By Chris Maza
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Some of the best ideas come from unexpected places. Such was the case with the First Time Father Project, a blog and podcast launched last year with a mission of giving dads a place for ideas, support and even a laugh or two about fatherhood.
The website, http://firsttimefatherproject.com, is run by three New England sports media members – Ben Larsen, managing editor of amateurgolf.com
and former editorial producer for Masslive.com
; Kyle Belanger, a communications professor at Springfield College and on-air personality for The Average Joe Show on ESPNRadio’s Springfield affiliate, 1450 The Hall; and ESPN boxing writer Brian Campbell.
Belanger said Larsen approached the two about starting the website after they realized most of the conversations between the three revolved around one central topic.
“Whenever [Larsen] and I and any of the other dads would hang out – and by hang out I mean the once every six months when we would cover a game together – the only thing we would talk about was fatherhood,” Belanger said. “It’s not one of those typical conversations you would hear in press boxes – talking about how awesome it was to be a dad.
“We decided that we can’t be the only ones who are dads in our 30s who enjoy drinking good beer and betting on football, but who also legitimately enjoy being dads, not only because of the attention that it brings, but because it’s just so awesome and so transformative. So we said, ‘Let’s create a forum where people can be proud of that and be proud of being proud of that,’” he continued.
Belanger, who because of his schedule is afforded the time during the day to stay at home with his two sons, has often found while looking for activities that there is a dearth of websites for dads.
“It’s a natural blog that fills an obvious void,” he said. “Because I’m home during the day with my boys, I’m constantly going on these mom sites for potential activities and such and it gets kind of frustrating. Not that I don’t enjoy mom sites – most of my best friends right now are 35-year-old moms because I hang out with them during the day – but it gets kind of annoying having to leaf through the posts of how frustrated they are that their husbands aren’t buying into being dads when here I am looking for what I can do with my kids.”
While called the First Time Father Project, Belanger stressed that the site is designed for all fathers and the experienced dads know that there are plenty of “firsts” throughout fatherhood.
“It’s called the First Time Father Project not because it’s the first child we’re always talking about, but because everyday when you wake up, even if you make the same decision to make the same bowl of oatmeal for the same kids who loved it yesterday, it is the first time you’re doing it that day and it is totally different than yesterday. It can be received totally differently,” he said. “And the thing you say to your wife with the same intent as yesterday, it’s the first time you’ve said it today and get ready because it could be totally different.”
Response to the site, Belanger added, has been very positive.
“We’re growing it really grassroots to start. It’s all social media, growing it on Facebook and on Twitter and just putting it places for people we know because we’ve found that people we know also know people who would benefit from it,” he said, adding that because information moves so quickly in the digital age, they have heard from fathers from across the country.
Because Belanger, Larsen and Campbell all come from different family situations, they all provide different perspectives that give the site a deeper pool of content.
“From a personal standpoint, I consider myself a father of three, it just so happens my daughter is deceased. I have an adoptive son and a biological son and I’m the father of children of multiple races,” Belanger said. “Ben’s the father of a daughter and he’s the only dude in his house, so that’s a thing, and Brian has an incredible story about his family and his twin sons.”
The site contains a monthly podcast, which Belanger said he hoped could eventually be produced on a more frequent basis as well as written pieces with subjects ranging from parenting to marriage to money, and there’s room for other topics.
“We put a tab up there for sex because we decided that we’re grown men and maintaining a healthy romantic relationship with your wife is part of being a dad and if we want to talk about it, we should be able to,” he said. “Well, no one has been brave enough to actually do it yet, but maybe someday.”
While the conversation is very often light-hearted, the three do tackle serious issues that present parents as well.
“It’s not just the fun stuff; it’s also a lot of dads out there who are feeling there’s a lot of work to do out there and have found this place where they can at least use us as a soundboard,” Belanger said.
Most recently, he said as an example, in response to a recent podcast, a listener wrote in saying his friend has a child who he suspected has some emotional and academic needs, but he was not sure the child’s father is aware of it and wanted advice on how to approach the subject.
The First Time Father Project is always open to new voices and those interested may to reach out to Belanger, Larsen or Campbell via the contact information on the website or visiting http://firsttimefatherproject.com/write-for-us