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 gymnastics 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.”
“I was lucky. I had a bit more time to spend with Ruari as I was self-employed then so could be more flexible. I remember sometimes thinking, I don’t really know what I am doing!
“As new parents we both worried, was he developing, healthy, were we teaching him the right things? Meeting other Dads helped me trust that we were. We got on and learned as we went.”
The most surprising thing for Mark about going to a playgroup with Dads was how much he got out of it.
“My sons love it. And I learned how to play with my sons! Rather than being cooped up in the house, I was able to get out and play in a different environment along with other Dads. You see what others do and learn games, songs, stories and other tips. Maybe things you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.”
Sylvia said, “I think it’s great that Dads Rock provide somewhere to go just for Dads. I encouraged Mark to go. There are lots of groups for parents but I found most Dads were intimidated when it was mostly mums.
“When I went back to work after maternity leave it was a relief to know they were doing something positive and fun together. It gave him the chance to go and look after Ruari on his own, out of the house.
“It was great for me too. Being a new mum was so all consuming. When the boys went to Dads Rock, it was a chance to get some time to myself again! I also go along to some day trips. Kids love it and we often learn of places we didn’t know about. Dads Rock is so worthwhile for Dads, kids and the whole family.”
Father of two Mark first took his son Ruari to Dads Rock when he was 12 weeks old.
Now Ruari, 5, and his brother Fraser, 2, still go along to playgroup most Saturdays.
That first ever session Ruari slept through but Mark knew straight away he had made the right decision to try out the free playgroup.
He felt welcomed by the Dads Rock team. And Mark had a chance to discuss concerns with other Dads. He said,
“At that point it was great to chat to other Dads. Most of our friends didn’t have kids. As a first time Dad I was still trying to figure out what was going on. Those first few months were exciting and could also be terrifying.”
“Everyone at Dads Rock was easy to chat to. We played with our kids and also helped each other figure things out. It was good to be able to bounce things off other Dads. We could talk about stuff and ask, is this normal? We were all making the same mistakes.”
Mark embraced the chance to share childcare with his wife Sylvia. At first he went to give his wife a couple of hours to herself.
Soon, going along to a playgroup where he could enjoy some father-son time became an important part of his week.
After Abi was born Davy found the relationships he had built up with the other Dads even more valuable.
“When Samuel was small he was up every few hours. I got such good advice from other Dads about how to feed if I was on my own or out and about. Now we do things I picked up at Dads Rock with Abi, like putting a chair in their own room.
“The second time round with Abi, I coped much better. I think that has a lot to do with the support I got at Dads Rock.”
Davy also attended Dads Rock antenatal classes and found them of real benefit.
“Before Samuel was born the classes were all focused on birth and mum. At Dads Rock classes I felt more able to ask questions about how I could support my wife. No question was off limits.”
Dads Rock is also an extremely supportive environment for Samuel, who was diagnosed with as autistic in September 2017.
Davy added, “Samuel loves it at Dads Rock. He is running rings round us at home now, in at everything! He looks forward to Dads Rock every week, as he loves to get out, play and explore. It’s part of his routine now and routine is important to him.”
Davy says going to Dads Rock has given him experiences and memories with his kids that he feels he might not have had outside the group.
“I remember a Dads Rock trip was one of the first time me and Samuel ever did something really adventurous together. We went fishing at Vogrie and then lit fires. That took me right out of my comfort zone. Samuel loved it.”
When Davy started taking his Samuel to Dads Rock it helped him turn a corner. Davy found being a new Dad tough.
“In the beginning with Samuel I found it hard going. I was diagnosed with stress a few months after he was born.”
“I got very frustrated. It all came to a head when I went to see my GP and took some time off work. When I found Dads Rock things felt that little bit easier.”
Davy had struggled to find things to do with Samuel but desperately wanted to get out the house and give his wife Hannah a break.
“I had never been to a Dads group before when I first came to Dads Rock. I had been to events at church or the local library and always felt like the odd one out.
“After Samuel was born I felt my wife needed chance to recover. But I always found groups a bit intimidating as they were mostly focused on mums. It was hard to just sit there on my own.”
At Dads Rock Davy found he could enjoy spending time with his son and he felt comfortable speaking to others.
“We all sit and have a cuppa while watching the kids play. I never feel judged or intimidated. You don’t have eyes on you if anything goes wrong.”
Davy now goes to Dads Rock most weeks with his son Samuel, four, and his daughter Abi, one.