Yes Dads Can: Have Friends

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world – parents and not parents. And there’s something to that. There’s something about being wholly responsible for another human (or a few) that fundamentally changes you. To be clear, it doesn’t necessarily make you better, and it doesn’t mean you are a more complete human. People without kids are real adults, too. But it is DIFFERENT.

Dads can have friends. Dads need to have friends.

There’s nothing like introducing your child to his little brother.

Look, fatherhood happens so fast. The moment my child entered the world, the man I was before was gone. Dead. That guy, who drove fast cars and listened to loud music just disappeared. Of course, it took a while for people to notice, but in the coming weeks and months, as friends and family started looking for that man, they gradually discovered that he was nowhere to be found and was not coming back. And in time, they stopped searching for him.

There were a lot of people who discovered the new me, the dad, and realized they had less in common with me than before. I realized the same, and in ways both cruel and kind, we parted ways.

But I Should Be Happy With What I Have

For many guys, an unfortunate side effect of fatherhood is a new kind of loneliness. I say “new” because there is already so much about the masculine experience that forces men into emotional, intellectual, and often physical isolation. Literal books have been written about this (Raising Cain, For the Love of Men, The Man They Wanted Me To Be, etc), so I won’t unpack that again too much here.

Given that it is a real issue, though, adding the responsibility, self-doubt, pressure, and anxiety of being a “good dad” on top of it doesn’t improve things. For a long time, I was stressed about work, stressed about being present for the kids, stressed about supporting my wife, and stressed that my health was slowly, but noticeably, falling apart. All of this also put me on a different schedule from my kidless friends, who have time late at night for a beer or a game. Even if I had energy to hang out I couldn’t. It was depressing. And so, the easiest thing to do is convince yourself that those relationships don’t matter because you have everything you need at home.

But that’s bullshit. It’s the same lie society tells moms – your children should bring you all the joy and fulfillment you need or you’re doing it wrong. Ever wonder why the Internet is so full of Wine Mom memes? Men struggle with the same, and fathers especially, but society adds the burden of masculine isolation. Don’t have feelings, or at least don’t talk about them, and be the strong foundation for your family. What?

I’m here to say that men, and fathers in particular, can have friends. More than that, men and fathers NEED friends. That’s why men flock to sports, to beer, to grilling, and to other sanctioned “manly” interests. It’s not about the beer, really. It’s about the people you drink it with.

Bromance Is Code For Real Friendship

In a recent episode of “Welcome to Wrexham,” the audience got to unpack the “bromance” between Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, Hollywood A-listers and co-owners and chairmen of the Wrexham Football Club in Wrexham, Wales. Throughout the previous episodes, the audience watches as Ryan and Rob grow an awkward, if not endearing, relationship. Yes, they bought the club together. But in fact, before the club, they’d only ever communicated online. In the pilot episode, Rob McElhenney shares that he wanted to buy a football club, but needed “movie star money” to pull it off. It feels like a cop out and by the “Wromance” episode, we learn that it totally was. Yes, it’s fun to make something together, but it’s also an excuse to hang out. It’s a cover for wanting to spend time with another man.

It is even evident among players, even who no longer play together, that their relationships matter. Former teammates, Pearson and Davies face off against each other in the final game for Wrexham. In an emotional moment for both players, that friendship takes center stage.

During an important moment for both players, Davies and Pearson are there for each other, emotionally and physically, on the pitch.

We learn that sport fills that role for a lot of men. From pub pals to business partners, sport is a context for building a loving, platonic relationship between men. Sport is also, very very often, the fabric of bonding between fathers and sons in particular. Any boy who ever sought his father’s approval on the pitch or field has experienced it. And any father who has found it easier to celebrate and show love for your child this way knows it too. Men have permission to be excited about their kids – but especially when they play sports.

So whether it’s sports, beer, grilling, or even fatherhood itself, I think it’s important to understand that it’s about more than the cheer, the beer, or the gear. It’s about building supportive and healthy relationships. Men need them. Fathers need them.

Just a couple Smoking Hot Dads!

To that point, I am grateful for the friends in my life, and specifically to Steve, Mark, Brian and Seth, and to every Smoking Hot Dad out there. You have bought into this excuse to hang out, to celebrate being a dad. We’re building a strong community of fathers and men matters. Cheers, boys, and here’s to the adventure ahead.

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