This article appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on June 13, 2010.
Father's Day is looming, and if the dads in your life are anything like some men I know, they question why their day doesn't rank as highly as Mother's Day.
Of course, there is something especially deserving about mothers, but we know dads matter, too. Research proves it!
In fact, private and government-sponsored studies indicate that children who grow up in homes with fathers are more likely to succeed in school and in life, and avoid the detours of teenage pregnancy, drug use, and poverty.
Paul Banas didn't have all of that in mind in 2006 when he launched the website GreatDad.com. He was a new stay-at-home father who realized as he surfed the Internet that most information on pregnancy, parenting, and child development was written by women, for women.
Banas, who is based in San Francisco, created GreatDad.com "to provide support and confirmation for men that the way they instinctively parent isn't wrong; it's just different.
"Dads don't always organize bottle feedings or cleaning or an outing to the doctor in the same way a mom would. They do these things on their own terms, and it doesn't make them any better or worse."
With the nation's economy still in a recession and more dads at home because of unemployment, the role of primary caregiver is shifting, sometimes for long periods. This appears to be increasing the popularity of blogs, websites and books geared to fatherhood. Along with GreatDad.com, there's MrDad.com, and books like "The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be" and "The Modern Dad's Dilemma: How to Stay Connected With Your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World."
Men use online parenting sites differently than women, Banas said. A mom might stop by a website six or eight times a day to "check in" with a virtual community of mothers, while men are more likely to visit a site on an as-needed basis, to obtain information they can immediately use.
Still, GreatDad.com receives 95,000 unique (or new) visits every month. The site has more than 4,000 articles on parenting from a dad's perspective that are written by a team of 16 contributing writers. Expectant fathers also can subscribe to a weekly pregnancy e-newsletter. It offers everything from information about how their baby is developing in-utero to advice from experienced dads about coping financially and emotionally as one's family grows.
With Father's Day a week away, now is a great time for dads to explore online communities that offer insight and support, and also to find reminders of why their family role is vitally important.
Banas' experiences with his two children, ages 6 and 10, led him to share this advice: "The more involved you are with your kids, the more you understand how bountiful [parenting] is, and how it dwarfs everything else in the world.
"You have to really focus on being in the moment," he said. "In our culture right now we're pulled in so many directions, even someone at home with their kids is on the phone, or at the computer or watching TV.
"Remind yourself to ask questions of your kids -- what are the names of their friends and their teachers? Let them know you're really focused on them.
"We're going through this huge revolution right now," Banas said. "Men of a different generation could be absent because they were working. Now, if you aren't a present father, your children will look at you when they're adults and ask why you missed out."