The Modern Man Group

Image source: Photographer Katja Anton

There’s been the macho man, the metrosexual and the sensitive new-age guy, but what exactly does it mean to be a man in today’s world. Jolene Ogle chats to three local dads to get their take on the modern man, men’s groups and all things parenting.

On a sunny Spring day, I gather three dads by Noosa River for a photoshoot. The plan was to have them pose with their little ones but soon they are engrossed in conversation as another dad joins the group, the kids run free and before we know it, friendships are formed.

This is everything Dads Group Inc. Founder Tom Docking could have hoped for. Tom is responsible for the Man with
a Pram group where dads of all kinds meet weekly at a coffee shop to talk all things fatherhood.

“As a culture, we’ve become separated,” Tom says. “We are stuck in pockets and we’re not sharing information and
experiences together.

“Creating Dads Group Inc was a revelation. I realised every new father should have this experience, this sharing of knowledge and support. It quelled my anxiety as a new parent because there are so many unknowns.”

Joining Tom is Clay Sherriff, a homeschooling dad-of-three who co-runs The Space Noosa as well as the Rawkus
Creative Studio. Clay is an example of the new wave of parent who isn’t afraid to embrace parenting and spend countless hours with their children.

“There is an automatic response for men where we will say ‘oh kids, don’t want them around all the time’, but deep down we do,” Clay says.

“I know I’ve even said it! But it’s just an automatic response created within our society. You have to drop that ‘man façade’ to appreciate time with your kids.”

Clay and wife Aimee are entrepreneurs, working for themselves and, as Clay explains, this type of work life allows
them extra freedom.

“By working for ourselves, I have the opportunity to spend a huge amount of time with our kids and connect with them on a whole new level,” he says.

“That’s why we home school. The kids will remember getting to work with me throughout the day and it’s made me play with them more. It’s awesome. They’re my little mates. I never had that with my dad.”

As Tom explains, we are experiencing a new age of fathering where dads have more choice in how they want to parent and, although it is liberating, it can also be overwhelming.

“This is a new age of fathering where men have an opportunity to connect with their children,” Tom says.

“Our parents didn’t have this. This is a chance to carve out a new way of parenting. Men can do that by themselves
or join a group like ours.”

Within its first 5 years of operation, Dads Group Inc have held more than 850 events, including a regular coffee catch up every Saturday morning at Curly’s on the Boardwalk in Coolum. Tom says the weekly coffee catch-ups are a chance for all types of dad – new dads, expectant dads and those who have been in the game for a few years – to all come together and share knowledge.

“It’s important for men to know that no-one is an expert when it comes to parenting,” Tom says.

“You can’t be an expert parent, but you can be an adaptive parent who creates a good environment for their child to grow and learn.”

This is something that is very important to father-of-two Andy Fermo. Andy served in the Australian Army where he survived the impact of an Improvised Explosive Device and near-death scenarios while in Afghanistan.

He’s now moved to Noosa with his wife Claire and two children and is the founder of Invisible Injuries, a not-for-profit charity for those suffering from issues such as PTSD.

“In my work, I don’t prescribe to the traditional workday of a tradie or 9-5 worker, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing my part,” Andy says.

“Maybe I’m doing something smarter because I get to take my son to school every day and spend so much quality time with my kids. That is what really matters.”

It’s clear at the photoshoot that although Andy, Clay and Tom (joined by Stew!) all come from different backgrounds,
have different work lives and interests, they all connect over one thing; being a dad.

“The guys at the coffee catch-up share their experiences and have a laugh,” Tom says. “I always leave feeling like I have given back, and I have connected with my children. It feels like I have been given a gift.”

I think the same gift was shared on this ordinary day when a bunch of dads had a chat while their kids ran around in the sunshine. Tom explains that many Man with a Pram coffee catch-up members feel more empowered and are more supportive co-parents, thanks in part to joining the group.

Upon leaving the Noosa River foreshore, phone numbers were shared and promises made to catch up. It’s amazing what can happen when a few blokes get together to share the good, bad and ugly parts of parenting.

JOIN IN
DADS GROUP INC
Dads Group Inc/Man With a Parm meets every Saturday from 9.30am
at Curlys on the Boardwalk in Coolum. Every dad is welcome. Visit
facebook.com/manwithapram for more information.

BIRTH & BABY VILLAGE
Presented by Riki Cooper, the Birth & Baby Village Dads Group is
all about talking about real life with babies and children. The next
get-together is Thursday19 December from 7-8pm at 90 Goodchap
Street, Noosaville. Visit facebook.com/birthandbabyvillage for more
information.

WANT MORE?
Listen to our interview with Andy Fermo,
Stewart Foreman, Leroy Faure and more on our
Conversations in Noosa podcast. Available on
Spotify, Apple and Google Podcast Apps and
all good podcast patrons.

About the Author /

jolene@innoosamagazine.com.au

Jolene has worked in the local media industry for more than five years. She is now a small business owner, mother to one sassy toddler and a newborn baby and loves to share stories about Noosa from its glorious food scene to the inspiring people.

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