Social isolation; it’s a dad thing too

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The other day I found myself at home on my own. It was a rare moment; these things don’t happen often.

Helen was at school, Elizabeth was at pre-school and I was supposed to be in London for a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood. Alas, I had transport issues so had to bail at the last minute.

With an empty house, however, I decided to put together a quick YouTube video about social isolation and how it impacts on stay at home dads. I was, after all, wearing smart clothes that would look good on film (vain? Moi? Absolutely!).

Social isolation is, of course, a massive issue for mums. I would never want to play that down and I know mums who struggle with it.

The thing is, us SAHDs face some particular issues. Support groups for dads, for instance, invariably run at weekends for the benefit of working fathers. It can also be difficult to be accepted into tight, social groups of women who have probably been socialising and known each other since they were going to NCT classes before they even had kids. Also, if mum works full time and commutes, you can bet she has no “mum friends” of her own in the locality and this has an impact on the entire family.

As a blogger, I regularly read blog posts written by women about the importance of having supportive “mum friends”. Having a supportive group of friends is equally important to dads, especially stay at home dads, but it’s much more difficult for them to establish such social networks.

I shot this video, placed it on my YouTube channel and Facebook page and thought little of it. I wasn’t even going to embed it in a blog post. To my surprise, however, it has proved quite popular and so I thought I would place it on the blog. Please do have a watch and tell me what you think.

social isolation, stay at home dad, stay at home father, dads, fathers, lonliness, anxiety, depression, parentlg



27 thoughts on “Social isolation; it’s a dad thing too”

  1. Really interesting John and you are very good at vlogging! Nice shirt and jacket too 🙂 The social isolation thing must be really hard. I have had a couple of play dates at the houses of of a couple of dads while their wives (also my friends) were working and I have to admit it did feel a bit weird even though there was no suggestion of impropriety whatsoever. One of these guys, Michael, was quite at ease bringing his boys to our local playgroup where sometimes he would be one of the only people I really chatted to. I guess you have to have a pretty thick skin. I certainly feel a bit of a sense of isolation with all of the parents from my son’s class at school although I have got two close friends from one of the other year 1 classes but both of them work part time too. Also now I’m a single mum I kind of wish I had a network of single parent friends but not sure how to establish that kind of network in my area (which also isn’t my area right now as me & the kids are living 30 miles away!). There is also the fact that where you are seeking out other people of a specific demographic in a specific area and they are few and far between when you do find a potential friend, supporter and ally you’ve got to click with them as a person and if you don’t you’re back to square one. So many considerations! Thank goodness for social/online/blogging networks!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments about my vlogging! Nice to hear. Equally, you’ve raised many interesting points. The single mum / dad must face some major challenges. I certainly don’t think us SAHDs are unique in facing these issues. the mum who doesn’t speak English as a first language, the grandparent, the lesbian parent….all must find it difficult. Being 30 miles away in your position must also be problematic. My daughter goes to a school a few miles away and so none of her friends live on our doorstep. This has also created complications as her classmates are often walked to school in groups as they all live near each other, but she isn’t and that means I’ve had less time to mingle with the mums (….and dads). That’s not so much a problem any more, but when she first started school I felt it was.

  2. I’m ashamed to admit this john but I’ve never really considered how isolated SAHDs must be. I am someone who seeks out groups of mum friends and I find them an absolute lifeline whether now as a part-time SAHM or when I was doing the role full time. But why would it not be the same for dads? I think we wrongly assume sometimes that dads are far more self sufficient. How sexist! Is there a support group round your way for SAHDs? Perhaps you should start one…

    1. As more time passes Suzanne, I do find myself thinking I should attempt to set up a support group. It’s that old thing though; time. If I’m not looking after kids I’m blogging. Glad it got you thinking about the subject though. Highlighting these issues is why I got into blogging. Sadly, for me, I don’t really have the lifelines you speak of. Yes, a few supportive mum and dad friends but no real network. Just have to grin and bear it.

  3. Carol Cameleon

    Wow, what a subject John! I found it hard enough at times with the clickey-ness and (gasp) bitchiness of play groups but I still pushed myself to go with our (at the time) 4 month old several times a week. Had I not, PND, loneliness, etc would undoubtedly have swallowed me up. You yourself have blogged about PND in dads and this is absolutely a real issue here. Your point about your girls missing out on the social side of these groups and playdates struck a cord. For that was a big reason for me forcing myself out of the four walls every other day and in my opinion, getting our babies out into the world (as we know it) is crucial to their personal development on so many levels. So I can totally see why this is an issue for dads much less confident than you. (I’m not for one minute suggesting you’re arrogant there by the way!) it’s so hard to get things across tone-wise in a typed blog comment! #truthabout

    1. It’s bad enough trying to get such sentiments across in a blog post! Didn’t think you were saying I was arrogant at all. Anyway, yes, arranging for your child to socialise with other kids is essential, but harder for us SAHDs. It is difficult knowing your child misses out. Oddly though, my kids have never questioned why it;’s always daddy doing the school run etc.

  4. Excellent points. Although it can be hard for mums, there are more possibilities out there whilst if you’re a SAHD, it’s much harder to meet people, make friends and be accepted as your pool of peers is much smaller. Rev T was lucky, the toddler group he went to was run by some of his close friends who had to vouch for him so the other mums felt comfortable around him. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. A SAHD shouldn’t have to be vouched for!

    1. Alas, SAHDs do sometimes need to be vouched for. It can be tough but it surprises me where the obstacles come. Rev T was indeed lucky to have that support.

  5. This is a really interesting topic that, as a working dad, I had never given much thought to before. But you’re right, it can be doubly tough on SAHDs who don’t have the benefit of either safety in numbers or the opportunity to have forged relationships in social circles that are often fully formed before you even arrive on the scene.

    I certainly found that on the few occasions I took our kids to weekday playgroups that I found myself on the sidelines. Not because I was being excluded at all, merely that I wasn’t actively included – and compounded by the fact I am painfully shy anyway and find it difficult to introduce myself in group situations. But when I’m at kids’ parties with a few parents I know, that problem disappears completely.

    With hindsight, I’m really glad I attended NCT classes with my wife before our first was born. We were new in the area – Isaac was conceived, we think, a week before we moved in – and knew no one, but by doing NCT we formed invaluable networks of both mums and dads, and of course we’ve stayed friends with most of the others since. These networks are definitely particularly valuable for the mums, who really need it in those early months. But the importance of all dads – but in particular SAHDs – not becoming socially isolated absolutely should not be underestimated.

    1. Ah, now you’re muddying the waters Tim! You see we moved house between child No1 arriving on the scene and child No2. As Gill was always going to be a full time working mum, she never really established those “mum relationships”. We then moved to a different county and I became a SAHD so even the very few NCT relationships we had were severed. If we were to move house again, I know full-well I would face an absolutely enormous struggle to be accepted. I’d have the benefit of experience to call upon, but it would be very tough. Our daughter goes to a school nearby, but not on our doorstep. The fact she doesn’t go to the closest school has added some geopolitics to the situation. It is all so complicated Tim.

  6. Before I moved to the US I was a working mum, so the loneliness and isolation associated with being a stay at home parent was something I just hadn’t considered. I’m very aware of it now! Where I live there are quite a few SAHD’s, and although still in the minority, there are enough of them that I have been aware of this issue as I’ve spoken to some of them about it. I’m good friends with one SAHD as our families have become close friends since we moved here. We’ve done lots of playdates and babysitting swaps etc. to give each other a break and I know that he has struggled with mums flat out ignoring him! I was stunned. But, looking around me, armed with that knowledge, I see it happening a lot, and I suspect I have been guilty of it too, without realizing I’m doing it. A network for support and connection is important for all of us, mums and dads. Oh, and great video, you’re a natural 🙂

    1. You raise an interesting point regarding being ignored. I’ve long suspected this takes place, but never wanted to raise it as an issue. Truth is, I see mums being ignored; maybe English isn’t a first language, maybe they work full time and and never get to mingle with other mums etc. It’s not simply a SAHD thing but I think us guys have a few additional barriers thrown our way purely because of our gender. I totally get that a full time working mum such as yourself would have empathy with this scenario. If I think about those parents I tend to mingle with, the majority are working, at least part time. And thanks for your comments about my video, much appreciated!

  7. I remember when I was on maternity leave and took Zach to baby sensory, there was one dad among the whole group. I always thought how brave he was to come. I had a fair few conversations with him which mostly stemmed from my darling son falling head over heals with his daughter and flirting horrendously! Not once did I ever think of inviting him to join the few of us who went for coffee afterwards while our babies napped and I feel quite bad for that. I think I’ll definitely be more aware of any dad’s after the next baby comes along. Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. A pleasure to link up and thanks for highlighting my post in this week’s linky! I certainly didn’t make that video or write that post to point fingers. To be honest, I think some dads get very pent up and angry about the situation when they find themselves ignored. I understand where they are coming from, it is very frustrating, but first of all we need to understand how dads become isolated. This post seems to have got a few people thinking and that’s a great thing, exactly what I wanted.

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  9. Great vlogging and yes I can imagine its hard to be the only dad we have a playgroup with two dads that come and I always make an effort to make them feel welcome and at ease it’s just as a right place for SAHD as it is SAHM I think it ten years time it will be easier for Dads or I hope. Keep fighting that path for them. 🙂 Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    1. Glad you liked the video Jenny. Also delighted to hear you talk to the dads. Many women don’t and a dad can feel awkward in such situations.

  10. Hi John,

    Some interesting points raised in your video. Before I forget – you mentioned social media stuff for dads. I haven’t had much luck in finding this sort of thing, so any pointers would be appreciated. I found your blog because I was looking for the dad equivalent of mumsnet or similar, but nothing seems to exist. This despite a reported 14% of stay at home parents being male.

    I look after our 21 month old for 3 days a week (he goes to nursery for 2, and has done since he was 12m) and feel very lucky to have this time with him. My wife has the better paid job, so it was the best optin for us for her to return to work. I have my own business and work from home.

    There are definitely some issues regarding social isolation. I go to regular weekly activities and it has taken the best part of a year to start to feel accepted and not treated with suspicion! I don’t see any of what I call the ‘other mums’ outside of these groups and the issues of my intentions being misunderstood contribute to this. This week I saw another dad at a group (still quite unusual) who looked like he was having a tough time with his 3yo and 10 month old – a quick chat revealed his own issues with feeling accepted by mums.

    We met a few other couples through NCT and see them occasionally, but with all these couples it is the mums who do most of the caring. We did set up a Facebook group for sharing stuff, but lots of the more interesting things go into a mum only group that was set up and from which I’m excluded. I don’t know whether it’s intentional, but if an activity is arranged within this (which my wife might then tell me about) I would feel awkward about gatecrashing!

    Anyway, I should get on with some work (at least enough to cover the nursery fees for today!). I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

  11. After reading this the first time around, I honestly did get in touch with an old mate who is now a stay at home Dad.
    I’ve been wondering recently whether blogging encourages social isolation. Any thoughts on that? I know I have been guilty of staying in to blog when I probably could of or should have been doing something more sociable…just a thought. I know you like a good debate.
    x MMT
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

    1. Well, yes, I thikn blogging can lead to isolation. But…if you’re like me you do’t have much of a crew of people to hang around with in daylight hours. For me, no, I don’t think it does because I’m isolated anyway. For mums, yes, I think it probably can lead to further isolation. Interesting thought that. Sure your SAHD friend will appreciate you getting in touch.

  12. Great vlog! Really interesting topic. I must admit of all the toddler groups I’ve been to I’ve never seen a Dad on his own. If there are dad’s there they are with their partner. I will happily talk to the dad’s as well as the women though. At soft play I’m usually sat on a table alone too and I’m a mum! Sometimes I just think making friends as an adult can be tricky, whatever your gender/circumstances. Maybe you should set up your group for Dads? I bet you’re not the only one in your area x #coolmumclub

    1. I am considering setting up a group for dads as it happens. I totally recognise that mums have similar issues. I think, though, that dads are left out on a limb. The guys I feel really sorry for are those who are widowed suddenly or abandoned by a partner. Sudden cultural immersion like that must be very tough.

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  14. Good post John. The social isolation has been very noticeable for me while I have been the SAHD. I’ve been to the baby groups and playgroups but in a large female environment it is very difficult to build a network of friends.

    1. Thanks Eddie. Yeah, isolation is a big thing for mums but I think many can overlook how isolating it is being male and the main carer for your kids. Very tricky to build a network of social connections.

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