Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Hey Dads! Let's Chat!

I've been at this mom gig for almost 13 years and have certainly seen some stuff. We took our turns as a family as frequent vacationers at "Club Med". I met a lot of families like mine along the way. I had the privilege of turning connecting with Canadian families into part-time support work in research. One thing in all this time that I wish I had the privilege of understanding more is how to help dads.

It's no giant leap in knowledge that health care in pediatrics is highly geared towards moms being the official captains of the complex/chronic illness or rehabilitation ship. Life tends to dictate someone taking the helm and for whatever reasons, its mostly moms. There's no end to the research stating that moms are stressed out and under-supported. Sometimes you have to dig for it, but it's there. One study I tend to reference a lot, states that caregiver stress in moms of complex kids leads to a 20% increased mortality rate. 

Yet families function as a unit and we need to consider how we are supporting all of its members. There's a rather critical research gap in understanding what roles dads play as well as emotional/psychological impact when it comes to complex care parenting. Granted there are a lot of considerations to be made in regards to intersectionality in the family dynamic; things such as race, income, education and a lot more. But dads tend to be relegated to the background. Publicly they don't tend to get the props they deserve. I was thankful to see a tip of the hat made by Sick Kids hospital awhile back with this commercial that in my mind just says what we need to say out loud a whole lot more; "we see you". 
Much like moms, I've met a variety of dads over the years who have responded to caregiving life in their own unique ways. Some engage on par if not more than the moms with all of the tasks that are required to support their kids. I've seen dads disengage, feeling their role as income provider is easier to conceptualize than specialist appointments. I've seen dads cut and run. The list of responses to this life goes on and on.

Women tend to have their communities that become pillars of sisterhood upon which to lean on. For many years myself, I leaned on women I had never met, but who understood my life completely via support groups on social media. I've since branched out, finding women I can sometimes get out with for a break.

There's no single answer upon which to rectify this support gap in health care and mental health. At the very base of it all, I think the world needs to create more of a pointed and welcoming effort to bring dads into the picture. To find out the many facets of what they are going through in all this complex life.

I would love to see more dads at the table when it comes to contributing or partnering in research. I think there's great potential in creating a more well-rounded understanding of the family unit when we make more of an effort towards inclusion in this area.

Dads, I just want to echo what I mentioned in this earlier; we see you. We want to know how to support you. We want you to know that you are worthwhile supporting. Let's start a conversation! You are worth being understood in all this.