When one of my kids is going through a weird, exhausting or just plain annoying phase, one of the first things I do is text my mom friends. "Has your kid ever done this?!" I cry, looking for both survival advice and solidarity.
My husband? Not so much. His circle of dad friends is small to begin with and they aren’t having those kinds of conversations,. When I asked him who he talks to when the kids are driving him crazy or has a parenting problem he just can’t crack, he looked at me, shrugged, and said, “You.”
I couldn’t help wondering if my husband was missing out. My mom friends rally when someone is struggling. They’re stellar problem-solvers with years of trial and error experience, and on the rare occasion when they don’t have the answer, they more than make up for it in encouraging words.
"This too shall pass."
"I feel you!"
"Hang in there, Mama, you got this."
I put out some social media feelers to moms and dads to see if my husband’s lack of dad friends was normal. (Spoiler alert: It totally is.) Based on their responses, here’s what modern dad friendships really look like:
1. They don’t bond over parenthood
Some of the guys I talked to said their male friends are dads, or that all their current friendships were formed after parenthood. But just as many guys said they’re still hanging around with their college buddies, regardless of their parenthood status. And while lots of guys seem to make friends because of their kids (i.e., their sons are in the same kindergarten class), there were plenty of guys who bond over personal hobbies, like sports or gaming. Men don’t seem to form tight-knit bonds over their parenting highs and lows like women do.
Many moms consider their online friends to be just as valuable as their friends IRL. Why should it be any different for dads?
2. They need an activity
Both sexes were in agreement here: Guys want to talk during a pre-planned activity, not over a cup of coffee. Being engaged in something—trivia night, book club, softball coaching, game night, a home repair project, a major sporting event on TV—eases the demands of social interaction.
“I play tennis with one dad friend. We usually bring our children and they play together while we play tennis,” says Andrew Knott, a stay-at-home dad and writer who blogs about fatherhood. “I'm a big-time introvert, so I don't socialize much unless there is an activity involved.”
3. You’re probably his best friend
My husband is far from the only guy turning to his wife when he needs to talk. Most of the dads I spoke to said that the majority of their emotional needs are taken care of by their spouses, and that those connections are more meaningful than many of their extended relationships.
“Most of my friendship cravings are fulfilled by my wife,” says Glenn De Sena, a stay-at-home dad of two from Florida. “She’s my best friend, and was before we were married, so I don’t feel a strong desire to seek other friendships outside of my relationship with her.”
4. He doesn’t need your help with his social calendar
A surprising number of moms I talked to on social media said they regularly arrange outings for their husbands, either as part of a couples double-date or alone (with husbands of girlfriends they think might be a good match).
But the dads? They were less than thrilled with the idea, calling this kind of setup "super awkward." Most of them were happy with their current social situation—even if it was almost non-existent—and didn’t want their wives scheduling play dates for them.
5. His friends might be online, not in person
Moms show up to Facebook parenting groups in droves, crowdsourcing for support and advice. Many moms consider their online friends to be just as valuable as their friends IRL. Why would it be any different for dads?
Knott says that, for him, it isn’t. “The online parenting community has been a game-changer. A couple connections I've made will likely turn into long-term friendships (even though they are with dads who live in other parts of the country), because of our shared interests.”