Forums for Fathers

How online communities help dads with parenting

A lawyer in Bermuda became internet-famous for dancing ballet alongside his two-year-old daughter, comforting her stage fright by being there and doing the dance moves right with her. He knew the part because he had practiced ballet with his children before—and said it was just a normal part of fathering daughters.

That isn’t a common sentiment about fatherhood, even now. But social norms have been changing over the past 40 years, as more women—and mothers—have entered the workforce. While mothers still do more work at home, the burden is becoming more equal. However, the concept of father- as-breadwinner is still stronger than ideas of fathers as nurturers. As a result, fathers often find themselves out of place at parks, malls, and other areas frequented by mothers and children. The same problem happens when they visit most parenting forums online.

My research focuses on understanding how modern fathers find and use online communities of men in similar situations, as they all try to make sense of their own parenting identities. By interviewing fathers and using big data analysis, my coauthor and I found that fathers seek information and support online, use more anonymous social media sites like Reddit to discuss sensitive issues such as divorce and child custody conflicts, and blog about do-it- yourself projects as a way of legitimizing their childcare and domestic work as masculine labor.

Fathers look for community online
Analyzing 102 interviews, a team of us found that fathers are active on social media, including posting photos about their children’s milestones, such as walking or crawling, and pictures of activities like dancing and baseball. But fathers are less involved than mothers in managing online sharing of child- related content. We found that moms were fielding the questions and making the decisions about whether Grandma could share a picture with the baby on her Facebook wall or if friends could share photos of the child’s birthday party.

I and others have also found most fathers reluctant to share family content with social networks that include colleagues and managers. Mothers felt fewer such constraints, even when their social media accounts also included professional contacts.

In private Facebook groups, though, fathers are willing to discuss their parenting experiences—whether they are small local groups, private chats, or even groups with thousands of members. In these groups, dads gain social support and seek advice, especially from older fathers who have experienced similar problems. Fathers told me that Facebook group discussions ranged from daily parenting experiences like diaper changing to more serious issues around marital problems, especially for new parents.

Reddit As A Haven
In contrast, some fathers were reluctant to discuss more personal issues—like divorce and custody—on Facebook, where posts are labeled with their names. Instead, they felt safer using other online names on sites like Reddit, where itwas harder for people to associate their posts with their actual identity. When posting under pseudonyms, fathers were willing to share deeply personal details beyond what’s usually appropriate on Facebook.

My collaborators and I analyzed how fathers use Reddit by studying about 2 million parenting comments. We focused on three parenting forums, including r/Daddit, a subreddit for “Dads. Single Dads, new Dads, Step- Dads, tall Dads, short Dads, and any other kind of Dad.”

When fathers discussed divorce and custody issues on Reddit, they covered topics as diverse as venting about their plight in family court and detailed legal questions about their cases. Fathers also discussed controversial issues like vaccination and circumcision. One father suggested in an interview that Reddit is a “peaceful place to post an opinion” because he did not have to deal with reactions from friends, colleagues and family members.

The DIY Dad
When I started talking to fathers about their use of social media sites, I did not set out to ask about do-it-yourself projects, but the theme emerged from the interviews. In one project, I supplemented interviews with visual and rhetorical analyses of father blogs, finding that fathers blog about their DIY projects and tie that work into their fatherhood experiences and their domestic roles. They engaged their children in projects like retiling bathrooms, teaching useful skills while also carving out quality father-child time. Blogging about these projects gave these fathers a way to describe how they could be both caretakers and providers at the same time.

Notably, fathers used DIY language to describe work traditionally considered feminine. For example, fathers blogged about preparing lunchboxes and craft work like creating children’s toys from recycled trash. When working on traditionally feminine domestic work like cooking, fathers emphasized that they were not only cooking but “hacking the kitchen,” imbuing daily tasks with more masculine entrepreneurial language.

Fathers today face the paired challenges of shifting domestic pressures in dual-earner families and lagging social preconceptions of dads as breadwinners and mere helpers for mothers. Through my research, I am shedding light on the ways that fathers can find support and guidance on social media, and I hope to promote involvement and inclusion among men in their roles and responsibilities as fathers.

Share this story, choose your platform!

About the author:

Leave a Comment

What to Do When Your Ex Stops Paying Their Share of Debts

Divorce is often compared to a stormy sea that we navigate, seeking calm waters and fair settlements. Yet, even with the best intentions and court orders, there’s always a chance that your ex may not fulfill their obligations when it comes to shared debts. When the tide turns and your ex stops paying their fair

Read More »

Does Kratom Help With Anxiety: What You Need to Know About Using Kratom?

Kratom, with its various types of strains, is becoming a popular natural option for those seeking to manage anxiety in a positive way. Each strain offers unique effects, ranging from energizing to more calming and mood-boosting, making it a versatile choice for individuals exploring natural remedies.  Many users share positive experiences, noting how different strains

Read More »

Exploring the Great Outdoors: A Family’s Guide to Camping

Planning ahead, choosing the right date and campsite, and involving the whole family ensures a successful camping trip. Unplugging from technology and embracing the beauty of nature can enhance the camping experience. Engaging in family activities during camping fosters unity and strengthens family bonds. Purchasing necessary travel gear from a reliable source ensures a comfortable

Read More »

The Best Ways To Protect Your SkinAnd Eyes When Outdoors

Spending time outside is great for our health. You breathe fresh air, exercise, and feel good. It’s important to have some hobbies or sports that you regularly take part in outside. But the sun can harm your skin and eyes if you’re not careful. Protecting yourself from the sun is important. If you don’t, your

Read More »

Life

Life is about progression, moving forward, and taking decisive actions toward our objectives. It’s about reaching milestones that resonate within us and illuminate the path to our dreams. Milestones can differ from person to person and from culture to culture. However, there are a few significant events that are universally accepted as major life milestones.

Read More »