Dad AF was created to help dads navigate the most challenging journey of most men’s lives… fatherhood! The concept was born from the feeling of isolation many men experience, and a lack of support and guidance for dads around the world. Dad AF aims not to tell Dads how they should think or feel, but to connect them peer-to-peer to support each other. We speak to Dad AF founder Lee Downes.
Tell us the story behind Dad AF.
I found myself struggling with depression and isolation in early fatherhood and noticed there was a clear lack of support and guidance for Dads. Social media paints a picture of the perfect dad but glosses over the trickier parts like the shift in your relationship with your partner, difficulty in bonding with the baby and change in your social life among others. In creating this community, I quickly realised I wasn’t alone, and by sharing my worries with other real dads and helping them I realised we could all work together to become the dads we wanted to be.
Why was it important to give dads a voice?
As soon as we created the community it was amazing how many new, expectant and seasoned dads chipped in on topics that others felt worried or confused by, allowing each other to feel safe asking questions they don’t have a place to ask elsewhere. This is the voice we want to hear - questions, venting, fears, hopes, things our dads don’t feel they can, or know how to, express elsewhere.
Having a baby is an amazing time, but many new dads feel isolated. Why is this?
The journey to parenthood is still very much focused around the mother and her journey, and while the dad doesn’t have nearly as big a role in carrying and birthing the child, he has been sidelined somewhat and left unsure what to do and how to help. It is sad to hear from a large number of dads that during many early health visitor inspections although the questions “How’s baby/mum doing?”. The question “And dad?” is never raised as we seem to be expected to soldier on despite the increased research and evidence of paternal postnatal depression.
Dad AF is helping to tackle the feeling of isolation many dads experience.
"The journey to parenthood is still very much focused around the mother and her journey, while the dad doesn’t have nearly as big a role"
Giving dads a voice empowers them to be their best selves.
How is Dad AF helping to support new dads?
The Dad AF app is a free to download community app which allows you to both ask and advise a community of over 85,000 dads all around the world. If a dad has a problem, we can almost guarantee another dad has already had it or similar and has a solution ready to help. Unsure how to put on a new type of nappy? Looking for a quick snack idea? Struggling for romance in your relationship since the baby arrived? We’ve dealt with all these questions and more and are proud to continue to do so.
Tell us more about the new ante-natal classes
As part of the Dad AF brand, we are proud to launch DadNatal which is a guide to pregnancy and what to do written by dads, for dads. A lot of literature is still written towards mums, with dads being offered a small line at the end of each chapter. We wanted to do something for the dads who want to get involved. We’ve launched digital courses as well as round the clock support with the aim of removing the fear from fatherhood.
How are you tackling the stigma which surrounds men’s mental health?
Men’s mental health is starting to become more and more talked about thanks to the work of some fantastic charities, but we still have a long way to go until we can distance ourselves from phrases such as “man up” and the idea of a man crying being seen as a sign of weakness. We’ve found that in setting up the Dad AF community we’ve provided our dads with a safe place to anonymously ask for advice as well as give advice back or simply read over posts and articles of those with similar problems to help find solutions. We operate a “Dad in Distress” post each evening, bringing awareness to a post we feel will both benefit the community as well as giving others the opportunity to provide assistance bolstering their self-confidence.
What’s the best advice you can give to new dads?
As part of our resource pack for expectant dads who sign up to DadNatal we collected well over a hundred tips from our community, some of my personal favourites are:
“Children learn by watching you, be the person you want your children to become, you’re a role model now”
“Socks work better as mittens, than mittens”
“Never be too proud to ask for help”
And of course
Where can new dads go if they need support?
The Dad AF App is free to download now on both Apple and android devices, and the DadNatal course can be purchased at www.dadnatal.com