Stay-at-Home-Dads Need Playground Friends Too

Making new mom friends on the playground is hard. But what if you're a dad? One stay-at-home dad took to Reddit to ask the community how he can connect with other parents.

father with his daughter in playground
Cavan Images—Getty Images.

As wonderful as their job can be, stay-at-home parents can face mental health challenges, often as a result of feeling isolated. A Gallup analysis of over 60K women found that stay-at-home moms were more likely to be diagnosed with depression—no matter their income level. And they were even more likely to experience worry, stress, sadness, and anger. While being a stay-at-home father is a different experience, it's no surprise that dads grapple with similar struggles. One factor that can contribute to a perpetual cascade of negative emotions: difficulty socializing with stay-at-home moms.

One dad took to the Parenting subreddit on Wednesday, August 21 to lament about this very issue. "Socializing as a stay at home dad sucks, especially amongst moms," the Redditor, writing under the handle pingachulo, titled the post.

He shared, "I’ve been a stay at home dad for about 10 months, taking care of my 15-month-old and 4-year-old. This has been an eye-opening, a mentally/physically insightful experience. The payoff has been amazing. My kids are happy healthy and both are accelerated for their ages. I couldn’t be prouder as a father. As a husband I’ve been everything my wife could ask for, so she tells me. Her career has accelerated in ways that wouldn’t be possible if she stayed home. She's very grateful and shows me her gratitude frequently."

The original poster (OP) went on to note that although "everything is dandy," he has reason to complain: "When I take my kids to playgrounds/play-spaces/ literally anywhere kids play I get excluded from conversations, specifically with other moms. I consider myself a social butterfly; I can talk to anyone about anything. Hold any conversation for as long as the other person feels comfortable. When I approach mothers and try starting a conversation (always about kids), I get shutdown. My kids are always within eyesight, so its not like I’m a rando creeper hitting on moms at parks."

He cited a recent example: "Just yesterday, I asked a lady how old her son is, and she said, 'Sorry, not interested.' Our kids were playing together, so I thought it’d be alright if I made some small talk. That was one of many times I’ve been brushed off, so I tend to stay to myself or just play with my kids."

The OP noted, "Some days are very long so having a conversation with an adult would be nice. Yes, I talk with my wife, but the nights are usually occupied by bathing the kids, feeding them, reading to them, etc."

He asked the community if "there's something different I should say or do to make other mothers/parents less uncomfortable?" Pingachulo continued, "Because that's what it feels like. I'm normally the only man among 10-15 mothers. It doesn’t help that kids love playing with me. They see me running around with my sons and tend to join in."

Redditors were quick to jump in with consoling words and advice.

A commenter who works outside of the home, writing under the handle SolidBones, offered a different perspective: that these moms might not be as anti-dad as they are clique-ish. She explained, "One day, I took off work and took my kids to the playground in the middle of the day. There were three other moms there talking. I introduced myself to them and we chatted a bit (so I got further than you usually do, I'm sure), and they invited me to their mom group (hooray!). I told them I usually work, but I'd love to participate in evening or weekend activities. Boy oh boy did they rescind that offer quickly. They just stopped talking to me and gave me cold shoulders, then carried on chatting among themselves a few steps away and more quietly. It was bizarre, like something out of a comedy sketch. The people at playgrounds who seem most happy to talk to me after I say hi are always dads and nannies. COME ON OTHER MOMS WE'RE ON THE SAME TEAM!"

Odellia agreed, writing, "I’m so sorry to hear you’re having a less than ideal experience socially. Even as a mother, I find it hard to break into the established social groups. I don’t think it has much to do with your behavior, more to do with them. I’m not sure what your neighborhood is like, or what’s close to you, but I’ve noticed different libraries/parks/early years centers attract different crowds. There’s one drop in play centre in particular that seems to attract a more diverse parent community (more single parents, gay and lesbian couples, and fathers). It also might be worth putting some feelers out to a local Facebook parents group or something similar. I see posts of, 'hey, going to be at the park tomorrow morning with my x year old, have a red stroller, would like to meet some other parents, feel free to come by and say hi' and have taken parents up on it."

Fellow SAHD trickydick64 advised, "The thing that saved me was my library, and making snacks for the kids at the library this summer. That seemed to help a lot in building trust."

After perusing the various suggestions, the OP updated his post, noting, "Thanks everyone for your kind messages and advice. I'm looking into Hike It Baby, as my family is huge on hiking. The Mush app sucks, the nearest person near me on the app is 13 miles away. Facebook for me is a no-go, I'm really against it. It's left a bad taste in my mouth and deleted it without looking back. My son's birthday is coming up so we’ll be going to zoos, museums, pools all week."

It's heartening to see so many parents come out in support of this SAHD. Here's hoping the more that we talk about the loneliness and exclusion stay-at-home parents face, the more welcoming those who are having an easier go of it will be.

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