I get it – you want friends. But as a grown man and a father, that can be a weird thing to admit out loud. But the truth is, you don’t just want friends, you need friends. And you can’t afford to go any longer without them.
One survey found that 70% of fathers say that their stress levels increased in the 12 months after becoming a father for the first time, and approximately a quarter of dads say they felt isolated when they first became a father.
Yet we know that friends are crucial to a healthy life. The same survey found that dads without close friends are more likely to experience increased stress levels in the first 12 months of becoming a father.
Yet one-fifth of them – 1 out of 5 new fathers – reported losing connection with their friends after having a baby.
Look, fatherhood is tough. Like, really tough. It’s one of the most rewarding yet challenging roles that any man can take on.
Being a dad means you have to provide for your family, be a role model to your children, and create a positive home environment. It’s a lot for any man, much less for any man to try to do alone.
The truth is, in the midst of all the chaos that is parenting, even the most capable fathers need support and guidance from time to time, and that's why you absolutely must have friends.
So let’s talk about the importance of having friends as a dad, how having friends can enhance your experience of fatherhood, and how you can find friends without being awkward.
One of the most critical roles that friends can play in a dad's life is providing emotional support. Being a dad can be a lonely experience, and it's easy to feel isolated or overwhelmed. Friends can be a sounding board for your concerns and a listening ear when you need to vent.
Having friends who are also fathers can be especially beneficial because they understand the unique challenges that come with raising children. They can offer empathy and support that non-parent friends might not be able to provide.
It's also important to note that having a supportive social network has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety.
Another benefit of having friends as a dad is the opportunity to learn from their experiences. Every father has their unique parenting style, and sharing tips and advice with other dads can help you become a better parent.
By seeing how other dads interact with their children, you can pick up new techniques for working through tough parenting situations.
Dads can also learn from each other about different life stages and how to navigate them. For example, if you have friends who have children who are older than yours, they can offer insights into what to expect as your kids grow up. Or if you have friends with younger children, you can share your experiences and provide advice to them.
Another essential aspect of having friends as a dad is the ability to balance the craziness of life with laid-back socializing. Being a parent can be all-consuming, and it's easy to lose touch with the outside world. Having a group of friends to socialize with can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and give you an outlet to blow off steam.
Friendship is about more than just spending time together. It's about creating a sense of camaraderie, a feeling that you're all in this together. You need that to balance out the dog-eat-dog mentality that is so pervasive in man culture right now.
By having a group of dads who share your struggles and triumphs, you'll feel less alone in the challenges of fatherhood. This can lead to deeper connections and a more profound sense of community.
Having friends as a dad can also help you set a positive example for your children.
By cultivating healthy relationships with other adults, you're demonstrating the importance of social connection and how to maintain those connections throughout your life.
Seeing you interact with your friends can help your children learn about communication, empathy, and the importance of having a support system.
If you don’t want them to grow up lonely and awkward, show them what it looks like to get out of your comfort zone and value relationships with others.
I’m glad you asked.
Making new friends is tough – sometimes even tougher than parenting. It’s even more difficult when you're an ambitious and busy person. Between work, family obligations, and other responsibilities, it can feel impossible to find the time and energy to meet new people.
However, there are a few strategies you can use to make new friends, even when you have a full plate.
I know, I know. This one’s kind of a gotcha. But it needs to be said over and over again.
Yes, you might be busy. We all are. But you can’t afford not to make time for social activities.
As much as you may not like it, socializing will give you the much needed breath of fresh air you need to get back in the good fight of parenting.
This may mean cutting back on some other obligations or re-prioritizing your schedule. Making social activities a priority is essential for your mental health, and it’ll help you build a social support network.
If you’re one of those straight-forward, no-fluff kind of guys, this one’s for you.
A surprisingly simple way to meet other dads is by joining…a dad's group on social media. I know, brilliant, right?
By joining a dad's group online, you may not have the same physical vicinity as them, but you'll have a built-in social network of people who understand the challenges of fatherhood. So it’s a great first step.
A simple way to find groups on social media is by searching on Facebook for “men” or “dads” then filter by groups. You should see a long list of popular men’s groups or dad’s groups on there. Here’s a link to see Facebook groups for dads. You can even sort by city if you’re in a large enough region for there to be groups on social media near you.
Another good way to find local groups on social media that are near you is to look for workout groups. Men love to work out together, so find a group that meets up to go running or to do other types of workouts and go join them!
One of the simplest ways to meet other dads is to attend events with your kids. Whether it's a school function, a little league game, or a neighborhood BBQ, going to events where your kids are present can be an excellent way to meet other dads and break the ice without being awkward. You'll have a natural conversation starter in the form of your shared experience as parents.
Introduce yourself to other dads, ask about their children, and try to find common ground. You never know who you might click with, and these events can be an excellent opportunity to build new friendships.
Guys are notorious for trying to be tough around each other. We give each other the silent treatment like we’re trying to see who’s the alpha in the room or something, when all we really want is to have another dude to cut up with and talk to about the hard things in life.
But here’s the thing: you’re not going to get that without letting down your guard and the tough guy facade.
Be open and approachable. Smile, make eye contact (without being weird), and be willing to strike up a conversation. If you're at an event with your kids, don't be afraid to approach other dads and introduce yourself.
Making new friends as a busy dad may seem daunting, but it's entirely possible. Remember, even small efforts to connect with other guys can lead to friendships you never thought would happen.
But in order to make that happen, let’s talk about some places to go to find or hang out with new dad-friends.
If you stop and think about it, there are lots of places you can go to make friends as a dad. Here are a few ideas:
Community centers often have programs or events geared towards families and children, which can be an excellent opportunity to meet other dads. Check out your local community center's calendar of events to see what's coming up.
The gym is another easy place to meet other dads. A lot of guys go to the gym to blow off steam and get their minds right either before or after a long day. So why not talk to some of the dudes you’re walking past every day in the gym? After all, you’re probably dealing with a lot of the same problems. And the gym gives you a built-in ice breaker for conversations. So talk to each other!
Another good place to meet friends is in adult sports leagues. Joining a local sports league, whether it's for basketball, soccer, or softball, can be a really good way to meet other dads who like what you like.
Even if you're not particularly athletic, the good news is, most everyone else in the league won’t be athletic either. Plus, joining a recreational league is fun, you’ll stay active, and meet new friends along the way. Win-win-win.
Of course, if you're a working dad, you may also be able to make friends with other dads in your workplace. Try to connect with other men in the break room or at company events. And yes, you’ll have to go out of your way to break the ice. But do you want friends or not? If so, you’ll have to be the one to speak first at the break room coffee machine.
In addition to joining dad's groups on social media, you can also use online platforms like Meetup to find groups of like-minded individuals. These groups can be focused on anything from hiking to board games, and they can be a really good way to meet new people. Remember, it’s only weird if you make it weird.
If you have school-age children, you may be able to meet other dads through school events like daddy-daughter dances, PTA, parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights, and other school functions like field trips and carnivals.
And last but not least, don't forget the tried-and-true way to find friends: in your neighborhood. Whether it's a football game, a cookout, a community pool party, a neighborhood Facebook group or simply striking up a conversation while you’re out for a walk with your kids, there are other dads in your community who are looking for new friends as well. Be that guy for them.
Women like to do things face to face: dinners, makeovers, long conversations, etc. But men like to do things shoulder to shoulder: cooking, camping, sports, etc.
So when you're trying to make new friends as a dad, try to find activities that let you connect with other guys and do some sort of activity at the same time. That’ll keep you from feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
Here are a few ideas for activities you can do with new dad friends:
At the end of the day, just pick something you like doing and invite a guy along. Don’t overthink it. Try to find activities that are fun and not awkward by focusing on things that almost any guy would enjoy. Ease into the lunches and nights out if that’s too deep for you at first. There’s nothing wrong with that.
With a little creativity, you can find plenty of ways to find dad friends and build lasting friendships. Because honestly man, you need it. And everyone around you will be better off for you having invested in meaningful friendships.
Mike P. Taylor is a proud husband and father of 4 from North Alabama. He is an author, speaker, and coach who helps dads find purpose so they can live and lead with clear direction. You can learn more about him on his website https://www.dadwelldone.com