by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.
The opportunities for fathers to participate in the early years of their children's lives appear to be becoming more important to men today. In the father's group I facilitate, many of the men comment on how they never had any close contact with their own fathers, and how that has made them painfully aware of how important being present in their children's lives is.
Others express that given the opportunity to choose between potential career advancement or spending time with their children, being with their kids feel like the more creative option.
Yet as most of us begin to explore what has been traditionally "women's territory," it is not an easy journey to undertake. Men that I have worked with say that after trying to discover how to integrate a close relationship with their newborn, they often retreat to a more traditional role and begin to see themselves slowly becoming the distant father that they themselves knew.
It seems as if a natural bond between women occurs when they become mothers. A special way of knowing and sharing and deepening of friendships develops with other mothers.
We as men often seem to become more isolated from other men as family responsibilities and adjustments are made. We find that work and our family fill our time. We talk with our wives' friends, but why don't we seek out other fathers?
Perhaps the way we as men are socialized to compete with other men has oppressed us to a point that we no longer are willing to take the risks to make new friendships. Maybe as we grope to discover our identities as fathers, we are too overwhelmed to reach out to other men. Maybe not being able to have any role models for what kinds of friendships new fathers can have, leads us to feel we must "go it alone."
It has been my experience that when men become fathers, it is crucial to be around other fathers to share and explore this life transition. Fathers have something special to give each other.
Throughout history men have had opportunities to share with other men in a variety of different ways. It has only been during the last 60 years that the social climate has shifted in a way that isolates men from each other.
Through talking with other men about fatherhood we can begin to build a bridge back to the important relationships men can have with each other. We can begin to evolve a new model for how we can father.
Fathers meeting together and talking with other fathers is of great benefit, not only to us as men, but to our children, our wives, our families, and ultimately to our culture and society as well.
Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of "Finding Time for Fatherhood" (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.
Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.