I’m sitting on the Riverwalk in San Antonio Texas with over 200 other dad bloggers at the Dad 2.0 Summit enjoying the benefit of how-to sessions and the realization that I am not alone. Dove Men+Care is our major presenting sponsor and just this week, they announced their Pledge for Paternity Leave– a pledge to help fathers take the parental leave benefit that less than one in five enjoys these days. The pledge involves putting money on the table to make it possible for dads who have little employer support for a much needed benefit.
Working with new dads for the past 15 years has taught me that dads care a lot about the new life they have helped bring into the world. Nothing changes a dad’s view of life any more than holding his first newborn and staring into those cavernous eyes that look to him for support. Dove reported that 70% of dads were willing to change jobs to have more time with their newborn. That’s a significant change in worldview.
I’ve also learned that our world still considers the care of newborns to be a mother’s job. I’ve been saddened by the cold shoulder of hospitals in several states as I tried to offer programs for fathers. Despite the popularity of programs like Boot Camp for New Dads, little money is allocated for the support of fathers; many even rename their entire childbirth services department as a “Women’s” center or with some other gender driven slight.
Don’t get me wrong. Moms do the heavy lifting when it comes to childbirth. I’m very clear through witnessing two childbirth processes of my own and three more with my daughters who is doing all the work to actually bring a child into the world. Mom and baby are the patients; but engaging dad at that key moment can help make or break a child’s future. With relationship breakups distracting workers, plunging children into poverty and destroying the well-being of everyone involved, we need to do everything possible to encourage these strong bonds!
That’s why I’m in San Antonio. I need more tools. Decades of study are not enough. The world continues to change. When my girls were born, men were barely allowed in labor and delivery. As I fought to learn how to be a father, little was available to support my hunger to understand. As I’ve moved from creating brochures for health fairs to teaching in the Childbirth curriculum at cooperative hospitals, the complexity has challenged me at every step. Reaching men used to involve radio commercials and newspaper articles. Now we have to become proficient at podcasting and YouTube. We’ve gone from print to Facebook to Twitter to Instagram trying to create communities of support for dads who care about being a better father.
Putting a million dollars on the line is a significant move for Dove Men+Care. Unilever invites fathers to apply for a $5,000 grant to make it possible for them to spend full time in the care of their newborns and develop strong bonds of co-parenting support at the changing table and in the rocking chair. Moms will know the commitment of fathers by getting a turn to sleep in or go to the store without hearing a child scream for attention. Dads will bond with little boys and girls who enter the world hearing that deeper voice of support as well as the loving touch of a mother’s breast.
Take the pledge. We can all encourage dads to do what they already want to do…support their families.