Thanks to mutual colleagues at ThirdPath Institute, Matt Schneider and I met each other on a breezy spring day in Philadelphia last month. He is a co-founder of City Dads Group, a national organization dedicated to giving dads support and socialization. He told me he’s a UPenn grad and the primary caregiver for his two boys. We talked about gender and parenting, and I think you’d like to meet him too!
How did City Dads Group come together?
In 2008, a fellow teacher followed my lead in taking some time off to be home with his newborn (I had been an at-home dad for three years at that point). He quickly noticed there was nothing in New York City for dads– it was all mom groups, mommy-and-me classes, and all moms and nannies on the playground. We decided to start NYC Dads Group to bring dads together, and that eventually led to City Dads Group, our growing network of dad groups in 22 cities across the United States.
What needs of fathers do you think it fills?
Our primary mission is to create a community of active and engaged dads that come together to share time, best practices, and fun experiences. Groups of dads (usually with kids in tow) are meeting every day all over the country. Somewhere along the way, it became a little “weird” for men to meet in groups, but that all changes when we meet as dads.
What kinds of things do NYC Dads Group do together?
One of the awesome things about our dads group is that we have been able to experience so much the city has to offer with our kids. Some dads like to stay in their neighborhood, but most are adventurous and up for trips to museums, playgrounds, and amazing parent-and-me classes (ie. music class at Lincoln Center, art class at the MoMA. We also host educational workshops, movie screenings, book talks, and of course, Dads’ Night Out.)
Have you observed any ways in which fathers as a group behave differently than mothers?
Generally, I think dads need community for the same reasons moms do. It is nice to be able to ask a dad with older children about healthy eating, or potty training, or school, or camp, etc. It’s also nice to connect with someone that understand what you are going through. Dads might need community even more because we tend to let friendships go, especially after we start families. The only difference that I see is that dads tend not to be very judgmental of each other. There seems to be a real sense that we are all doing our best and always striving to be what our kids need.
Do you plan to return to paid employment? What transferable skills from full -time fatherhood will you take with you?
Thankfully, we have built City Dads Group into an organization that fulfills my need to be engaged with the wider world as someone other than Max and Sam’s dad. My wife and I have made choices along the way that allow us to live on her income alone, which has allowed me to pursue a path that is less focused on money, and more focused on passion. Skill-wise, we are running a small business with sponsors, paid contractors and volunteers, and a fast-growing community of customers whom we hope to serve every day. A pretty darn good way to spend my time.
What do fathers think about policy proposals like pay equity, paid family leave and sick days, and affordable pre-school?
Fathers understand that they are equally impacted by these proposals. Most families have two parents working, and of course want both to be paid fairly and well. More and more dads are wanting to take time off for family, especially after the birth of their child, which is only plausible if they are getting paid. Every active and engaged parent wants to send their child to the best school possible, and for most families, that means affordability.
Matt could not have been nicer or more generous with his time and information. Check out City Dads Group! You may find one near you, and you may know somebody who wants to join….
‘Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington