Celebrating and Educating Fathers with Daddy University

Jun 17th 2018

Whether you’re buying a washing machine or a computer, there’s an instruction manual that comes along with it. When you have a child, there’s no such thing. You’re given this child and then bear the responsibility of caring for their every need. 

Moms-to-be can take child birthing classes and breastfeeding classes and their partners can usually piggyback off of them. But, all of the vital information is typically given to the woman. So what about the father? Doesn’t he need to know how to do many of the same things, too?

That’s where the idea for Daddy University was born.

 (Joel Austin, founder of Daddy University. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

 Daddy University President and CEO, Joel Austin, says he had an “a-ha” moment when his son was taking a class at the hospital about how to take care of his new sibling. “The nurses were educating the kids about infant care and I found myself starting to take notes,” says Austin. He soon realized he didn’t know as much as he should when it came to childcare.  

“I started asking other fathers questions and they didn’t know either. They were winging it,” says Austin. Austin says he wanted to be a great partner and be able to help so he started some fathering classes in Philadelphia, now the home of Daddy University. Other men hopped on the train and Daddy University has been full steam ahead ever since. It is now entering its ninth year.

There is a myriad of topics that are covered when it comes to childcare. On the topic of infant care, Daddy University offers a class for fathers on breastfeeding. “We talk about their job and role in breastfeeding,” says Austin. "Even something like bringing the child to the mother and bringing him back to his crib can be extremely helpful. Sometimes men might not even know because they weren’t part of the learning process."

But, classes don’t only focus on infants and toddlers. The classes and topics are broken down into ages and stages all the way to adulthood. Any parent can tell you that the need for parenting help doesn’t stop when your child learns to walk. In fact, the need may be even greater as kids get older and issues become more complex.

“We are open to all ages and stages. We have fathers from 16 to 55,”says Austin. “We also don’t cater to any specific culture.”

Currently, men pay a $50 fee to take classes Daddy University offers in the Philadelphia area. While classes are contained to that area, there is the ability to contract out to different parts of the country. Austin has taken the classes all the way out to California after he was contacted about a need there. Right now, the goal is to make classes available online. That’s where fundraisers like the highly popular, daddy-daughter dance come in.

“When we started the daddy daughter dance, we had 40 fathers come out. In our eighth year, we had 650 fathers,” says Austin. Austin says events like these help encourage self-esteem in young women and give men the opportunity to highlight their role as a father.

Daddy University also holds a mother-son dance to help instill in boys the values of respect and honor towards all women, especially those who are raising them.

Austin says the classes and events Daddy University offers have helped fathers better connect with their sons and daughters, “Many say we’ve saved their lives, kept their homes intact, and have helped them feel better about themselves.”

Austin tells fathers they have to balance being a parent and being a provider. “Focus on reading books, holding hands, hugs…seeing movies,” says Austin. “You have to make time for them.”

Whether you’re a father or a mother, those are words that every parent can live by.

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