One of the members of MainLineDads is an art teacher. “He has creative stuff to do,” explains Eric Raymond, the president of the no-moms-allowed group. “I’m not an artsy guy, but we dabble.” With a wife who works full-time, two kids and a third due this month, Raymond needs to have activities planned. Finger painting gets old. Since his daughter started school, he’s gotten some of his day back. He now meets up with other fathers to work out at the L.A. Fitness on City Line. It has a daycare.
MainLineDads has about 30 members and a standing every-other-Saturday park-then-froyo gathering. The men also plan outings without the kids, like nights at the Great American Pub. Raymond spearheads the group because he’s disappointed in the lack of resources for dads. He’s not alone—many dads express the same sentiment. But they’re clear about what won’t work: a male version of the mommy-and-me group. Sitting in a friendship circle isn’t the only way to share ideas and express feelings.
Similarly, baby-gear companies have noticed that men need their own stuff. Carriers and strollers are now sold in gender-neutral colors and fabrics. Eric Raymond’s diaper bag has skulls on it. (“You can still be a dad without having to give up your guyness,” he says.) The Diaper Dude company makes diaper bags even bike messengers would be proud to tote, plus Army green bottle holders and camo pacifier pouches. Better yet: DadGear makes diaper vests and jackets—they can hold all the stinky-nappy essentials—in a Patagonia-looking fleece. As the company’s website says, “Carrying a diaper bag sometimes just isn’t natural for a guy.”
“Even seven years ago, you never saw dads wearing babies,” says Gill McKenna. “Now, it’s like a badge of honor to be walking and wearing the Ergo.”
These proud papas are getting vocal. Earlier this year, Huggies ran a commercial that featured incompetent dads chaotically attempting to take care of their babies. The outdated message was clear: Huggies diapers were even strong enough to stand up to a day with dad. Bloggers went nuts. Lehigh Valley dad and blogger Chris Routly started a petition on his blog, The Daddy Doctrines, that caught the attention of the brass at the diaper company. “They are eager to change their perception,” says Routly.
Dads, obviously, really care and aren’t afraid to show it. Not knowing your kid’s diaper size or nap schedule is actually not cool anymore. Being able to run a household and raise the kids is, as women have known forever, really fulfilling. This new perspective has the potential to shift the way children approach life and look at gender roles.
That is, if these dads can stay above the increasing fray. “There seem to be so many terms out there for contemporary dads—engaged dads, active dads, primary dads, stay-at-home dads, Mr. Moms, what-have-you—but there doesn’t seem to be any one term that stands out,” says Andrew Reback. “Personally, I just consider myself a dad, with no qualifiers. And what that looks like at any particular time is based on what works for my wife, my daughter and me.”