Often, when people ask about my time as a stay-at-home father, they want to know if it’s isolating and lonely. The answer is yes. And no.
While being at home with my son has been largely a solitary pursuit, I’ve never felt starved for adult companionship, in part because I see myself as part of a larger community of writing dads across the country, from a variety of backgrounds.
I don’t mean this in an abstract way. I’m part of a dad blogging group on Facebook, a safe space where active, concerned, and engaged fathers who are also men of words come to share their work and also vent, seek support, or share a joke. It is over 800 dads strong, and consists of men from 15 countries. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join, and while I don’t often take a strong role in the online discussions the group has (because of that introvert thing I mentioned above), I keep an eye on what’s going on, and it’s been a great wellspring for me personally. Not only do the guys keep me smiling and thinking, but it’s also beautiful to see men speaking so honestly and without fear about being dads, husbands, and sons. The group is a powerful demonstration of how out-of-date the silent, stoic, emotionally unavailable American masculine archetype has become. And if that sounds academic and sociological, it’s not. I’m very moved and inspired being a member of such a community. I wasn’t exaggerating: it helps me feel less alone knowing these guys are out there, both as a stay-at-home dad, and as a man who thinks and feels things deeply.
In the past few weeks, the group has rallied around its founder, Oren Miller. On May 30th, Miller, age 41, a loving husband to his wife Beth and father of Liam, age 6, and Madeline, age 4, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. People with this diagnosis typically have about a year to live, and at this point the treatment options are largely concerned with making Miller as comfortable as possible. You should read for yourself about the potent combination of both sadness and acceptance Miller feels about his condition at his blog, A Blogger and a Father, and the wishes that Miller makes for his wife and children. His love for his family and for life shines through every word. (And if you’re a blogging father, you can also find out to become a member of the group Miller started by visiting the site.)
Not long after, Miller’s friend and fellow blogging dad Brent Almond began a GiveForward page to provide Oren and his family a fantastic summer vacation this summer. He started the fundraising goal at $5,000, but the outpouring of support from Miller’s family, friends, and the dad blogging community surpassed that in less than twelve hours. The fundraiser has since expanded to include helping Miller and his wife pay for medical bills, and put away money for their kids, and the goal now stands at $30,000.
I have, once again, found my fellow dad writers profoundly inspiring. To read Oren describe looking his mortality square in the eye, or the many posts about the lives his work has touched — simple work, really, the work of just reaching out and saying, hey, I’m a dad who loves his kids and stays home with them and I’m going to explore and share those experiences in an intimate way, and if you’re going through something similar, let’s talk about it and compare notes and be there for one another. These dads, like any parent, experience both joy and fear, triumph and anxiety, and they are unafraid to talk about it all. When they need something, they ask for it, and their friends are unabashed about providing support. This is the definition of a community: people who open up to one another about not just the good but the bad, and who respond to one another, and don’t often judge one another, and who help one another when help is needed.
It’s an uplifting thing to witness, one that reaffirms my belief that for all the bad news in the world today, people are fundamentally compassionate, social creatures who want the best for one another. If that’s something you believe in too, then I hope you’ll take a look at Oren’s work, and consider donating even just a few dollars to help a good man and his family through a tough time.