This weekend I was honored to be a fly on the wall during our first annual virtual Dad’s Retreat, led by the infamous Mike Berry with Honestly Adoption Co. I have to admit; it took me a minute to feel like I wasn’t invading this sacred safe space for Dads. “Would my presence deter them from feeling comfortable enough to share openly?” Despite my concerns, the dads didn’t seem to be phased by my presence. Here are a few takeaways I gained from being a part of the retreat.
Men are not emotionless as society often encourages them to be. Some may be more in tune with their emotions than some women if given a safe, supportive forum such as the retreat. It was genuinely heartwarming watching the men “raising their glasses” to each other, relating to each other, exchanging contact information, and lifting each other up.
Men often feel the pressure to “fix” their family problems, which is an unrealistic role for them to take on. This doesn’t mean their instincts are to be hard on their struggling or traumatized children or spouse, but more often hard on themselves. Some may take on responsibility for their family as a whole, which is too much pressure to take on. A very crucial point Mike would address throughout the retreat was the importance of not only self-care but self-compassion.
Mike connected this “fixer” mentality with a book he referenced called The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik. A carpenter is representative of all parents who do all they can to maintain their family. Although their heart is in the right place, “fixing” may not be what their family needs from them. Rather than be a fixer, Mike encouraged the dads to be a gardener instead. Nurture your spouse and children, and do your best to model morals and values. Accept the fact that things aren’t always going to go your way, especially if you have traumatized children in your home. Your spouse doesn’t need things fixed, sometimes all they want is for you to listen.
Dads, be kind to yourselves. You are enough and just what your family needs.
Disclaimer: These thoughts and ideas are not consistent across the board with all family units, simply observations based on retreat attendees.
This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW