantastic,” he says.
Meanwhile, for dads like Simon Paul, a father’s community with real life examples have helped. Simon, who works as a cancer centre charge nurse, has an 11-month-old daughter.
“I would have appreciated support on adjusting going back to work–that was huge for me; like separation anxiety,” he says, adding: “My wife had a traumatic birth… I wanted to know more about how I could support her. I read dads should be the ‘gatekeepers to visitors’ but what happens when visitors go home?”
Increasingly more dads want to work differently: more remotely, part time or flexibly, but even then there’s little to match the support mums get. Some 69% of dads we surveyed feel that businesses have not gauged that modern families have changed while 72% think companies still want people to work traditional hours.
It’s little surprise then that Richard Lynn, a director on Eastenders, calls himself an ‘unusual case’ — being both a school run parent and working. He says: “There’s no irony in why dads use Mumsnet. It has resources on anything from depression to how other parents deal with things, but there’s nothing really similar for me.”
Editor of DadsblogUK, John Adams, says online sites for dad are vital at a time when dads remain in a limbo between new working styles and trying to fit into the pre-existing support networks. “There’s been an improvement and men want to be more involved… but fathers don’t have the same informal social networks that mothers benefit from,” he says.
“Many mums have been cultivating these networks since early NCT and nursery days,” he explains. Because of this he says it becomes difficult for men to fit into such social structures of support. For the traditional dad working 9 to 5, the situation is often worse with the odd Saturday group dedicated to dads, but little else. Battling against the taboos that dads face in and out of the workplace, these “online groups will continue to show their worth”, he says.