What do you get when you cross three dads with six kids between them (now seven)?
You get The Dad Website.
Meet Dan, Phil and Ferg, co-founders of the Melbourne (Australia) based fatherhood platform that’s giving fathers an opportunity to share their stories and perspectives on parenting.
We caught up with Daniel Lewis who was kind enough to answer all our burning questions.
The idea of doing some sort of digital publication aimed at dads had been flickering around in my head for a few years before I acted on it. (Ironically, the inspiration for my idea — my kids — was the very reason for it being put on the backburner!)
I thought there was a definite gap in the online market for dad-specific content — particularly in Australia. I mean there were some sponsored sites that offer advice – “what to expect when you’re expecting”-type things — but very little about actually being a dad.
I got talking to a few dad mates and every one of them was enthusiastic. The general consensus was there was plenty of go-to spots for mums, but not much for dads — despite all the changes in the parenting dynamic and what’s expected of modern dads. The idea of men struggling with parenthood, just as mothers do, is a fast-growing voice and we wanted to be a spot that dads (and mums!) would like to spend some time at.
Things gained momentum when Phil and Ferg — who are husbands of my partner’s twin sister and best friend, and godfathers to two of my daughters – started to express enthusiasm. We tossed up some content ideas and collectively drew up a basic plan, including our name, brand, tone and the look of the website. With all three of us from creative backgrounds and having “been through the wringer” or “still in the eye of the hurricane” as far as parenthood goes, we thought we might have something fresh and interesting to offer.
The more we thought about the idea for a dad site — for dads of all ages and stages and not just those crazy first 12 months of fatherhood — the more we realised just how big the scope was, how much potential the idea had, and how it made sense to give it a crack.
Personally, I was getting quite jaded with everything – the monotony of the nightly routine; the strained relationship; the feeling of isolation – and my job at the time didn’t stimulate me anywhere near enough. I decided I could continue wallowing in the doldrums or actually turn the situation into a positive; to hopefully help others in a similar boat along, and, perhaps, reaffirm what’s truly important in this world.
As a writer I’d always harboured an ambition to produce my own publication, so the opportunity to sink my teeth into something big was certainly appealing. A professional writing lecturer once told me that I should write about what I know or what surrounds me — and fatherhood was certainly something I was immersed in!
Why the name ‘The Dad Website’?
Why not? We did spend some time — over quite a few beers — trying to come up with a name before the simplistic, sort-of-ironic, all-encompassing moniker we operate under now was settled on. It’s a nod to the emphasis we place on the look and feel of the site, while ensuring an easy-to-remember brand name.
Pretty good. Obviously we had an “instant audience” with our collective friends and families but the fact we had a decent bank of content to launch with meant that we garnered a decent following in little time. Things cooled a little after a few months but got rolling again once all our social channels were established and we profiled a few notable dads and got involved in a few worthy initiatives.
As time’s gone on we’ve had some nice slices of validation, including mentions in several ‘best parenting site’ articles — including Man of Many’s 21 Best Dad Sites — and I did an interview with a great local podcast last year about the story behind The Dad Website.
All our articles are governed within the same six sections that we launched with: Dad News, Dad Life, Dads to Be, Dadvice, Reviews and The Heart Talks (which are letters from dads to their kids about anything and everything they want them to know before they turn 18). But as time’s gone on we’ve realised some things resonate more than others, and some topics are easier, or less time-consuming, to cover off.
Our chief purpose of being a story-telling platform for dads of all ages and stages hasn’t changed.
I think people appreciate the fact we place equal emphasis on the ups as well as the downs (and the merry-go-rounds!) of modern parenting, and I think our look and feel reflects this.
In terms of contributors and content-sourcing, as we’ve grown things the pendulum has swung from us approaching bloggers and companies to them contacting us. We’ve got more than 100 now from all over the world.
The first article that really resonated was a mental-health themed piece called When the Wheels Come Off by David Woollcott. A few media outlets, including Kidspot, republished it. Our interview with Aussie celebrity dad Hamish Blake and a Heart Talk by yours truly, Living in the Moment, are among others that we’ve had glowing feedback on.
It’s easy to forget the answer to this question as the majority of your life is spent trying to make others happy – at work and at home – but I guess the simple answer is: everything. Take fatherhood away and I’d be pretty exposed. My girls give me purpose; they offer me comfort even when they don’t mean to; they ensure the warmth of love stays strong in my life.
Tell us about your father.
My dad was both a distant and powerful presence. He was the sole provider financially, and he worked hard as a bank manager to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. He ferried my mates and I to junior sport each weekend when many other dads went missing; he mowed the school lawns. He kicked the football and played backyard cricket with me and would take me fishing and to the local football on Saturday afternoons.
And yet, the drudgery of the nightly routine fell on mum; dad would be on the beanbag watching TV or at the pub, or he’d turn in early. While mum was the parent we could call on emotionally, surface-level was as far as you’d get with dad. Like so many from his generation.
It’s funny, while I’m closer to mum than dad, I’ve written several pieces about him, and little on mum. I guess having that disconnect can allow for a bigger canvas.
How would you say the modern dad is faring?
I think given how much the rules have changed — and continue to change — the modern dad is holding up amazingly well. Many of us have grown up with absent or distant dads who did very little in terms of the child-rearing, only to realise once it’s our turn just how different the parenting landscape is.
Now we — rightly — are involved in everything bar breast-feeding (and we’d do that as well if we could!). For a while I was a bit disgruntled about all that my old man and his generation got away with, but I’m at peace with it now and I’m proud to have had a prominent role in shaping my girls’ early lives.
A few words of advice for new dads?
Patience is the key. I’m not endowed with it, so I’ve learnt the hard way. You’re going to be doing a lot of waiting. You also have to flip your vision away from yourself and try to see things through your child’s eyes.
What do you like doing outside of work and family?
I’ve always had a competitive outlet – as a boy and young man I played (Aussie Rules) footy and cricket; then it was just cricket and for the past seven years I’ve been into running. It’s a great outlet and helps keep me young for the kids – even if the creaks and niggles have become more pronounced as I get older (I’m now 41).
I love music – I still get a big thrill from being taken in by an album, new or old, that I’ve never heard before. Music, of course, is also something I can instill in my girls, and they love singing and dancing to upbeat songs, and have learned the words of some of The Beatles’ songs. I also like cooking, and trying new beers.
As a writer I’ve always believed I had a book in me, although my creative efforts have been stymied by ‘life’, procrastination and a smidgen of disillusionment with the publishing industry. I’ve written one novel — albeit 10 years ago — that seems so clunky now that I’m almost embarrassed to revisit it; and also a memoir on the build-up to my first child being born.
I’ve been rolling around a new idea for a novel in my mind for a few years now; hopefully I get to it one day. The flame isn’t yet snuffed on my literary ambitions!
Hopefully plenty! While we’ve established ourselves as a website, community and brand we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what we want to achieve and produce. There is so much more to cover off; for example, education, employment and finance.
We’d like to get more involved in the men’s health and the mental health space, and run more partnerships with companies linked to men’s interests, including sport, food and drink, cars and grooming. We want to get more insights from older dads with adult kids. And feature more mums, too. Stay tuned!