Dad may have had his day on Sunday, but he is also experiencing an extended paternal moment. Whether by choice or circumstance, more dads are finding themselves increasingly responsible for daily parenting.
In response, they are making a place for themselves in what has traditionally been "mom" territory. In growing numbers, they are creating dads-only playgroups, launching "daddy" blogs and posting parenting tips on Twitter.
This younger generation of dads is naturally more inclined to be involved with child-rearing than those before them. To many fathers today, sharing parenting responsibility is the norm rather than the exception. Working mothers expect it. Telecommuting and workplace flexibility have enabled it. And right now, the recession is making it almost inevitable.
There are more men out of work than women, making many working wives the family's sole wage earner and even sending stay-at-home moms back to the workforce. Moms who are already working are sometimes putting in longer hours or taking on a second job to make ends meet, leaving little time for parenting tasks. With family income diminished, outside child care often becomes a luxury of the past.
For these reasons, some men are finding themselves chief caregiver for the first time in their lives, a fact that smart marketers who once exclusively targeted moms must recognize and respond to. Along with responsibility for changing diapers comes deciding which brand to buy.
How are dads responding to their new status?
Between taking on new at-home responsibilities and dealing in many cases with the loss of their work identities, they are turning to other dads in similar situations for support and advice on how to cope with both scenarios.
- Playgroups. It's awkward for dads to be the only guy in a group designed for moms. In response, they've begun forming their own support/play groups. With their charges in tow, they're connecting not just in playgrounds, zoos and other kid-friendly locations, but also on sports fields, where they enjoy quality time with their little ones while also exchanging parenting tips and, sometimes, job hunting experiences and advice. Meet-up.com lists 171 dads groups across the country.
- Blogs. Mom blogs have been receiving a lot of attention of late. Now, Dads are getting into the act, blogging as another way to share their experiences and connect with other dads. While their numbers are small in comparison to their partners', daddy bloggers are making their presence known. At Child's Play Communications, where we've managed mommy blogger programs for some time, we are suddenly hearing from dad bloggers asking to join our review network -- to the degree that we're about to launch a separate Digital Dads group. Like their female counterparts, men talk about everything from potty training to politics -- with a bit more emphasis, perhaps, on kids' sports, the latest tech gadgets and, in at least one case, the merits of different brands of beer. "You're used to networking within your profession and now you're isolated at home," said Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent's Lunchbox, whose tagline is, "Daddy's lost his job - now he's got a blog." "There are a lot of guys out there trying to understand that and trying to reconcile that new role." Dadlabs.com posts product reviews, while Daddytude describes itself as "a journey with a not-so-perfect dad." Daddy Dialectic is a group blog by and about dads who "embrace caregiving and egalitarian relationships." Some of these dads and many others can also be found on Twitter.
- Social networking sites. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are even social networking sites for dads, male-focused versions of CafeMom and its counterparts. Justfordads.ning.com claims to be "the only social network site that brings dads together to just be themselves." The site invites members to ask other dads for advice, get things off their chest, "brag, share photos, videos or discuss sports, movies, music, food, working out ... whatever!"
- Conferences. Yes, there is even an at-home dads convention, scheduled for October.
While moms still remain responsible for the vast majority of household purchasing decisions, today's dads are increasingly having their say. Companies targeting families may want to consider reaching out to Dad bloggers and tweeters, establishing a presence on social networking sites, sponsoring playgroups and otherwise recognizing that father's day is far from over.