A dad hoping to join an activity with his young child could sometimes wonder how he fits into the proverbial mom village. As Calgary dad David Bacque jokes in the newest photo on his popular instagram account, @life_with_benjamin, even a disguise doesn't help.
"Those moms see through my designer scarf and perfect bleach blonde hair. They know I am a dad in a mom's mom's mom's world," Bacque wrote in the post, which shows him and his son, Benjamin, 2, trying to blend in at playgroup. In the photoshopped pic, Bacque dons a blonde wig and red scarf, and while it's meant to be light-hearted, it highlights a more serious issue: social support for new dads is often lacking.
"I obviously can't speak for every dad, but I've noticed that most child-focused places are dominated by moms," Bacque told HuffPost Canada in an email interview.
"I don't want to give the impression that I've ever felt excluded from these places because I am a dad, because I don't! However, it is just a new world for me and I think about how I fit in."
WATCH: Why this dad set up a father-friendly parenting group. Story continues below video.
Bacque, 36, is a stay-at-home dad. He lost his job as a geologist in the 2015 economic downturn, and that timing corresponded with his wife's pregnancy and the birth of his son. His plan was to spend the first few months of Benjamin's life at home, then return to work, Bacque said. But that plan kept shifting.
"I started to believe that I could bring value and find a deep fulfillment by caring for Benjamin longer term," he said.
Bacque's Instagram account, Life With Benjamin, chronicles his life as a stay-at-home dad with surreal and artistic photos. He discovered photography and videography while staying home with Benjamin, and he notes its been a great outlet. Bacque's Instagram photos are stylized, often edited, and convey dad life with humour and honesty.
His playgroup photo is photoshopped with a stock image of moms because he's sensitive to posting pics of people's children on social media, Bacque said. But the feeling and his experience (other than the disguise) is real.
In his blog, Bacque writes that he worries about Benjamin getting enough socialization since he's home with him all day instead of at daycare. So he does his best to take his son to museums, parks, and playgroups.
"Out of all of these opportunities to socialize, the most difficult for me to navigate is The Playgroup," he writes in a post called Surviving the Mom's Playgroup as a Dad.
As the only dad there, Bacque feels the need to over-compensate and be extra helpful to combat the stereotype that dads do less, he told HuffPost Canada.
"You know, that bumbling adult child in the house that the mom has to treat as another child."
He also notes in his blog that some of the other women exchange phone numbers to arrange playdates, but that it feels inappropriate for him, a man, to set up a one-on-one with a mom.
Baque's playgroup Instagram post struck a chord with both moms and dads.
"It is the same around here. I work in the afternoons and dad cares of our toddler. They spend the time at the supermarket. Our possible play group is all of mothers with a toddler and a newborn. Very difficult for a man to fit in ...," one person commented.
"School drop off/pick up makes me feel like that too... it's a mommies club 😉," another person wrote
"I have a dad friend that comes on our outings. We all especially love it when he comes hiking with us. We feel safer and he can help carry stuff 😂😂 ," someone else wrote.
"joking aside, it's hard even for a mom to fit into a mom's group sometimes. I work full time, first it's hard to find a time to go to a mom's group and when I'm there, I am not sure what to say to other moms!" another person commented.
Parenthood can be isolating for new dads
Supports for new parents are often aimed at moms for good reason — they still tend to be the ones who to stay home or take leave after a baby is born. But parenthood can be isolating for new dads, and they need support, too, experts have noted.
"Parenting in isolation is never a good idea," psychologist Jennifer B. Rhodes previously told HuffPost Canada by email. "It really does take a village and men, especially successful ones, underestimate how challenging parenting can be when they are used to succeeding in life."
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There are more resources starting to pop up for dads across Canada, like a Facebook group for Calgary dads to connect with each other, Dad Club London (Ont.), and Dad Central, which seeks to connect dads across the country.
And with dads being able to take advantage shared parental leave, it might become more common to see men at playgroups.
"I think with any change, these things take time. If more and more dads are staying home with children, we will see more things geared towards dads and society's mind will shift," Bacque said.
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