Over 4 years ago, as a new father navigating the yet unknown and mysterious waters of parenthood – I thought a group just for dads and their infants and toddlers would be beneficial, for many reasons, so I started Saturday Mornings with Dad in Anchorage, Alaska. Saturday Mornings with Dad is a free weekly program (you guessed it, on Saturdays) where dads and their infant or toddler-aged child come to bond with their babies and also support and learn from each other as dads.
The program is a beacon for helping young mariners navigate the oft-choppy waters of parenting, guiding the men to discover the joys of being a dad. In its simplest sense, it is a playgroup for the little ones. But it also is an opportunity for dads, many of whom are not the primary caregiver for their baby, to be responsible for feeding, changing diapers, rocking baby to sleep, transporting baby, etc.
Fathers Learning from Fathers
One key to the program’s success is that it gives men the opportunity to see fellow dads in a fathering role. A timid new dad of an 8-week old sees a “veteran” father of an 18-month-old and thinks to himself “I can be that dad!” As the facilitator of the “class” I don’t lecture the men or prepare lessons for the morning. I answer questions and present interesting topics of conversation. For the most part I am a facilitator; I greet all dads and little ones, play, and converse with individuals or groups of guys.
While I am the early childhood expert in the group, I am also one of these dads. Together, we use this time to share stories of our struggles and successes. It’s a space where men can talk about topics like napping, share with one another the best deals on diapers, and at the same time talk about their interests like sports, motorcycles, or computer games. Saturday Mornings with Dad supports men on their fatherhood journey. It' a place where dads learn from rach other.
Note: There may be a similar program in your own neck of the woods. Try a simple internet search using the keywords “father,” “playgroup,” and your particular city. You may also try to contact the maternity center at your local hospital for suggestions
Bob Capuozzo is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Georgia. He is the proud father of two young children and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of a third.