Health & Well-being

How to talk about: The reality of dad life

Reality of dad life

Sometimes, blokes don’t find it easy to talk about being a dad. In a culture that tells us that men should talk more about the Rugby World Cup than their feelings, we can find it pretty hard to talk about the tougher stuff. Problem is, often the stuff that we don’t talk about is actually the stuff that matters the most.

The thing with being a dad is that it is one of the most (if not the most) significant things you will ever do in your life. So, how do you talk about dad life with other dads?

Often the stuff that we don’t talk about is actually the stuff that matters the most.

There seems to be two unhelpful ways to talk about being a dad that follow all the male-normative socially constructed ideas about how to conduct yourself as a human being that has created offspring. In other words, the bro code for dads.

Unhelpful option one – The ‘no problems’ dad

This dad presents himself as if parenting is a breeze. He never complains about any problems and if anything, he tends to brag a little bit.

However, parenting isn’t actually a breeze for these guys. It’s the same gale force sou-wester with the odd clearing of sun that we all experience. The 'no problems' dad has the same struggles as the rest of us. They probably can’t get their youngest to go to bed on time, their middle kid won’t eat anything without tomato sauce and their eldest just left the family chat on What'sApp.

As I mentioned before – it’s a bit of a culture thing here in New Zealand. Blokes like to give the impression that they aren’t bothered by anything; that they don’t struggle with parenting, and that there is no issue that having a beer can’t fix. The problem with this approach is that it restricts their ability to have actual conversations about the actual challenges of being responsible for the little humans whom they love heaps.

Unhelpful option two – The ‘it’s all a problem’ dad

These are dads that present themselves as if don't really like being a dad and they don’t really like their kids either. They can never go out with the boys because of “the bloody kids”. Proudly, they admit that their parenting goal is to be like the dad from Home Alone. Basically they want to be rich enough to go to Paris on holiday and uninvolved enough to forget the odd child every now and then.

I suspect that these dads are actually a lot more involved than they give themselves credit for. Some guys just like to underplay anything that might potentially involve them having emotions, relationships or responsibilities. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t invite any conversation that might include emotions, relationships and responsibilities. Having spaces to talk about the significant aspects of dad life is one of the best ways to help navigate this whole 'being a dad' thing.

How do you talk to dads about being a dad? Well, don’t present yourself as if you have no worries, and don’t present yourself as if you don’t care at all. Try the middle ground. Try being the ‘some problems’ dad. We can all relate to that.

Having spaces to talk about the significant aspects of dad life is one of the best ways to help navigate this whole 'being a dad' thing.

Dad chats: A how-to guide

  • You – How’s it going, Kev?
  • Other Dad – Not too shabby Gav. How’s the family?
  • You – Pretty good mate, pretty good. It’s hard work sometimes, aye, this dad thing...
  • Other Dad – What d’ya mean?
  • You – I mean that sometimes I don’t know if I'm doing the right thing or not.
  • Other Dad – Yeah, I get that mate.
  • You – Look, I love my kids, but it's tough sometimes.
  • Other Dad – Too right.

Now, we don’t need to use the word ‘shabby’ or ‘mate’, but we do need to make an effort to connect with other dads about the shared realities of the dad life. It’s not just nice to know, it’s actually good for us to know that we are not the only ones who find it challenging sometimes. It’s important to remember that we aren’t alone.

Being vulnerable about dad life with other dads doesn’t mean that you have to start watering down your beer with lemonade or start referring to movies as ‘films’. Some of the best mates that I have are the mates who I can talk about this stuff with. So be that type of mate, not only because it’s good for you, but because it’s good for your mates too.

Christian Gallen

Christian Gallen

Christian has spoken to over 100,000 young people nationwide during his long career as a youth communicator and presenter. His passion is seeing young people make great choices and thrive, both online and offline.

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