Fatherly: A Website That Empowers Dads To Raise Great Kids

Fatherly: A Website That Empowers Dads To Raise Great Kids

By the time Mike Rothman had worked at Thrillist for seven years, many of the young, single people on his team were no longer single. The company had turned into a workplace for young parents, but Rothman noticed an irony: The dads on his team worked online, but the Internet wasn’t necessarily working for them. While moms had all sorts of sites devoted to them, dads were largely left out.

It was then Rothman decided to start a parenting website for fathers. “Men were becoming much more public about self-identifying as fathers,” he recalls. “‘Dad’ was sort of a badge of honor on Twitter,” he recalls. “You’d hear everyone from CEOs and presidents and athletes talking about being a dad. But there wasn’t any digital or social [platform] on anything about fatherhood, from personal finances to the daily how-to’s of starting and raising a family.”

And for a while, it looked like fathers weren’t going to get one. Potential funders told Rothman it couldn’t be done: Men were not interested in a parenting website. He was turned down by no fewer than 130 investors, but he refused to give up. Rothman proved the market was there by consulting for potential investors and developing a popular newsletter for fathers. Funding soon followed, and dads everywhere can now enjoy the result: Fatherly, a smart, provocative website whose mission “is to empower men to raise great kids and lead more fulfilling adult lives.”

The mission comes through in Fatherly’s in-depth coverage of parenting issues. It offers solid, practical parenting advice about everything from solving kids’ sleep problems and helping boys avoid a social avatar that will haunt them later to empowering daughters to deal with mean girls.

But it doesn’t stop there. Fatherly features essays and thoughtful, well-researched pieces on serious challenges such childhood trauma, toxic stress, and bullying. It also delves into positive parenting, including how to build resilience in kids and encourage a sense of self worth – all important steps to healing from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, divorce or a parent’s addiction, mental illness or separation.

“Fatherly is about all kinds of families, not just the nuclear kind,” Rothman says. “When we write about relationships, we’re not just looking about the relationship of fathers to their wives or children, but to their own parents and relatives, their friends and their community.”

Comedian Roy Woods, Jr., and Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, principal of the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, talk on a panel at a Fatherly popup in NYC (Credit: Steven Hazlett)

Among Fatherly’s most extraordinary projects is its “Letters to Boys” initiative, which is featured in a Father’s Day popup sponsored by Fatherly and Gillette in New York City this June 13-16. “Manhood is an uncomfortable, unwieldy mantle for boys first trying it on,” the editors of Fatherly explain by way of introduction. “Letters to Boys offers guidance in the form of heartfelt advice…The men behind these letters show us how to take that crucial first step in confronting seemingly unsolvable issues — by offering honest words.”

The collection includes reflection on famous fathers.  In “My Father, The Cartoonist,” Ross Trudeau writes an exquisite essay on “What It Was Like to Have Doonesbury Creator Garry Trudeau for a Father,” recalling that while his father was deeply affectionate, “an enthusiastic roughhouser, and capable of unabashed silliness,” he became noticeably more subdued as his weekly deadline for the comic strips approached.

Other sons write about fathers who range from scientists and filmmakers to daredevils and chiefs. In “My Father, The Activist,” Paul Chavez, the son of farmworker leader Cesar Chavez, writes a poignant letter about continually missing his father while he was on the road organizing and later electing to join him in his work. The letters are also remarkable for their diversity of voices, including those of Rapper Common, actor & former football player Terry Crews, actor Luis Guzman, and comedian Roy Woods, Jr.

Rothman was personally motivated to give fathers a digital destination. As a 20-year volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, he knew the power of a positive male presence in a child’s life.  He feels that Millennials and others are ready to move on from media stereotypes of fathers as either overly involved with their kids or clueless and incompetent.

And make no mistake: Fatherly is also a beacon for women – in fact, half of its readers are women, and many write for it. As Rothman puts it, “The fight for gender equity and workplace equality means men have to be much more involved in the day-to-day caring for young children.” And from diapers to college and beyond, Fatherly aims to be there for them — and their partners.

Young soldier saying goodbye to his son
Credit: Shutterstock Editorial