Here's what we know, dads need villages too. A diagnosis of childhood disability can bring with it a rainbow of emotions that dad's, for all their armour, are just as likely to encounter.
We're here to say we see you dads and you are safe here on Kindship - to be okay or not okay and everything in between.
Have you heard of the infamous Dad's Squad?
We wanted to create a space where the dads could connect in their own way and create their own village of mates that understood the highs and lows that this disability parenting journey can bring. We started our DADS ONLY audio room and from there the #dadssquad organically formed. Each week these dads show up for each other, they have a chat, they take the piss, they plan elaborate dad retreats to Vegas (wishful thinking guys) but more importantly they are instantly connected by their diverse parenting journey and have a safe space to have a vent if need be.
One of the #dadsquads founding members is Kirk Thompson. He shares with us a bit about his journey and why he is so passionate about mens mental health, particularly for dads that have children with disabilities or diverse needs.
Life was going pretty seamlessly for me prior to the arrival of my second daughter. Happily married to my wife... punching above my weight there, great job, great mates, a gorgeous daughter and another on the way. I know you're not meant to say this but I always feared of what life would be like if we had a child with a disability, even pre-kids. I had mentioned it to my wife a few times. Something that would creep into mind every now and again over the years and every time I had the same thought....I wouldn't cope.
Adrenaline kicked in when I got the call that my wife was in labour at 29weeks, and looking back now that adrenaline stayed with me for about 5 years. We did the NICU life, we discovered the brain damage, we got the diagnosis and I wanted to be my wife's rock. I was. I wanted her to know it was ok and I stepped up. But little did I know that all of those years not actually dealing with the diagnosis, that her taking on a lot of the caring role and going through all that had happened was actually chipping away at me. Eventually, I began drinking a little more, not having as much patience with the kids (we welcomed another girl within this time), feeling stressed with work, wanting to go out more etc this was a very gradual process one that my wife didn't even notice. Until one day it hit me, I hit my rock bottom and decided to run away from it all. I was convinced that I was a burden for my family and they would be happier if I wasn't around as much. I knew I had a great wife, I knew I had great kids but I just wasn't happy and I had a lot of anger to our situation. I couldn't see any bright side to my daughter having cerebral palsy and autism all I could see were the negatives, they began to consume me.
Lucky for me I had a wife, family and mates that knew this wasn't me. I was convinced to get help and I am pretty bloody proud that I did. I was diagnosed with situational depression and began to make some life changes to help me with my recovery, one of which was to stop with the grog. It's crazy the person I am now, my mentality has totally shifted. I am now the dad, husband and person I want to be. It pains me to know that I actually missed out on so many special moments because I just wasn't truly there. Not too long ago my wife showed me some videos of the girls and I don't even remember them, I don't remember a-lot. Without realising I stopped seeing happiness and gratefulness for all those small moments that are what life is all about.
This is why I am so passionate about creating a place for the dads. It's hard for us to open up and there really isn't the support out there like there is for the mums. I want to bring some normality into speaking up about mental health, I want to help make sure there are places out there for the dads to just show up. This is why Kindship is important and why having a safe space just for the dads is needed.
Meet some of our dad squad regulars
Dave is also one of the integral dad group founders.
Most men are afraid to discuss their feelings and the Dad Squad, Tuesday Night Catch Up, is certainly not a bunch of blokes crying down the phone to each other.
To be able to connect and discuss situations, good & bad about family life and what the world is throwing at is and not feel judged is awesome. It’s a great group of dads that catch up on a Tuesday night for about an hr and we discuss everything from Sports to Movies to the idiosyncrasies of daily life is very refreshing. Some dads want to unload their world & some just want to sit and listen to gain ideas, whatever sort of dad you are everyone is welcome
Shaun says "The Kindship dads audio room is important because it's a unique place where dads that have children on the spectrum or a disability can open up about both the good times and the bad. It's a place where we look out for each other and are surrounded by people who have an understanding. Friendships are formed and bonds created through shared interests like sports, outing and work life. It's actually something that most of use dads look forward to each week for the above reasons but also to have just a good chin wag. Its a warm place, one on which I felt a part of straight away without feeling awkward. It's really been amazing forming new friendships with other dads, I hope more dads continue to join us".