Life Coach Ryan Charaba on support networks for dads, creating a true parenting partnership, and the social-emotional skills he wants to instill in his kids
Daddy to two gorgeous girls (and Dad to a teenage son), podcast host, and life coach Ryan Charaba could easily fill his days with the many demands (and joys!) of family and work. Yet he understands that to achieve a better balance, maintaining friendships is key. Moms learn quickly that building a tribe is imperative in order to survive those tough first months and years of parenthood - and why shouldn't the same be true for new dads? Enter the Oahu Dads’ Network, a group that connects men as they experience the ups and downs of fatherhood - and hopefully a model for more social groups of its kind!
There are quite a few organizations and social groups out there geared at new moms, but yours is the first I've seen targeting dads! How did you get the idea to start this group?
I had gone to a mom’s group with Micaire (my wife) about honoring the postpartum experience. We were due soon and Micaire wanted my support, so I of course agreed to give it. One of the things that struck me during this presentation of nearly 90 minutes was that dads were barely mentioned as those you could turn to for support during this challenging time of transition. I was bummed out a bit and asked the moms if they would appreciate the existence of a dad’s group to help dads share their challenges and learn to be better and step up more powerfully.
One of the things that struck me...was that dads were barely mentioned as those you could turn to for support during this challenging time of transition.
I started the group the next day and am slowly building up a network. I understand the reasons why dads have traditionally struggled to be full partners in parenting. I am, however, ready for things to be different. Time will tell what we actually create.
This is your third act as a parent. What did you learn from your prior experiences with fatherhood as far as coping with the demands of babies and toddlers, and maintaining balance in your life? The most important thing I have found is to really get clear about your priorities and what you most powerfully want your children to learn from you. I believe that as soon as they enter the world, and probably while in utero as well, our children pick up and mimic who we are and what we value. So for me, I just really want a close family that communicates and is able to navigate all the situations families go through and struggle with. A family that knows that challenging situations aren’t bad and are best met and managed with love and openness. I’ve also learned to ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP!!! This is key. We often say “It takes a village.” That is all good, but we must begin to live that and prove it through our actions.
Do you think people underestimate men's need to bond over the shared challenges and rewards of parenting? 100% yes. This is a byproduct of societal expectations and polarizing views of male and female roles in certain situations. With parenting, it is kind of expected for women to nurture and men to provide. We don’t acknowledge how much women are actually providing and probably don’t acknowledge how much men nurture. There is an energetical spin put on these words that can feel out of alignment with our perceived roles. I have found it most powerfully beneficial to learn how to ebb and flow in and out of these roles with our respective partners to be sure that we are both taking the time to do some of both and pick up slack before the other person “needs” it. This way we can find ourselves more energized more often, and when crisis does hit, we are as strong as possible to make it through times of challenge.
We don’t acknowledge how much women are actually providing and probably don’t acknowledge how much men nurture.
What would you like your son to learn from you about connecting with people and being able to express emotion and vulnerability?
I would like him to learn that he CAN connect and express emotion and vulnerability. And even more so, that when he does connect or express himself, the other person's reaction doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with him specifically. It tends to have to do with that person’s own experiences and awarenesses of themselves. Getting stuff out and being who we are truly are is the most important thing to do. If we all played a little bit more of who we actually are then we would see a huge upswing in a world more richly colored with talent and passion.
Much has been written about the epidemic of adult male loneliness. Are semi-structured men's groups like yours part of the solution? Is there a stigma against male bonding that needs to be broken down?
This is a great question. I think men’s groups are a lot more common than people know about. I have been involved in them for about 4 years now and find great value in the sharing and expression that goes on there. What I would love to see more of are groups that are co-ed where we learn to share in front of whomever is there. And where we learn to truly own who we are regardless of the company that we share. It is good practice for us to hear feedback from the other sex as well and learn to not take it personally, take it as feedback, and adjust for the highest good of all people.
What I would love to see more of are groups that are co-ed where we learn to share in front of whomever is there.
I see so much sharing happen in men’s circles where dudes show up once a month to express, share, and in some cases dump, just to have them go home and lock up tight again for 29 days until the next group. Until we can move these same practices of sharing into our homes, then I think we be seeing more of the same.
Your wife Micaire just delivered your second daughter via natural home-birth. Can you just give a shout-out to what a superwoman she is??
I would LOVE to give her a shout out, however I am not able to accurately describe what a super power she is and how amazingly she is performing as a mother for our children. She is a huge reason for my own ability to express and learn as a man and I am so proud to be her husband and father to our children.
Dads can join the Oahu Dads’ Network (closed facebook group) here.
For more information on Ryan’s services as a life coach and motivator, visit RyanCharaba.com.
Listen in on real life-coaching sessions via Ryan’s free podcast, First Wakeups with Ryan Charaba.