By Claudia Keech
Mum's Groups can provide the most extraordinary support group for new mums in those first heady days of parenting. Women who will become your new best friends, your life-line and the ones you may cry and laugh with you as the years come and go and your kids walk, talk, play sport, got to school and beyond!
But what about Dad?
With more and more new dads taking time-out from work to be with their new-born as well as play a more hands-on role as the children grow - where is the 21st Century Dad Support Group?
Sydney Dad Scott Avery and three mates decided to tread where few men have trod before, by creating their own regular Dad's Group several years ago......
According to Scott - The Mothers Group had the whole childcare support thing covered. Bi-weekly coffee debriefs with the network of mums, all of whom had each others phone numbers on speed dial with a back-up copy smack on the middle of the fridge door "just in case of emergency". Daily phone calls from her mum, my mum, and other suitably qualified mums dispensing their pearls of wisdom. And the books - enough to get you a Bachelors degree in Motherhood if you could swing the flexible study arrangements with your lecturer.
Armed with the science and the support, the Mothers Group were in charge.
Watching this unfold made me wonder whether there were any other dads out there keen to smash through the talcum powder ceiling and take an active role in bringing up their kids. And were there similar support networks?
Thankfully, I discovered that behind every successful Mothers Group, there's an equally successful bunch of dads standing right behind them. Enter Stu and Tony. As three blokes with seven kids under three, we became the Fathers Group.
Stu's from the west, battling a tyranny of distance from his childhood mates and other Dockers fans (apart from those of us who he's converted). Tony has three boys and is managing the complication of twins. I have two girls trying to come to terms with the influx of pink shoes around the house and the loss of viewing rights for Sunday afternoon footy. We each have our trials and tribulations which we sort out with our peers once a week.
Open to all dads, Fathers Group meets every Wednesday, circa 8 pm. The evening's agenda is set in a flurry of conversations between coming home from work, bathing dirty children and reading a compulsory book or seven before bed-time. Topics can change, depending on what new things our kids are doing, what's doing at work or who's playing who on the weekend, but the general purpose of ‘Making our Wives' Lives Easier' remains unchanged. Such an important topic requires a focus that is only created by solitude, beer and the occasional trivia competition or sporting event! The venue is the driver's choice.
The odd Fathers Group excursion can also produce some memorable moments and sometimes even involves the kids! Saturday morning swimming lessons gave us the chance to catch up while watching our newborns blow their first bubbles and one of the more touching experiences was an "out of hours" trip to the hospital where we were the first to hold Tony's newly born twin boys. Not only did we gazump the Mothers Group for the privilege but the mothers-in-law too! Sure it was tricky squeezing them through the tiny holes in the humidity crib, but the lasting bond we have with the twins, and bragging rights we have over the Mothers Group, remains a source of pride.
Operation Red-Stripe, the inaugural Fathers Group convention, was held in the West Indies in 2007. Those cynics who pointed out that this coincided with the cricket world cup should be aware there are plenty of cricketing dads out there who might benefit from some pearls of wisdom of our own.