A few years ago, my friend and neighbor, Francesco, started inviting dads from our neighborhood to small social gatherings at his backyard fire pit to talk and have a few beers. We now call these meet-ups “Beer Fire.”
I love Beer Fire, and see it as a possible solution for the persistent problem that we busy working dads don’t often develop networks of friends to share their experiences with. As such, my second-ever blog post extolled the virtues of Beer Fire, and a good chunk of Chapter 12 of my book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, describes the benefits of informal dad networks and fun social time that Beer Fire and similar gatherings can foster. From my book:
Beer Fire is awesome– it’s relaxing; it’s fun, and I always learn a little something from everyone I talk to. For example, a neighbor and I discussed how much allowance is appropriate for our kids and how many chores our kids needed to do to earn it. In another conversation, I learned about local swimming and fencing programs. I even helped a dad develop a strategy for asking his boss for more work flexibility. The beer was pretty good, too….
Part of the success of Beer Fire is that it is not a formal group. No one distributes an agenda ahead of time, and the conversations flow organically. Yes, we talk about cars, sports and women. But, because the attendees are mostly of the same age group, live locally, and have kids of around the same age, the conversation naturally gravitates to what we all share in common – our careers, our kids, and how we try to juggle it all.
Another part of Beer Fire’s success is that it is represents a “guys’ night out.” We’re not a John Birch Society, the Little Rascals’ “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” or Al Bundy’s “No Ma’am” group (from “Married with Children”). No drum circles or hazing rituals for us. However, I think it is important that Beer Fire is a comfortable place just for guys. This allows folks to open up a little more, and to discuss family issues more readily. I think that because even today’s modern dad sometimes sees “family issues” as a primarily women’s concern, we self-censor our discussion when moms are around. “After all”, we may think to ourselves, “my wife has an even tougher juggle than me. What right to I have to complain?”