Even with the growth of the dad movement all over the internet there is still a large mom's group demographic. I, however, managed to weasel my way into one. This is my story. The group I was in, Mommy Connection Edmonton West, was great! After all the nerves had settled and the momma bears embraced me as one of their own I had a blast.
Joining mom’s group started out as a laugh between Lori and myself. She sent me a link and sarcastically asked “I wonder if dads are allowed? lol” With that I promptly emailed asking about the discrimination towards dads in the female driven industry of babies. To my surprise I was called on my hijinks, the coordinator, who was great to deal with, was all for the idea of having a dad join, she had never had one in any of her groups. Hearing I would be the first dad made it even more of a challenge that I had to accept. I signed up a few days later.
I was ready and excited all the way leading up to it, I was joking with friends and family about it. It was still all a big laugh. It’s all fun and games with company, but once I was in the van and on the way to my first class, alone with my two babies, the fear started to sink in. As I am somewhat of a quiet guy to begin with I knew it wouldn't be easy. I arrived early to my first class, although I'm not sure why. I was terrified. I sat in the van, listening to other mom's outside chat like old friend. (during orientation I later found out that some of them, in fact, were friends). This did not help my sense of dread.
If you are reading this as a mother, you're probably asking; "Why so nervous?". If you are a dad, let's face it, you're probably not reading this. I've helped move a 600 lb alligator, and that was less intimidating than walking into my first mom's group as a dad. My dad would refer to it as fear of the unknown. Day one was one of the most nerve racking events of my life. It falls somewhere behind taking my drivers test and proposing to my wife. That being said, I'm sure a lot of moms feel the same way on their first days. As a new parent you have a tendency to doubt yourself, it's natural for anyone embarking on this crazy journey called parenthood. Once I got over my fears, somewhere around the seventh class, it was a great experience.
The program itself was really varied and full of information, I was surprised. I mean I had no frame of reference as to what happens in a mom's group. As far as I knew they all just sat in a circle and chanted songs to babies! Or is that witches? Anyways, the wealth of knowledge provided by the guest speakers that came to class every week was great. We had professionals come in and talk about; sleep for both babies and moms, childcare and what to look for in a provider, baby massage, baby chiropractic, developmental toys, books, and music. There were also a few things for the moms; a photo shoot with the babies, hot mama workout (never again), and we finished the program off with a hike. Even though this started out as a social experiment for me it turned out to be something I looked forward to every week. It was informative, fun, and in the end a great experience all around.
To all the moms I met in moms group; You are all rock stars. You are all amazingly strong women. You are all an inspiration. Thank you momma bears, thank you for accepting me, thank you for making me feel welcome, thank you for a great couple of weeks.
The biggest thing I have taken away from being on paternity leave and attending mom's group is compassion for what women go through, it's not easy. The short nights and the long days. Always being on, regardless of circumstances, time of day, or situation is exhausting. The judging by others, both parents and non parents. All the problems and questions you have with a newborn. It's an endless barrage of issues and problem solving, and I didn't even have the emotional/hormonal aspect from childbirth that all these moms did! However, with mom's group I was exposed to others that are all going through the same thing, not necessarily all the exact same issues, but if someone had a question or concern it would always spark a conversation, never a debate. Something you don't find while looking for advice on the internet.
The first few weeks on paternity leave I didn't leave the house, something I know a lot of moms go through in the first six weeks with a newborn. Being stuck at home with a baby is strange, you aren't alone but you get very lonely. Spending your days with no interaction with adults can, and will, slowly drive you crazy, or depressed. I could feel myself edging ever closer to that dark place. Within the first week of leave I got merely a taste of what my wife had gone through for the first six weeks. That is something no person should have to go through alone. Enter mom's group. Being forced to leave the house every week for something that I had committed to helped raise my confidence in going out with the twins. Pair that with some adult interaction and that depression slowly started to lift. I think this is something a lot of dads do not realise and can't comprehend. I had an idea, while I was working and my wife was on leave, I thought I could imagine what she was going through, but I couldn't, not even close, and again, I didn't even have the hormonal roller coaster that comes with the birthing process.
With that, my message to all the new moms out there is get out. If you are debating the idea of joining a mom’s group, find one. Be with people that understand what you're going through, people that are in the same situation as you. No matter how independent you are or how helpful or attentive your partner is, it will help. It doesn’t even have to be anything major, there are plenty of free activities that you can check out.
My message to dads, be there. Be there for your wife, after work, in the mornings, in the middle of the night. Be there in the kitchen, in the laundry room, in the baby's room. Help where and when you can. I'm sure you're tired from your 8 to 14 hour work day, you've had to deal with clients/customers/contractors, you may have had a bad day. But your wife hasn't talked to anyone, and she's going on her 23rd hour and she's had to deal with more shit that day than you have, literally. Help her, because you can't imagine what she is going through, don't make her do it alone.
Be there for your kids, be present, be playful, be a teacher. Be with them on the floor, at bath time, during feeding. Clean them, change them, put them to bed. Talk to them, sing to them, listen to them. They are your future, your legacy, your life. They won’t remember it, but you will. Take the time now to be close to them, my kids are 6 months old today, and it seems like yesterday I was holding them in the hospital. The time goes quick, too quick.