Networking for Fatherhood (or, in praise of BEER FIRE!)

My friend and neighbor, Francesco, who is a terrific dad, (and, more importantly, a loyal blog reader!), has a semi-regular tradition of inviting his local guy friends to hang out by the fire pit in his backyard with a cooler full of beer.   We’ve come to calling this brilliant innovation BEER FIRE!  (and I maintain he be nominated for the MacArthur Genius Grant for this revolutionary idea)

Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads
Beer Fire! A fun a useful way to network with other dads

Beer Fire usually consists of 8-10 forty-something guys, most of whom are balancing interesting and rewarding careers with the rigors of being fathers to young kids, simply getting a chance to relax,  hang out, swap stories, have a few beers, and get to know each other.

Beer Fire is awesome, and I have benefitted greatly from attending- it’s relaxing; it’s fun, and I always learn a little something from everyone I talk to.

But Beer Fire could not have taken off unless Francesco first laid the groundwork.  He is an incredibly personable guy, has work colleagues who live locally, is well known in our immediate neighborhood, and plays in a local soccer league.   As a result, he has built a sizable social network of local dads.

This gets me to the point of the post.

Many of us are working professionals, and we understand the importance of networking to our careers.  I would gather that most of us are quite good at professional networking too.

On the other hand, many fathers don’t have an extensive friendship and support network of other fathers in similar situations.  This is largely due to our crazy time commitments to our careers, and to being both a good provider and a good dad.  There isn’t that much time for socializing and comparing notes with other dads.  Further, while society tends to support and promote “mommy groups”, there’s little cultural support behind groups of dads.  Dads who are new to their neighborhoods, live in places where neighbors are not that physically close-by, who work long hours, and who commute long distances to work are at an even further disadvantage.

And the lack of social networks for fatherhood is a shame (and one of the reasons I am writing this blog).  Many of us have figured out ways, large and small, to balance careers and fatherhood.  But we lose opportunities to learn from each other.  Similarly, we all struggle with many of the same issues.  But we lose opportunities to commiserate and problem-solve.

I’d wager that if we spent just a little bit of time on a consistent basis to develop and maintain a network of local dads, we’d all be happier and better off.  Obviously, we can’t walk up to random guys in the street with business cards labeled “Father of three”, but we can and should put in the work to developing our “fatherhood networks” (dibs on coining this phrase).  Beer fire is great, but you have to build the network first.

And there’s ample opportunity.  First off, our kids almost certainly go to school.  At school, there are often events and organizations for parents to attend and/or get involved.  Society is changing, so now the PTA is often only 75% women, and many men volunteer and attend school functions held at night.  Many also wait with their kids for the bus in the mornings.  These are great opportunities to be social and meet the other dads in your kid’s school and the local area.  Further, our kids are often participating in some sport or activity.  Guess what? Those other kids have dads too.  I never met so many parents of 6 year-olds than when I volunteered to help out Nick’s coaches when he joined little league.  Now many of these dads are my friends.

The best part about networking is that you don’t just help yourself, you establish mutually beneficial relationships.  After all, we’re all in this thing together.  Guess whose son joined Nick’s little league team last year?  That’s right, Francesco’s, Lord Genius of the Beer Fire!

How have you networked for fatherhood?  We’d all love to read your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article.

29 thoughts on “Networking for Fatherhood (or, in praise of BEER FIRE!)

  1. […] The guys at NYC Dads Group do incredible work. They have over 900 members throughout New York City- dads helping dads through peer support, new dad boot camps, meet-ups, podcasts, a great blog, and- nearest and dearest to my heart- information and resources for dads all over the country to start and grow their own dads groups (although I would rebrand them as BEER FIRES!) […]

  2. Scott, thanks for giving BeerFire ™ such love. And for the record, when BeerFire ™ started, some of us were thirty-somethings, ahem. Seriously though, finding a way to be able to relax with friends and neighbors while still being able to fulfill putting-to-bed obligations is a key challenge for fathers. I know many of us feel a constant desire to be as present as possible in our children’s rituals, and to be equal partners in their upbringing. For me, that meant figuring out how to get my friends together after 8:30 pm, mostly on week nights. BeerFire and its summer equivalent, PorchBeer, were perfect ways to make this happen, and some of my favorite moments in Nyack sprang from this sessions. The group that gathered was a little different each time, and soon I started mixing in friends from different parts of my life intentionally to change the dynamic. Soon friends of friends started to become friends, and the network grew bigger and tighter. Kinda like a LinkedIn, with alcohol. A DrinkedIn, if you will. Strangest part of it all – I don’t really like beer. WineFire didn’t have the same bro-jo, however.

    Thanks for starting this blog, Scott, for being a good friend and neighbor and for reminding me that we’re long overdue for another BeerFire!

  3. Classic post. It’s the reason I started my fatherhood blog too. One way I’ve networked a little is with some of the other guys in my wife’s meetup group, however attendance for dads isn’t as great as it could be.

  4. Thanks for the comment- the spirit of the post is promoting the use of our networking skills in our personal/family lives. You are right, though, perhaps this is easier than we sometimes believe- most of these hurdles are in our minds.

  5. I’m not so sure you can’t just walk up to random guys and give them a business card that says “Father of three.” Why not? When I first started staying at home, I wanted to build up a network of friends, so I had mini “business cards” made up for myself, with my name, followed by “Mother of Henry” (because it’s the kid’s name they’re more likely to remember than mine), my phone number, and email address. The cards came with their own case that attached to my keychain, so I had them with me wherever I went. When I met someone I liked at the library, kiddie gym, etc., I had a card to give them so that we could stay in contact and continue to get to know each other. Much easier, faster, and frankly, cooler than searching for a pen and an old Costco receipt on which I could scribble my name and number. The same strategies we employ for professional networking can work very well in purely social situations, as well!

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