Dads Find Advice and Support Online

The third Sunday in June, all eyes are on dads. Cards line the shelves, sale circulars flood the newspaper and special deals abound. The rest of the year, information for dads can be hard to come by.

CharlotteAreaDads.com doesn’t believe fathers should be stuck in the parenting shadows, though. The new, local Web site for dads, by dads, is bringing men together for friendship, advice and support in just being a father.

When site administrator Tim Medley of Charlotte learned his wife was expecting in December, his first response was panic. “I kind of freaked out,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do, where to go to find anything out.”

His wife, Jori, had joined CharlotteMommies.com, an online forum, so Medley hoped the Internet could offer some support for him, too. His searches came up empty. “Everything around was for moms,” he said.

Medley wasn’t content to leave the parenting to women, though. “I couldn’t find a resource, so I started my own,” he said.

His site, CharlotteDaddies.com, attracted 100 like-minded dads in the first month — as well as the attention of The Mommies Network, which runs CharlotteMommies and other moms sites across the country. The Charlotte-based nonprofit had been hoping to start a dads forum for months.

“Just like it feels horrible to turn down a mom because she lives too far away, it feels horrible to turn down a dad, because you know that they need support and friendship, too,” said Suzanne Johnston of Charlotte, director of The Mommies Network.

The network had just opened its first dads’ site in Salt Lake City in early March and organizers asked Medley if he’d be willing to run a Charlotte site. “We all said, ‘This makes sense; our goals are the same,’” said Johnston.

Since its launch March 22, CharlotteAreaDads has attracted more than 160 members from Charlotte and the surrounding area. “It’s pretty much anywhere that can resemble themselves as part of Charlotte,” Medley said, noting that members live in Cabarrus, Gaston and Union counties and York County, S.C.

Membership is free and includes access to two dozen forums on topics ranging from do-it-yourself tips and entertainment to children’s specific age groups. Support groups also are available for stay-at-home dads, homeschoolers and fathers of special needs children.

While many Web sites such as Parenting.com gear their parenting information to mothers, some national sites such as About.com and Fatherhood.org do offer parenting advice specifically for dads. About.com also offers forums for dads to exchange information, as does Fatherville.com.

Medley said what makes CharlotteAreaDads different is the sense of community. In addition to posting in forums, members also coordinate play dates and dads-only activities. “The main goal is to network with other dads, with other guys in the Charlotte area,” Medley said. “Dads like to do things with their kids, too.”

CharlotteAreaDads.com isn’t just a repackaged version of the moms’ site, though. Events are geared toward men’s interests, such as basketball games in University City and the Carmel Road area and unofficial poker nights, Medley said.

“We are trying to give them a little more freedom so they can help us figure out what a dads site will look like,” Johnston said. “We’re trying to keep it as estrogen-free as possible.”

Dads of all ages are encouraged to join, but Medley said the site seems to be most helpful to beginning dads. “Most people are fairly young or newer to the dad scene,” he said. “I think it helps people relate.”

The forums also help new fathers navigate the confusing nature of babies and young children, Medley said. “The thing that I’m most surprised about so far is that guys out there are really asking about parenting: ‘How do I do this with my child?’” he said. “That’s reassuring, to see that people are asking those questions — and better yet that people are willing to answer with their experiences.”

The Mommies Network hopes to eventually launch “brother” sites for each of its existing moms sites in 14 states. A third dads site for fathers in the Triangle area went online in mid-April.

The network is about more than just exchanging advice and venting online, though, said Johnston. “Go out, have fun, smile, chase your kids around,” she said. “That’s really important to us, that people are getting out and making friends, not just attached to their computer.”