New mothers and their babies tend to get lots of attention, for good reason. New fathers, sometimes not so much.
Gabriel Keczan wants to fill that gap, so he’s has started a new support group in Nelson for new and expectant fathers.
“Becoming a dad is a major rite of passage, and there is not a lot of support that recognizes that in the current services I see around me, so I want to step in and help families in that way.”
Keczan is a registered therapeutic counsellor and art therapist. He is the father of a seven year old and a four month old, and he has two young adult stepdaughters.
He’s hosting a discussion group for new fathers this winter and spring through Apple Tree Maternity in Nelson.
“With new dads it is mostly just education and coming out of isolation. There is a tendency for new dads to self-isolate, and when things get stressful that can pile up and be unbearable.”
That tendency is driven partly by stigma.
“There is stigma about men asking for help. Women, when becoming mothers, will often come together easily and support one another.”
He said the tendency for men to withdraw is often unconscious.
“There is the ‘boy code’ which becomes the ‘man box,’ which is a range and spectrum of expectations that men can grow into that are limiting. Part of that myth is that you can figure it all out by yourself and you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and just figure out life.
“But it takes a village to raise a family or even to be an individual.”
Keczan says new fatherhood “will force a man to let go of a lot of a lot of immaturity, or at least it will be an opportunity to.”
It could be an opportunity to find a new way of being a father, and this could include recognizing the strength they got from their fathers, as well as the troubles.
“This is an opportunity to do their own father work, make peace with their own dad: That’s who he was, this is who I am, and I am making conscious choices.”
But for Keczan, ultimately it’s about families, not just fathers.
“How the dad and mom are doing on all levels is impacting that baby right away,” he says. “How we form those initial bonds lay foundations for our relationships. So anything I can do to help dads with the initiation conditions for that bonding and new life, is actually about optimizing human potential for the future and for now.”
Keczan’s group meets Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Apple Tree Maternity, 518 Lake St.
Attendance is drop-in and free.