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Why aren’t we talking about Patrescence?

By Sarah Holliday Guest blogger, Mother Wit Mama, Supporter and Contributor

In episode 56 of the Mother Wit Podcast, Tanya and her guest, Dan Doty delve into the challenges of the fatherhood transition, or patrescence, as it is sometimes called, particularly in the scientific and psychological literature. This major life transition catches so many families off guard yet it is rarely discussed- Not before the baby arrives, nor after, or even years later when the childrearing is seemingly done. 

Dan's reflections provide valuable insights into the changing landscape of fatherhood and the evolving expectations placed on modern fathers. He acknowledges the shift that is occurring from a more traditional role of "protect and provide" to a more multidimensional and emotionally involved approach to fatherhood. The modern man is expected to be emotionally connected, domestically involved, and an understanding partner in the journey of parenthood. This shift reflects a broader cultural transformation where fathers are encouraged to be more present and engaged in all aspects of their partner’s and their children's lives. 

Dan highlights the challenges he and many men face as they navigate this transition. One common experience is the feeling of constantly oscillating between the old and new paradigms. The struggle to reconcile past expectations with the evolving roles and responsibilities often adds a sense of uncertainty and pressure for men. This back-and-forth, as Tanya described it, reflects the internal conflict many fathers experience as they strive to redefine their identities and roles as parents. 

Dan emphasizes the need for men to develop new skill sets and shift gears into a new  paradigm that will help them thrive in modern families. He underscores the importance of being present, emotionally connected, and nurturing, skills that may have been overlooked or undervalued in traditional notions of fatherhood. Moreover, he highlights the importance of men understanding their own emotions and building the resilience needed to navigate these challenges effectively.

By acknowledging the emotional and psychological journey of patrescence, we validate men's experiences and promote their mental well-being. Providing support and resources tailored to the unique needs of expectant and new fathers empowers them to embrace their roles with confidence and a sense of purpose. This support must extend beyond practical advice and needs to encompass emotional support and, more importantly, a safe space for men to explore their fears, uncertainties, and aspirations as fathers. I’ll dive deeper into Dan’s programs in a bit but this episode gave me and my partner so much to think and talk about and I wanted to share this with the Mother Wit community to get the conversation started.

Men, often held to the standard that women have always been held to, actually works both ways, at least in my dynamic. I am a cis-woman married to a cis-man and I expect both of us to provide financially, to be engaged emotionally and to participate in the domestic work of running a household. While there is room for variation and interpretation based on gender, sexuality and the cultures of the parents, there is no denying that the lines have been blurred substantially, for both parents. What if one day we don’t even have a need these types of conversations anymore? I’m imagining a world where people are openly supporting one another regardless of their gender. This all sounds other worldly and unlikely; though I would love to be alive to see my grandchildren parent their children and to see how they will manage this evolving dynamic.

The “old school necessities,” as Dan calls them, are still there and and they aren't going anywhere, rather the list of goals and responsibilities grows. The invisible loads are shifting, and although my partner and I are still in the early days of raising our children, I can see that this is the only constant as we move through all the life stages yet to come. But the outright  lack of conversation is what magnifies the issue. The prep work that my husband and I did when we were in Tanya’s Comprehensive Care Program set us up to have the conversations needed to have in order to navigate parenthood together, especially in the early weeks where our brains weren't working at capacity. Everyone needs a knowledgeable and compassionate yet neutral third party to introduce new ideas and help navigate these conversations. In my case, it was Tanya, a midwife but it could be a doula, a therapist, or any number of other professions that overlap and often work seamlessly together.

When Dan talked about how new dads might not immediately fall in love with their babies, I was struck by this as I realized that Tanya talked to me about this happening to the birthing parent but we didn't talk about it in the context of partners. I think this is what Tanya means when she acknowledges that she has been remiss in her work with partners. Her work thus far, and rightfully so, is more focused on the birthing person. But this is where Dan's work and expertise comes in! 

  1. Normalizing the need for men to take care of their mental health

  2. Creating space to  name one’s feelings

  3. Acknowledging their unmet needs, their limitations, their boundaries

Dan's Fatherhood Ready program offers a structured and comprehensive approach to supporting expecting and new fathers through the transition into parenthood. This four-week digital program combines elements of men's work, deep self-inquiry, and expert-led education to provide participants with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the challenges and joys of fatherhood.

Through Fatherhood Ready, men are guided through a journey of self-awareness and skill development, addressing key aspects such as emotional connection, presence, and understanding one's role as a father. By delving into their own experiences of fatherhood and exploring new paradigms of parenting, participants are equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the challenges and joys of fatherhood with confidence and resilience.

In addition to Fatherhood Ready, Dan's Father's Fire program offers ongoing support for dads, providing a space for regular connection and camaraderie. Through weekly meetings, participants have the opportunity to engage with a larger community of fathers, sharing their experiences, challenges, and successes in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

Incorporating Dan's insights into our understanding of patrescence deepens our appreciation for the complexities of fatherhood in the modern era. By recognizing the evolving expectations and challenges faced by men as they transition into fatherhood, we can foster a culture of support and empowerment for fathers. Through open dialogue, empathy, and resources tailored to their needs, we can help men navigate patrescence with confidence and resilience, ultimately strengthening family dynamics and promoting positive outcomes for fathers, children, and society as a whole.


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