Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest Article: Having A Life While Being a Dad: What Would Rob Do?

Having a Life While Being a Dad: What Would Rob Do?
By Rob Sachs,

Author of What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life's Daily Indignities
When you're a little kid, making friends is as simple as sharing the toy you happen to be playing with. Your mom plunks you down next to another kid, he seems to like GI Joe as much as you, and bam -- you're friends. Once I became a married man, I found myself participating less and less in the standard male bonding activity of drinking and began noticing that it wasn't quite so easy to keep friends. All my pals who were busy chugging Vodka Red Bulls started drifting away. Thank goodness my core group of longtime friends chose to keep hanging around, but even they had to readjust to the fact that my social scene was rapidly changing. I would constantly be encouraging them to bring along a date whenever they hung out with me and Anna so they wouldn't feel like a third wheel.

Once Anna and I had Rachel, nights out became a luxury. Seeing a movie with friends required a week or two of planning, not to mention a good chunk of cash for babysitting. In high school, I only got ten dollars an hour as a caddy lugging around two full oversized golf bags around eighteen holes. Now we're paying a very kind lady five dollars more an hour to sit in our living room while our tot sleeps in her crib? Okay, so this woman does know infant CPR should there be an emergency, but it seems like a better deal for her than for me. Our nights out became few and far between, and after the first six months of fatherhood, my social life was in shambles.

Anna saw her circle of friends change dramatically too, but for the most part it was positive. As a work-at-home mom, she was fortunate to find other new mothers through a local moms' club. It's a great outlet not only for play groups, but also for the weekly "Moms' Night Out" they organize. I was glad to see Anna have some time for herself, but I was also a little jealous. Were there any dads' clubs out there?

After days of searching, I couldn't find an equivalent type of organization. Where I did have some luck was with groups that cater to both parents. One is a Seattle-based program called PEPS, or Program for Early Parenting Support. It's run by Harry Hoffman, a father of two grown kids. Hoffman's first piece of advice for finding new dads was that I should (surprise!) join a parenting support group. He said in 2008 his organization saw a 25 percent increase in male attendance. With more and more dual-income households, hands-on parenting is something dads are taking on in greater numbers. According to the U.S. Census, the number of stay-at-home dads is still relatively minuscule compared to the number of stay-at-home moms, but it steadily rose through the 2000s. Although it's still uncommon for men to become full-blown Mr. Moms, the days of fathers not knowing how to change a diaper are long gone.

While it's good to know other dads are accepting greater and greater responsibility at home, I wasn't keen on joining a support group. I didn't need or want another guy's shoulder to cry on. I just wanted to find a few cool dads I could watch a football game with.

Searching out these new friendships, I've also been mindful to do my best to maintain my connections to my childless friends. I've managed to escape for a night out at a bar here and there, but I often feel like an outsider because I'm usually the only dad in the group. I hesitate to bring up baby stuff because from my experience, guys aren't too interested in hearing about it. Then again, it's such a huge part of my life now that it's awkward having to keep it in the bag all the time.

The few times I've hung out with other dads, it's been great to be able to share this new part of me. The only problem: it's hard to find other new dads. My initial approach was blatant "daddy cruising." I decided to work the jungle gyms, take Rachel for extended stroller rides, and casually bring her out to a supermarket so I could roll up to another guy wheeling his kid in a cart and say, "Hey, what's up?" That didn't go over well. Apparently having a cute kid with you only works when you're trying to attract women, not other dads.

I came to realize that fatherhood doesn't all of a sudden make you stop enjoying all the things you did before you were a dad. It just means you have fewer opportunities to do them. Instead of trying to find dads who were still adapting to their new roles, I decided to scope out cool dudes who also happened to be new dads. I brought in Anna to help "pimp me out." Essentially I have her on the lookout for Johns, Toms, Bens, or whoever is married to her mommy friends, in the hope that one of them will be cool enough to hang with. It's a slow process, but it seems to be working. When we're getting together with another couple, Anna's been great at turning on a football game and then quietly excusing herself and making small talk with the wife so that I can have some one-on-one time to get acquainted with the husband. Sometimes I'll stop and think about how weird this feels. It's almost like dating all over again, except at the end of the night, I'm really only looking for a high five.

The above is an adapted excerpt from the book What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life's Daily Indignities by Rob Sachs. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2010 Rob Sachs, author of What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life's Daily Indignities
Author Bio
Rob Sachs, author of What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life's Daily Indignities, has spent the last ten years as a producer, reporter, and director for NPR shows, including Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Tell Me More. He created the podcast What Would Rob Do? in 2006 and serves as its host.

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