OPINION: Let’s talk, Squamish dads

A young father, an infant in his arms, walks up and down Eagle Run dike in front of the The Watershed Grill. Mom is inside, waiting for their doughnuts and ice-cream (is that not the best dessert, ever? — I digress).

Everywhere you look in Squamish dads are doing the work of being fathers.

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Take to the trails, water or skateboard park any day of the week and exceptional parenting is on display.

And so it should be. Frankly, this is what we women have called for, for eons. But do dads (and stepdads) get the support they need for the minefield that is raising humans?

New research says, no.

Earlier this year, the Movember non-profit organization, which promotes men’s health, conducted research in Canada, the U.K., U.S.  and Australia to investigate men’s social connections.

In their study, 70 per cent of new fathers said their stress levels increased in the year after becoming a new dad. More surprisingly, these men seemed to lack close friendships and connections that mental health professionals tell us increases a sense of wellness.

Fathers without close friends are more likely to be stressed that first year, the study showed. Thirty-three per cent of fathers without one close friend said their stress levels increased a lot compared with 23 per cent of all men in the study who had at least one good friend. This sense of isolation in new dads leads to unhealthy behaviours such a poor diet, smoking and drinking.

What stuck out most for me was that the surveyed men said it would be harder for them to talk to their friends about mental health than it would anything else (with the exception of sex issues): harder than talking about money, relationships, drinking and drugs, work, or children.

Yikes.

My own partner says men still see sharing their challenges as a weakness even though it is clear not sharing leads to negative consequences.

Looking back on our child-rearing years, this rings true.

When our kids were young and we attended a parent-centred barbecue, or other family-friendly event,  on the drive home I would often describe how I felt better knowing other moms were going through my issue du jour — from feelings of motherhood inadequacy, to anxiety about my body changing,.

My husband’s guy conversations, however, were often about surface things — work, bikes, cars or sports. Never feelings.

At the time I found it strange, but now I find it sad.

Women have gotten better at sharing our pain and reaching out to each other (here’s looking at you Squamish Moms Facebook forum), but dads need emotional support too.

Clearly a larger cultural shift is needed, but given we have so many young families (2,300 couples with kids and more than 600 single-parent families, according to the 2016 census), what micro changes can we make locally?

Send us your dad support stories or ideas for ways fathers can connect in town to news@squamishchief.com. Or post them online through our social media.

It is time to address this.

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief

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