Father’s Day is June 17. While some may think it’s just a “Hallmark holiday” created to sell greeting cards, it’s actually over 100 years old. The holiday was born when a young woman with 5 siblings, who was being raised by a single father, encouraged local churches to honor dads with a sermon.
While they may have a holiday like moms do, dads lack a lot of the support systems and programs that are available to mothers. Some people are out to change that.
Our content expert, Becky Law, recently interviewed Neal Hodges about an innovative program for expectant and new fathers in the Cleveland, Ohio area.
Becky: What is your program?
Neal: It’s called the Dude’la program. It is a program designed to create a support system for expectant (and new) fathers to combat the infant mortality crisis that is plaguing our community.
What is a Dude’la?
A dude’la is the male answer to a doula (a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born). I define a dude’la as a man who serves for the better of his community and his children.
What inspired you to create the Dude’la program?
The idea came about from managing a health initiative, the Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative (GUCCHI), which addresses infant mortality and lead poisoning in Cleveland. As I got deeper into the work, I realized that most of the support and marketing as it relates to the death of an infant was geared towards the mother (rightfully so) and not to the father. To me, that was a problem.
Why are the fathers and men so important?
Every man I’ve met who is expecting a child is thumping their chest – they are proud to become a father. Excited! But, something happens along the way. When I was 5 years old, I lost my father to handgun violence (and my mother, too, 6 months later). But, I remember my dad. I remember wanting to have wrinkles in my forehead, like he had. I can recall the smell of him. Kids are creatures of habit – any boy wants to be like his dad and any father wants to be a great role model for his son.
Why are dad support groups so necessary?
Well, for the demographic I deal with, mostly African-American men, a system of structural and systemic racism has been put in place that makes it difficult for the fathers to parent their kids under certain circumstances. I want to address that. Also, some men need support. Some are terrified of the unknown – being responsible for a life other than theirs – because now it’s time to Man Up! I want to help them.
How does your program work?
This dad support group is a grassroots, community-driven, peer-to-peer support group. It’s a bit different than others because the men are creating it based on their conversations and needs.
Thank you, Neal. We wish you all the best with your program!
As Neal said, support groups are important for fathers. By spending time with other dads, both new and experienced, they get to share their experiences and also learn from others. It’s a great opportunity to connect with others who may have the same concerns and problems. They may even discover that they know much more than they think they do.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!