Secure Your Own Mask First: Why Dads Need a Night Out, Too

fathers eve

Becoming a father was hands down the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. At the same time, it meant giving up a previous life I thoroughly enjoyed. Before we started our family, my wife and I were living in New York City, squeezing every bit of life out of what it had to offer. Without children, we were free to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. There were plenty of nights spent out until the wee hours of the morning with good friends. I was a very social creature, and being around my chums was always good for the soul.

Then came our first little bundle of boy. I was ecstatic. I was overjoyed. I was also exhausted, irritable and lonely. If you’re a parent, I don’t have to tell you how quickly your life changes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being with him. He was my entire world. The problem was, my drinking buddies soon became distant satellites orbiting that world. Craft beer festivals were out, and library story times were in.

When my wife went back to work, I took a family leave to spend more time with my son and eventually became a full-time, at-home parent. My days were filled with feedings, tummy times and plenty of diapers. The only adult I encountered was Steve from Blue’s Clues, and he kind of creeped me out. There was little time for anything else. And even if there was, I was dead on my feet. Any opportunities remotely resembling social interaction were few and far between. It pains me to say this, but there were moments when I wanted my old life back.

As the years went on, and our second child arrived, I started to settle into my role of being the primary caregiver. Studies have shown that there is tremendous value in a father being a part of their children’s lives, and I was really enjoying it. At the same time, I was feeling more and more isolated. My wife, who has been an amazing partner throughout this endeavor, could see the toll it was taking on me and began to offer this gentle reminder:

“Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”

She was right, of course. She’s always right. I’ve half-listened to those words on every flight I’ve ever been on while flipping through the latest issue of SkyMall, but I never gave them much consideration. I suddenly realized that this sage advice can apply to life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve fretted over the happiness of others with little regard for my own wellbeing. As a parent, that can be disastrous. I realize that now. These words became my mantra, a little nudge to pull me out of the low points in my day.

Tired of spending a king’s ransom to raise our family in an apartment the size of a shoebox, we eventually said goodbye to the Big Apple and headed south to the Sunshine State. This meant that my network of friends was even further away. It took a lot of adjusting. Then I discovered an online community of SAHDs in the area, and I quickly joined. It was just what the doctor ordered. Soon, I was surrounded with dads like myself who were experiencing a lot of the same struggles I was. Once again, my days and nights were filled with fun and fellowship. In addition to a plethora of family activities, we also have a monthly Dads’ Night Out where we can get together over a few beers and blow off a bit of steam without our wives and kids around. It’s done wonders for me, offering a much needed recharge. As parents, it’s crucial that we seek out human contact and social activity. The way I see it, you have to get yourself right before you can parent right.

These brief moments of beery bliss have become so therapeutic and beneficial to me that I’ve decided to take it to the next level. This Saturday, June 17, the night before Father’s Day, I’m joining other dads across the nation and hosting Northeast Florida’s very first Fathers Eve. Fathers Eve is an organization holding events all over the world to celebrate what we do best — being a dad. It’s a chance for all fathers in the area to come together and engage in great conversation over a beer and other fun activities. Maybe even swap a few war stories with others who are in the trenches with you. It’s my hope that it will strengthen the community of fathers in Northeast Florida. At the very least, you’ll know that you’re not alone. I hope you’ll join us.

Click here for more details or to RSVP for Jacksonville’s Fathers Eve event at Intuition Ale Works.

About the Author

Mitch Hemann is a blogger and stay-at-home dad to his two incredible boys, Oscar and Oliver. He has a background in archives and museum administration and studied at the Modern Archives Institute at The National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He recently moved to Jacksonville via New York City and Nashville with his amazing wife and kids. His most recent venture is his blog Doody and Honor, where he documents “the perils of turning magical thinkers into real men.”


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