When William and his wife Charlene moved back to Edinburgh after two years living in Seattle they knew it would be a challenge.
It was like starting over again. But Freddie, 6, Elsie, 4 and Harry, 2 soon started to settle in after going straight back to Dads Rock.
William, a civil engineer, said it was a relief to see the kids happy and feeling welcomed after two years away.
“We all really missed Dads Rock in the US. We never found anything like it and as soon as we started going back we knew how much they got out of it. The kids are so comfortable there and they remembered everyone. It was new to Harry but he quickly got into it.”
“They all love it. Freddie can by shy but he isn’t at Dads Rock! The team is so engaging with the kids.”
Coming back again was a home from home. William first went to Dads Rock six years ago. At the time he had struggled to find other Dads groups.
As a first-time Dad William felt he had to get out and find ways to make the Dad-son time with Freddie special.
William felt he needed to connect with other Dads. He found it hard to chat as most of his friends were back in Ireland and none of the friends living nearby at that time were parents.
“We have no family support here, with my family in Ireland and Charlene’s in the US. It was easier for me to stay at home but I knew it was important for me to go out and meet new people.
“When I first started going, Char was at home on maternity leave while I went back to work. We had very traditional roles in that sense. She was going to all these parent and child groups.”
“The thought of going along to a group was a challenge. But pushing myself to go was the right thing to do.”
Six years later William now goes along every week with his kids. And he has invited other Dads along who also now come every week.
“It’s important for me to be the one there, on my own with all the responsibility for the kids is on me. Char does that most of the week.
“If I go to groups with mums I feel Dads tend to stand back, for me that is usually out of fear I might be doing something wrong. At Dads Rock there’s a different dynamic.”
At Dads Rock William doesn’t worry about what other parents think or about being judged. The group creates a safe environment where Dads naturally open up to each other. And William says it’s still helping him grow as a father.
“It’s more common for Dads to keep stuff inside. At Dads Rock there’s no pressure to talk but it’s easier because there’s lots of open play. So the Dads naturally end up talking while playing or watching their kids.
“I have found out a lot from other Dads about the way they do things. I get a lot out of being able to help Dads in the group and seeing Days Rock members helping with even just little things, like reading books. We have our way of parenting and I share that. I have learned to be more easy going, to let the kids have a bit more leeway.”
“I have made many friends and we keep in touch outside the group as well. It has really opened me up. Dads Rock is one of the best things I have done for my kids.”
Ramez felt strongly from the day Lucas was born that he that he wanted to do all he could for his son.
The father of one took two years out of his career as a software engineer to care for his son on a shared basis with his wife.
From the start he found a lack of support in general for Dads. Even his parents struggled to understand his decision to take on an equal role in caring for his son.
Sharing responsibilities for Lucas became more challenging when Ramez and his wife went through a period of separation. Lucas was fifteen months old at the time.
Dad’s Rock quickly became an important part of his time with Lucas every week.
“I was lucky to find Dad’s Rock. It started out as a structured bit of our routine. We had to stick to a schedule after we separated to keep things as normal as possible for Lucas. Dad’s Rock became part of our time together.”
“When I talked to other Dad’s it was such a relief. I learned that it was okay to want to do all I could to nurture my son. Knowing that was so helpful.”
Three-year-old Lucas loves going to Dads Rock. Ramez says it’s a place he feels completely comfortable.
“I had tried going to tumble tots and swimming but found it was mostly mums. That’s a very different experience. For example, when something went wrong and Lucas cried, mums would all rush to help me. It creates a different dynamic.”
What started out as a way to spend a couple of hours doing activities with Lucas every week has turned out to be a lifeline.
“When Lucas goes off to play independently or with other children, I get a coffee and chat with the other Dads.”
“Talking to other Dad’s is so useful. It’s very diverse in the group and everyone is very open. There’s lots of stuff I only talk to the other Dad’s about. After talking to them I don’t feel worried. I know that nobody is judging me as a parent.”
The safe space at Dad’s Rock has opened up opportunities that Ramez believes he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “It’s such a comfortable environment so you do try other things. When you see other Dad’s doing stuff you think, I can do that too.
“I have tried different things with Lucas, like taking him out on a boat trip. I probably wouldn’t have done that myself. I wouldn’t have thought it was an option!”
Now that Lucas is in Nursery they go to Dad’s Rock once a month, take part in trips and still meet up regularly with friends.
Ramez says he has learned to be led by his son’s interests. “He is getting very creative, coming up with games, exploring role play and he is fascinated by cars and animals. He surprises me by how caring he can be!”
“His best friend is a girl from Dad’s Rock. She is six months older than him. As well as playing together at the group we meet her every couple of weeks for a play date. They have both grown with the group.”
Ramez has also formed strong bonds at Dad’s Rock and feels so integrated into the group he often plays a part in helping new Dad’s settle in.
Ramez added, “When new Dad’s come in they often ask me for advice. I have that kind of role - people know me well. I think no matter what background or circumstances of the family, all the Dad’s are very invested.”
“I catch up with a few of the other Dads regularly outside Dad’s Rock. They are good friends. I think Dad’s have limited options so groups like Dad’s Rock are vital.”