— Mark Launer’s wife Sara was seven months pregnant when his buddies threw him a “man shower.”
These guys didn’t play “Baby Bingo” or exclaim over cute widdle onesies. This party started with a Dogfish Head Brewery tour (and beers), migrated to Rehoboth Beach, Del., (more beers) and ended with bar games and, you guessed it, even more beer.
“When our wives got pregnant, they would have their baby showers. We kind of felt like we were getting shafted a little bit, so we decided to try and set up a man shower for the dad-to-be,” explained Launer, 32, who lives with his family in Schwenksville, Pa. “It’s a good excuse to get away for the night and have a good time.”
Dad-to-be parties -- also called “dadchelor,” or “forefather” parties -- have become more popular in the past few years. For the most part, these aren’t sleazy retreads of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” bachelor bashes. Instead, participants say, this new male-bonding ritual is all about welcoming a major milestone that, for today’s hands-on dads, is even more life-changing than marriage.
Dude, you need a man shower
That trend, said John Pfeiffer, author of “Dude, You’re Gonna Be a Dad,” mirrors the increased role men are taking in child rearing -- from researching Diaper Genies to diapering at 4 a.m.
“Guys are getting more involved in the pregnancy process. We used to be there for the impregnation and then we’d show up and light cigars in the hospital and that’s it,” he said. “As we’re getting more and more into it, and trying to find our role, we want to be part of it.”
The parties are also a “last hurrah” for expectant first-time dads who know their lives are about to change. In that way, said Iman Jalali, 28, they’re similar to a bachelor party. But Jalali, who’s been to two forefather parties in Chicago, thinks these celebrations are more significant than the pre-wedding variety.
“In most cases, when you’re getting married, you’re engaged, you’re living together, and your (wife-to-be) is such a part of your life that, after the wedding, your life doesn’t change that much,” he said. But having your first child? That’s life-altering, added Jalali, who is single – but remarkably astute about marriage and family.
Jalali and his friends usually opt for a shave and a haircut at an old-fashioned barbershop – “a very manly thing to do” – a brewery tour, and a nice, sit-down dinner before hitting the bars. “It’s bachelor party, 2.0,” he said.
Dads gone wild
Depending on the guy – and his circle of friends -- the events may be a bit more X-rated. Ray Hudson, sales director at Centerfold Strips Entertainment, has provided exotic dancers for numerous forefather parties. In his experience, the “event itself is a complete surprise for the father-to-be.”
“Future dads are usually embarrassed and try to stay clear until their friends apply enough peer pressure to get him a lap dance,” Hudson wrote in an email. “The joke is: ‘enjoy the lap dance because your sex life is over.’”
But Andrew Pearson, from Calgary, didn’t view his dadchelor party as an end to anything. “I just kept thinking, ‘Hey, we’re going to be parents! It’s going to be an adventure -- a brand new phase in my life. It was more of a celebration.”
Certainly some of the dads must be white-knuckle-nervous and knocking back shots, right? Not according to Jalali, who recalled that both of his friends were very calm and cool-headed. “They were definitely down for the party, but it wasn’t like, ‘I gotta get completely drunk because I’m about to have a kid.’ They were more like, ‘I’m ready for this.’”
Bonus baby benefits
A hangover isn’t all the dad-to-be brings home the next day. The guys in Kevin Kent’s circle create a book of advice for the baby, to be read at a later date. “It’s just one or two lines of advice from the guys, making fun of the dad, or advising the little kid,” explained Kent, 30, who’s from Chicago. “Some of it is legitimate advice, like ‘don’t play soccer.’ Some of it is ‘ignore your dad.’”
Launer, whose son is now four months old, brought home 700 diapers from his man shower – a mandate from his wife.
“I told him, ‘you can do this, but on one condition: Every guy has to bring a pack of diapers,’” Sara Launer said. “We’re still going through them.”