They’re not like regular dads; they’re COOL dads. Long gone are the days of daycare dads, hands-off diaper changing and absentee daddies. In Austin, we do things differently, and that includes parenting.
Austin Dads Group is a community of fathers who are dedicated to having active roles in their children’s lives. The group meets up several times each month, encouraging dads to bring their kids to parks, playgrounds, museums, sporting events, parent-and-me classes and everything in between. Their meetups are during the week and on the weekends to accommodate both dads who stay at home and work. Whether you’re a single dad, father of five or dad-to-be, this group does not discriminate.
Co-organizer of the group Oliver Drewes stumbled upon the Facebook group one day, eventually receiving the reins to lead it. He says he needed support while raising kids, especially because, for men, it’s much harder to strike up a conversation when out and about with children.
“When I see other fathers at the playground, there is a silent nod instead of an embrace,” Drewes says. “This group is the embrace.”
Drewes has cultivated the group into exactly what he wanted it to be when he needed people to turn to. He says he does his best to create activities and meetups he thinks everyone will enjoy and be able to loosen up and open up to one another. Clearly, he has been successful since the group has nearly 540-plus members and is climbing.
The Austin Dads Group group is a part of a larger entity called City Dads Group, which started in 2008 in New York City. In 2013, the City Dads Group expanded to include other major cities throughout the U.S. — Austin Dads Group being one of these. Today, City Dads Group has communities in at least 41 cities.
Drewes says the goal for Austin Dads Group was to create a space where dads who took on the role of stay-at-home parent could chat, ask questions, meet up and even host outdoor park hangouts to get their kids out and about. This way, not only the kids were making friends but so were the dads.
“(They wanted) a space for fathers to have a community, which is an untapped source,” Drewes says. “I’m a full-time dad and anytime I attend an event, I’m the only dad. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’”
As mentioned in the group’s Facebook page, Austin Dads Group prides itself on its inclusivity and accommodates multiple walks of life including “at-home or working dads; married, single and divorced dads; straight or gay dads; young and old dads; dads of different ethnic and racial backgrounds; and dads across the economic spectrum.” Whatever the circumstance, Austin Dads Group aims to reach that common goal of being an active parent in their children’s lives.
As someone who was raised primarily by a stay-at-home dad, it never once crossed my mind that this was not the “ordinary way” of how things go. The stereotypical breadwinner role and stay-at-home parent in the past have certainly relied heavily on moms being the stay-at-home warriors. However, these days, it’s not uncommon for the roles to reverse. For me, my mother went to work and my father took me to school, nothing odd about it.
According to Pew Research Center, the trend of stay-at-home dads has increased over the years — jumping from 4% in 1989 to 7% in 2016 — and only continues to rise. This comes with great benefits as dads are an important part of children’s lives. The more children get to be around their fathers, the more stable their relationships are down the line; the presence of a father growing up cultivates the way children view family life.
However, there are still stereotypes and stigmas surrounding stay-at-home dads or even prominent dads, but communities like Austin Dads Groups are breaking the boundaries by shaking them off, hanging out together and having a great time with their kids.
“We’re not heroes,” Drewes says. “We’re just doing our job.”
For years, mothers have had “mommy-and-me” classes and plenty of opportunities to spend time with other mothers; it’s no new concept. With Austin Dads Group, fathers across Austin can finally find this camaraderie.
Drewes says he wished he had known about this group when he was first settling in with his kids here in Austin. Today, he tries to put on events that he thinks will encourage more fathers to join such as Top Golf, storytime for the kids, holiday-themed hangouts and more. One unique event they host is Dad’s Nights Out, where dads can let loose and have fun while embodying their inner child with activities such as laser tag, bowling and other games. Drewes says this event is all about bonding with other guys who have kids and want to be friends with people who are in the same boat.
“This is your support system if you’re new to town, a single dad, anybody at all; we don’t turn people away,” Drewes says. “Take the risk and show up!”
The Austin Dads Group doesn’t require any group dues or attendance expectations, and there is a mixed variety of involvement among the members — some dads will come consistently while others come once or twice a year. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, but if you’re an ATX dad, give it a shot. Ultimately, the Austin Dads Group is a place where fathers can be honest, no matter the subject.
“We’re real in this group; we give advice and help each other out with everything,” Drewes chuckles. “(…) Prepare yourself for a lot of dirty diaper talk.”
About the Author
Katerina Cotroneo is an author and professional photographer who uses her marketing background and talent behind the camera and has been published in AFM, Authentic Texas, Waterways Magazine, Tribeza and more. Cotroneo captures idiosyncratic stories through her lens and portrays diverse perspectives in her writing.