Released on: 30 November 2016

Errol Murray is the founder of Leeds Dads, a support group for dads, which grew out of his local NCT branch. Here he talks about dads’ friendships and why these days he tries to avoid a beery night out.

Your whole social circle changes dramatically when you become a parent and you interact differently with your old mates. You can’t go out drinking and clubbing all night  because at the back of your mind you’re thinking that you won’t cope with feeding your baby with a hangover the next morning.

But being friends with other dads makes life much easier as we’re all in the same boat and understand it’s no longer about going out for drinks all the time. We might meet in a café during the daytime where we can take our kids, talk and just chill out.

The idea of setting up a dads’ group came to me after going to a few playgroups and feeling uncomfortable, as though I didn’t belong. They can be intimidating environments for both men and women - and having a child is challenging enough already!

So I thought about creating the kind of space I’d feel comfortable in myself and hopefully other blokes would too. I brought together a few friends who were new dads, word spread and that was it!

Still unsure of what a dads group was, I contacted the local NCT branch to see if there was a ‘proper’ one available. They said no, but asked if they could send some other new fathers my way too? This was the how Leeds Dads got off the ground.

Our aim is to support fathers to engage with their children, and share experiences with other dads. We run regular playgroups for dads and kids to play games, get creative with crayons and paper or just jump around and let off steam. We usually have a singalong and a story too.

It’s important that dads make time to play with their kids as they can often fall into the role of the disciplinarian. It’s easy to become the parent that enforces boundaries and tells the kids to do this, don’t do that and eat your greens. The emphasis in our groups is play, so we don’t have to be the bad cop all the time.

We get all types of fathers coming along – single dads, stay-at-home dads, gay dads and working dads who don’t get to spend much time engaged with their children. Most of us are exhausted and exasperated and this forges a siege mentality amongst us.

It’s much easier to build a rapport with someone who’s going through the same sort of thing as you are. They may not be the people you would have hung out with before but sharing the experience of being a dad brings you together.

I want Leeds Dads to create a much more relaxed and supportive vibe where you feel you can talk about your feelings and share information. If someone’s child isn’t sleeping or eating properly, someone else will often talk about their own experience which can be really helpful.

Our Leeds Dads Nights Out are increasingly popular. We might play pool, watch rugby or just go for a curry. Having a young family makes you think differently about a night out and a few pints. Of course we want to have fun but young kids and big nights out don’t really mix well at all.

I’d encourage other fathers to think about setting up their own dads groups. It’s been win-win - for both parents and the kids. And we’ve made a few mates along the way.

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