David Hellmann, a medical device sales manager from Chicago, is planning a celebration for a friend this coming August. The two of them, along with several male friends, will meet in Cincinnati, possibly catch a Reds game and then go on a pub-crawl through the city. This might sound familiar, but no one's getting married. It isn't a bachelor party; it's a dadchelor party.
Daddymoon, man-shower, whatever you want to call it: the practice of hosting a blowout akin to a bachelor party for expectant fathers is catching on.
"I've been on three or four of them," said Hellmann, 29, referring to what his friends call "dadelor parties" (dadchelor party is in Urban Dictionary, while dadelor party is not, but it does seem to roll off the tongue better without the "ch").
Some permutations are more subdued, like a "diaper keg" where men bring diapers in exchange for beer, while others are more extravagant and involve all day bar-hopping or even a destination weekend. All seem to involve drinking, sporting events, gambling, and more drinking.
"Let's have one more night where responsible decisions don’t matter," Hellman explained.
Hellmann's group of friends follows some general guidelines for each celebration: the future father does not pay for drinks all day, and they allow a cushion of at least one month before the baby's arrival.
"You don’t want to have the dad be on a bar crawl when the wife goes into labor," Hellmann explained.
Neil Kennedy, 29, who works in sales and is also from Chicago, recently returned from a dadchelor party in Milwaukee. He described the event as a "farewell from the inner circle."
The group went to a Brewers game, several bars, and then to a casino and eventually closed out the night at a late night gyro joint where the dad-to-be bumped elbows with the rapper Lil Jon (his hands were full of gyros).
Later, back at the hotel, one drunk member of the group jumped on the hotel lobby desk and imitated Greenbay Packers player Aaron Rodgers after he scores a touchdown.
"It completely freaked out the receptionist," Kennedy said.
When the hotel threatened to call security, the group decided it was time to depart for their rooms.
"I actually couldn't believe his wife was letting him go," said Nate Berghoff, 28, who works in also sales and was on the trip. "When I told my girlfriend she was like 'Yea, you won’t be doing that.'"
When asked about any exchanges of fatherly advice at these parties, Berghoff replied, "None at all!"
So what's behind the rise of the dadchelor party?
Carley Roney, editor in chief of TheBump.com, a website for expectant mothers and new moms, said she suspects they are a response to changes in parenting norms. Based on what she knows from the site's community forum and from those in the baby industry, such dad-centered celebrations seem to have taken off in the last year or two.
"In the (19)50s it all fell on the girls," Roney said. "Now, it's a shared responsibility. Guys are just as overwhelmed by the thought of how much their lives are going to change. This is the antidote to that, the hedge against it."
According to Roney, also at play is the fact that both men and women are having their first children later. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the average age for first time motherhood in 1970 was 21.4. By the year 2000 it was 24.9 and it crept up further to 25.1 in 2008 (statistics for first time fathers are not available).
Because couples have had more time to enjoy the luxuries of uninterrupted sleep or a last minute trip to the beach, Roney theorized that panic is more likely to accompany impending parenthood. In addition, she argued that the challenges of parenting weren't spoken of amongst previous generations. Now?
"People are like, 'You wouldn’t believe it: you're not going to get any sleep and you're never going to have sex again,'" Roney said. "The picture of parenthood that's been painted is so dire, it seems like you do need a last night of freedom."
Roney suggested that the phenomenon of the babymoon—a final vacation a couple takes before having a child—can be explained in much the same way.
Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, suspects dadelor parties could in part be explained by the fathers' fears about how the baby's arrival will affect his relationship to his spouse.
"When babies come along, it tends to make a much more dramatic shift in the wife's focus," Wilcox said. "It's to some degree traumatic for your average husband."
Though he didn't advocate dadelor parties specifically, Wilcox said research suggests that bringing friends together in similar phases of life is something positive.
"They're more likely to succeed in marriages if they have friends going through parenthood at the same time," Wilcox said. "It's a lot easier if you can commiserate amongst friends."
Brian Podvia, 28, who owns the Philadelphia travel agency JetSetPilot, says he's seen an increase over the last couple of years in bookings for what his friends call "daddymoons," several of which he has been on himself.
"At the end of the day, it's the last time to see your friends before you have responsibilities with the baby," Podvia said. "You know, as a parent you can't do these kinds of things anymore."
Though previous destinations included Atlantic City, last March, Podvia's group of friends upped the ante and spent six days at an all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The men are in their late 20s, but still took advantage of the dawning of Spring Break season in nearby Cancun and hit up some clubs. Back at their hotel, they stormed the stage at a Michael Jackson look-alike contest.
"At this point, we need any excuse to get out as a group, just guys, so we can have fun like the old days," Podvia said.
According to Podvia, the trips he takes with his friends have been innocent enough, barring the occasional hiccup, like someone falling asleep in a hotel lobby, getting kicked out of the same bar twice in one day, or the whole group getting kicked out of a baseball game (all of which happened during a trip to Pittsburgh in May of last year).
No one has ever been arrested, and the worst it ever got was someone temporarily going missing, also in Pittsburgh.
"I'm not naming names," Podiva said, "but he called me at about 3am and said 'Hey, I'm in Ohio, can someone get me?'"