There’s a new book on the block. And this one is for the dads. It’s not the run of the mill ‘expectant dad’ book that spells out the basics of pregnancy. Nor is it a patronising ‘dad jokes’ book that portrays dads as nothing more than a bumbling clumsy men trying to figure out what to do next. This book is unique, one of a kind and special. This book is called DAD: untold stories of fatherhood, love, mental health and masculinity. Sound intriguing? Well, here’s everything you need to know about the dad book.
The man behind the book
I’m Elliott Rae and I’m in the founder of the parenting platform for men, MusicFootballFatherhood (MFF). We are all about open conversations around fatherhood and we do that through our popular blog. It has hundreds of articles and resources for dads, our #DaddyDebates podcast and our regular community events. I started MFF after the traumatic birth of my daughter which led to me being diagnosed with PTSD.
It was a tough time and writing about being a new dad really helped. I found other dads also wanted a space to write and share and here we are, 5 years later. I now have a happy 5 year-old that keeps me on my toes. Plus MFF is approaching it’s 6th birthday in January too.
How did the dad book come about?
What I realised over the years is that all of us have a story. Every dad that was part of our community, that featured on our podcast, that wrote for our blog. They all had a story. I also realised that often, we never hear it. We don’t hear it because, as men, we have been conditioned not to speak about the things we find difficult. We’ve been taught to stay strong and get on with it. I wanted the personal and intimate conversations I was having to be recorded, I knew that if we could let the world hear these stories, they would do so much to help other dads on their own journeys. So in April 2019, the DAD book was dreamt up.
What was standing in our way
We approached publishers and they all said that the writing was great and the idea fantastic. They all commended the amazing work we were doing and said that the book was important. But they also said there was no audience for the book. Can you believe it! Well, actually, you probably can. The irony is that numerous organisations, leaders and individuals say we want men to be more open. And then there’s the multiple campaigns that push open dialogue as a way to tackle mental health problems (which I think is right by the way). But when it really comes down to it, do we really support men being more open – is that what we want? Is that what you want? Because here we had 20 men being so honest and vulnerable about the hardest and darkest moments in their lives and apparently – no one would want to read it.
I knew this absolutely was not true. I knew the type of conversations men were having and the shift that has taken place in regard to the role of the father in the UK and across the world. And I knew that the book would be a success. So we put a big two fingers up to the publishing world and went about producing the book ourselves. We recruited 50 community partners, all amazing organisations doing work to support dads and work on mental health and equality, and we spoke to all our family and friends. We then setup a crowdfunder which raised over £12,000 in just over 2 weeks. If we needed anymore confirmation that there was a demand for the book, well that was it.
Topics covered in the dad book?
DAD is a deeply moving and inspiring collection of stories that represent the diversity of modern fatherhood and seeks to start a conversation that challenges the traditions associated with masculinity. DAD includes 20 powerful and defiant stories about postnatal depression, becoming a new dad during the pandemic, miscarriage, widowhood, stillbirth, co-parenting, childbirth trauma, work-life balance, new dads at work, shared parental leave, being a stay-at-home dad, gay fatherhood and surrogacy, being a stepdad, black fatherhood, raising a child of dual heritage, being a single dad, faith and fatherhood, raising a child with autism, gender stereotypes and more.
Each of these stories are so raw and brave. I would like to talk about each of them here, but then the blog would be about 5,000 words and hey, I want you to buy the book! But I will single out a couple of chapters.
Chapter 2 – The things my father never taught me
Written by R.P. Falconer, it’s a must read. It’s about growing up without a dad in a rough area of North West London. His account and life story brilliantly describes what it’s like to grow up without a dad and how that, plus the immediate environment, can drive so many differences in outcomes in regard to education, finance and even mortality. R.P writes about how he navigated childhood and how he is now parenting without the guidance and role-model of his own father figure. It’s an absolutely essential read.
Chapter 6 – Widowed at Forty
Alec Grant writes about his wife dying just after the birth of his second child. Alec is such a strong person who I have the upmost respect for. His story is emotional, defiant, devastating and uplifting all in one go. It is a special piece of writing that will stop you in your tracks.
Chapter 3 – Christmas Without the Kids
I can’t go without talking about Ian’s chapter about spending Christmas away from his children. This one had me speechless when I first read it. Ian recounts his marriage breakdown, his homelessness, his suicide attempts and his recovery where he is now the main carer for his children. You will be blown away as he describes walking into the Brighton sea as he contemplates ending his life.
As I said, I could go on but I realty want you to read the book for yourself! There is a link at the bottom of this page.
What does‘DAD’ aim to achieve?
This is a ground-breaking book. A movement. Never before have a group of men come together to bare their souls and speak so openly and honestly about their fatherhood experiences. This book aims to encourage better dialogue between colleagues, friends, and especially within families; between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, dads and children. We know that men and dads don’t always have the space to speak openly about their experiences. We believe DAD can change the world and move forward the conversations around fatherhood, masculinity, mental health and gender equality.
Why do we need to change things?
The mental health of men is still overlooked. Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and 12.5% of men in the UK suffering from depression and anxiety. This has been further compounded by the pandemic and lockdown. New dads are particularly vulnerable as financial and work pressures coupled with a huge life change can have a significant impact. DAD is a cathartic book that will help men and dads realise they are not alone. DAD will encourage more open conversations around fatherhood and contribute to better mental health.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has had a prolific impact on the way we live and work. There has been some positive progress on the collective role of dads in the UK, with fathers taking on more caring responsibilities than ever before. In 2015, the ONS found that men were spending 39% of the time that women spent on childcare, compared to 64% during the first lockdown in 2020. However, women still do the large majority of childcare and have paid the price in the pandemic with mothers being more likely than fathers to be furloughed and at a higher risk of job losses.
As a collective we need to do more to challenge gendered parenting roles. We need to move away from the concept that caring is for women and being the main breadwinner is for men – those outdated stereotypes are damaging for everyone: men, women and children. This book will help men, women and families think about how they can do things differently and strive towards gender equality.
Why the DAD book will appeal to all parents?
DAD has a diverse range of contributors who represent all aspects of race, class, age, and sexuality. Each dad has written in their raw and authentic voice. This was extremely important to me as I wanted to make sure underrepresented voices, ordinary people whose stories often go unheard, are now listened to and part of the mainstream conversation. These are ordinary men, being extraordinary by sharing their story with the world. Our contributors have come together, from different walks of life, because they believe in the shared purpose, vision and movement.
Each chapter will take you on a journey and immerse you in that dad’s world. Underlying each of the dad’s stories is a persistent and driving force of love, defiance, humility and strength to be the best fathers they can be for their families.
Our call to action is for more open conversations, like the ones you are about to read.
I hope this tells you everything you need to know about the dad book and that you know want to check it out for yourself. DAD is available from all major book retailers, including Waterstones, Amazon, WH Smith and Foyles. Or you can buy it here.