I was on the road when our daughter Rayya was born, and wanted to get more quality time with her, but didn’t know what to do.
Dads are still a bit of a rarity at playgroups, so I felt slightly awkward and out of place there. So I started Leeds Dads in 2011 with just a handful of friends and their kids in Leeds City Museum Cafe.
One of the biggest challenges involved enrolling new dads.
I used to meet other dads in parks, childrens centres, A&E wards, and tell them about the group. Foolishly, I didn’t even have flyers. Some dads must have thought I was mad, but I met some of Leeds Dads’ longest standing members this way.
Dads aren’t always the best people to network.
Childcare, running a home, and holding down a job weighs heavy on both parents, but mums seem to be better at understanding these demands, and the importance of communication and support.
Some dads would come and be exhausted, not keen to talk. But they’d be back again and again.
This told me that a group was definitely needed, although I’ve had to work hard to make it what I think dads needed.
The other key challenge is in staying relevant when you only see people once a month.
After creating a local events newsletter for dads, I’m now working on building a network of dads groups/playgroups/support organisations held weekly across Leeds, so that anyone who attends one group can meet other people they know from other groups in the city, and not feel so daunted being the only ‘new face’ in the room.