Can Dad Groups Help Save Moms?
A viral tweet proves that dads need to be part of parenting networks, too.
Keegan Albaugh, executive director of the Dad Guild, with a fellow member and their children.
When I was pregnant with my oldest child seven years ago, I joined a group for expectant moms in my neighborhood. Then I moved, and joined another mom group. And another. Because I nearly died giving birth to my son, I joined several groups for maternal near-miss survivors. When my husband and I pursued surrogacy to have our second child, I joined groups for that, too.
As my children got older and their needs grew more complex, my network continued to expand: daycare peers, media moms, PTA parents, asthma support… Through these groups, I’ve found friendship and solace, as well as answers to my parenting conundrums, from the mundane to the deeply personal. When I have a question, I know an answer is just a text or Facebook post away.
Like many moms, I am our family’s resident problem solver. Though my husband and I split hands-on chores and child care equally, the mental load resides mostly on my shoulders. It occurred to me recently that the imbalance in our cognitive labor likely began in our first few months of parenthood, when I joined group after group, obtaining access to information that my husband simply didn’t have.
I started thinking more about this after Sonya Bonczek, a mom in North Carolina, tweeted about trying to plan her son’s 4th birthday party. Three of the dads she stopped at pickup gave their wives’ emails instead.
After her tweet went viral, several men replied saying their wives were just naturally “better” at these organizational chores. They don’t seem to realize it’s a skill their wives acquired by virtue of necessity. The notion that women are better multitaskers is a myth, and the unequal and crushing load of household management, exacerbated by the pandemic, is making moms less healthy and happy.
Keegan Albaugh wants to change that. In 2019, he launched Dad Guild, an organization aiming to provide a supportive network for fathers in the Burlington, Vermont area. The idea was hatched after Keegan hosted a support group for expectant dads. When he asked the dads why they were attending, most said “my partner made me.”
“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is gonna be awful. No one wants to be here,’” Keegan laughs. “But then, we met monthly, and by month nine, the response was, ‘I didn't know I needed something like this.’”
So Keegan and a friend created a Facebook group and started planning playground meet-ups for dads and kids. Since then, the Dad Guild has grown into a nonprofit organization with a network of over 600 fathers throughout the state of Vermont and partnerships with over three dozen community groups. The Guild hosts hangouts at playgrounds and libraries, as well as a weekly support group on Zoom. Every month, there’s a campfire meetup, where dads can share their struggles.
Members of the Dad Guild at a meetup.
Keegan says the Guild’s members report feeling more confident in their parenting skills after participating and that a majority say it has a positive impact on their partners at home.
“I think it is easy for dads to say, ‘I don't need dad friends. I'm busy. You can handle that.’ But I'm not sure they're aware that by going to that default, it’s one of the first steps towards gender inequity. As the years go on and Mom's network increases and she has relationships with different people and providers, then more of the information-seeking tasks fall by default to her,’” he explains.
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It’s not just moms who stand to gain when dads are tapped into a parenting network, Keegan points out. Plenty of research shows that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer lives, with fewer mental health struggles. The Dad Guild gives fathers a chance to forge those crucial connections.
“We've had dads who, after participating for a couple months, say, Wow, I'm talking about stuff that I haven't talked about with the best friends I've had for 30 years,” he says. “We're really creating a safe space where fathers can be vulnerable and share how they’re doing.”
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After 10 years in brand strategy and an MBA from Stanford, Neha had her first child and chose to downshift and then pause her career. She launched Mother Untitled in 2017 to change the narrative about the modern woman leaning into family life and help women stay confident and connected during career pauses or downshifts. She lives on the Upper West Side of New York with her husband, two kids and a puppy. Book Neha today!
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