A callout to dads!

When looking at our family and working arrangements, my wife and I decided upon the ‘stay at home dad’ route with my wife as the primary earner.  Being at home with the children was a very rewarding time, whilst also being a very challenging one.  Caring for your children can be a rollercoaster of emotions.  I can see the nodding heads.  My understanding of my mother’s life also deepened.

During this time at home, I discovered Parent and Toddler Groups and parenting programmes.  I attended the groups weekly; workshops as they arose; and parenting programmes when I could.  As a father, I found it challenging to enter into a space that was occupied, for the most part, by moms.  Despite the cultural changes regarding parenting, these spaces were predominately female. Yet they were welcoming and supportive spaces.  Having a place to go, where I could mix with other adults in between the cooking, cleaning, washing, changing nappies, dressing, playing, toilet training and feeding the kids, was a life changer.

Parent and Toddler groups gave my children an opportunity to socialise with other children.  Significantly, it carved out time for me to play with them without the distractions of housework while also having adult conversations with other parents.  The parenting programmes gave me a space to discuss parenting in a supportive space.  I think there is a perception that a parenting programme is for when there is a behavioural problem. While programmes can, and do, address behavioural issues, they are, for the most part, about supporting parents to develop their parenting skills.  After all, no one is a ready-made parent; a lot of the learning is experiential, and parent programmes support that.

Eleven years on, with the kids in school, I’m back at work as a Family Support Worker! It’s noticeable that it can still be challenging for fathers to attend the groups and programmes.  So, this is my attempt to call out to the Dads of Limerick.  Come to these parenting spaces.  I can personally, and professionally, vouch to their benefit for both parents and children.  Dads get to explore their own parenting in a supportive way.  In particular, parenting programmes support and benefit the parent/child relationship.  Also, children (both girls and boys) who experience men in traditionally female spaces benefit.  They are exposed to men and women in caring roles breaking down barriers for the Dads of the future and promoting gender equality for both sexes. If nothing else, you’ll have a cup of coffee, a scone and a chat!

For more information on Parent and Toddler groups in Limerick, go to www.loveparenting.ie/baby-toddler-groups .

This article was contributed Pat Fitzpatrick, Family Support Worker with Northside FRC on behalf of Parenting Limerick.