Posted in I'm the Daddy

It’s a Dads, Dads, Dads, Dads World . . . .

George in the ball poolOver Christmas I spent a wonderful day with two of my oldest friends and as we all have families now the day was full of fun. As I sat and watched the grin burst across George’s face when one of my friends dropped him into a ball pool, I started thinking about what great Dads all my friends are. I am at the age now where all of my friends have at least one child and some have been Dads for a number of years. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that every one of them has something that makes them stand out as a great Dad. Then I started to think why this is true.

There is little doubt that I am part of a generation of Dads who are more involved in raising their children than ever before. I have also accumulated a set of friends who can summon their inner child so readily they have no problems relating to their own sons and daughters. Who would have thought being so immature could ever be useful? They are there for the difficult stuff too and share the sleepless nights, nappy changes and child care with their partners as equally as they can.

I have read several blog posts claiming that the modern Dad has a big barrier holding them back and attempting to exclude them from the world of parenting. I am talking about sexism. I find myself agreeing with many of the points raised by excellent bloggers like John Adams on Dad Blog UK except for this central point that we are victims of sexism. Although sometimes I have been treated differently for being a Dad in situations usually dominated by Mothers, I have always put this down to inexperience.  Most of the time this negative treatment comes from well-meaning people who have just got it wrong.  In short, I don’t feel there are any barriers to being a more involved Dad and I have never felt restricted. There are massive opportunities for us to get involved and it is up to us to go and grab it with both hands.

In contrast I think Mums have to put up with far more than I ever have to as a Dad. I have never been made to feel guilty about what sort of milk my baby drinks, never been questioned about if I am planning to lose weight or had my career choices questioned. I have blogged before about how my wife is only asked about George’s weight when I’m not there, as if I don’t exist. I saw this in action last week when she actually had to point to me to illustrate the sort of size George is likely to grow to. It’s sad to see that most of these questions come from other women seemingly lacking in a little empathy.

I’m not going to feel held back as a parent by my gender and I plan to correct anyone who makes assumptions about me based on my lack of ovaries. Likewise, I don’t expect my wife to have justify her decisions when I don’t have to.

Do you think that Dads are victims of sexism? Do you think my experiences represent the men in your life? How long can I continue to butcher song titles for my blog posts? Comments in the box below.

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22 thoughts on “It’s a Dads, Dads, Dads, Dads World . . . .

  1. A brilliant and thought provoking blog post Andy. Rather like you, I am very happy to say that all of my male friends that have children are very involved parents. As a generation we are very lucky to have the opportunities available to us as fathers.

    That said, when I talk and blog about us men facing gender barriers, I genuinely think there is more to be done and the barriers we face can often be put down to sexism. Most of the time this sexism is merely down to absent mindedness and very rarely is it malicious. I’d also stress it is up to us fathers to stand up and say “excuse me, but this is unacceptable” when it does occour.

    Going back a few years, I had a female work colleague called Hannah. She told me a story about the time she and her husband had moved to Cambridge. Soon after arriving they got talking to their new neighbour over the garden fence. Her husband explained what he did for a living and then Hannah told the neighbour she worked for Cambridge Life magazine.

    The neighbour apparently looked her up and down and said “what, do a bit of typing do you?” Realising her neighbour was a bit of a lost cause she simply smiled and said “yes”. Far from being a typist, she was the editor. I think most people would agree the neighbour’s comment was both ignorant and sexist.

    Just a few months ago, I was in a cafe with my newly born baby daughter and a woman came over told me how pretty she was and told me I was “babysitting” because my wife wasn’t with me. She didn’t do it once, she repeated the phrase several times making a couple of onlookers look very uneasy and one of them eventually leapt in and said “no, he’s just being a dad”. I personally don’t see a huge amount of difference between the “typing” and “babysitting” remark.

    The last time I took one of my daughters to have innoculations the nurse pointedly asked where my wife was. This on it’s own didn’t bother me, but when she started physically looking round the room for my wife I kinda took offence. I also got talking to an acquaintance of mine the other day who works in a nursery. She admitted to me that she doesn’t feel 100% comfortable when a dad comes to collect a child at the end of the day yet has no misgivings when the mother fulfils this task.

    None of this is “in yer face” sexism of the page three girl variety. They are just a few examples of the implicit, mild, everyday sexism fathers can encounter. I certainly don’t lose sleep over these issues but they are worth highlighting so as to create debate and comment on the subject. I totally appreciate that some people wouldn’t consider these examples as sexist and i fully accept women face their own battles. The comment you make about your wife having to justify your son’s weight and the milk he drinks are very poignant (that said, I have been in the position of having to justify my daughter’s milk on a couple of occasions).

    But let me finish on a positive. My father in law struggled to get a couple of hours off work to collect his wife after one of her three births. We’ve come a very long way in the intervening 40-odd years. I can’t imagine any employer being so awkward in the 21st century. It’s a trend that I think can only continue and one that should be celebrated.

    Viva the mums AND dads!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment in such detail. I think it is clear we have had different experiences and that has influenced our views. I do agree that you have experienced sexism as on both your anecdotes the other person appears to be doubting your suitability as parent solely based on your gender. My negative experiences have been caused by people not knowing how to cope with something out of their comfort zone and I don’t think they were ever questioning my validity as a parent. I hope your experiences are not wide spread.

      I will also end on a positive note. Last week I was at baby group with my son during the week and I was asked if I am a stay at home Dad. I took this as compliment to my parenting skills but it was also nice to see that this was the logical conclusion a stranger would jump to.

  2. If funny you should raise the stay at home dad thing. I do work but I’m with the kids four days a week so I tend to refer to myself as “primary carer” instead of SAHD. It wasn’t, however, until I gave up full time work and became took on the primary carer role that I noticed any gender inequality or came across any sexism. Up until that point it had completely washed over me and the fact I am in this role means I am more likely to have these experiences.

    I get what you’re saying about people occasionally being out of their comfort zone dealing with a dad. It can be a bit annoying but the world had better get used to it because there are more and more involved / SAH and primary caring dads out there!

    To end on another positive note, I took my eldest swimming a few months back. As we were leaving the pool a woman, easily in her seventies, possibly even eighties, stopped us both and remarked how nice it was to see so many men were taking their children swimming. It obviously wasn’t something that happened in her day and she was clearly pleased to see times had changed.

  3. I don’t think Dads are the victims of sexism. I think we live in a society which sadly is still too infiltrated by sexism. Where child care is unvalued and seen too other as a women’s role – which as you rightly celebrate it is not. Women are not afforded the same career opportunities again and again once they have children, not enough men are able to take time out or change hours to parent their children. Men still hold most of the power in the work place, the city of London being on example of a hugely male dominated environment, the law particularly as senior level lacks equals numbers of women, many institutions lack women in senior positions. It is these same men that hold the power to make more opportunities; to value reduced hours for parenting, to see finishing early to pick a child up or read in school not as an inconvenience to business but as something to be applauded and promoted. For me, there lies one of the biggest hurdles, once those kind of changes take place and more men and women are able to take their place as parents and in the work place with a balance that suits – then we will see more shared parenting, less polarity in roles and a bigger shift will happen. For example, once health visitors are routinely seeing as many Dads as Mums with babies and toddlers their assumptions will have to change, societies assumptions will change.

  4. I thought this was a really excellent post. My husband is out of work at the moment and looks after our 22 month old while I am work. He said he never noticed any sexism until he took up this more actively involved role – after all, dads are encouraged (and expected maybe) to be more involved now. But only from a distance right? He is warmly welcomed at a class he takes our daughter to but they still treat him a bit like an alien, gently teasing him about nappies and snack choices in a way I suspect they wouldn’t tease a grandma or any other female carer. He regularly has people (male and female) tell him how nice it is of him to give me a break, oh how I wish this is what I was doing!

    1. Thanks for dropping by to comment. I know exactly what you mean about your husband being treated like an alien, the analogy I used in one situation was being treated as if I had ‘ridden in on a unicorn’. I put this down to people being out of their comfort zone but I can see how some Dads might be put off.

      George and I go to a baby signing class every two weeks and we make sure we fit in. We sing loudly, play noisily, talk to everyone and eat cake. The teacher treats me the same as everyone else (I think special treatment is as bad as being ignored) and we are part of the gang. I never feel like an outsider and I wish other Dads would take the plunge and come along so they don’t miss out on the fun.

  5. Spot on Gemma and such a fascinating post. There needs to be a huge cultural shift for these archaic ideologies to reverse where men or stay at home fathers, is not seen as ‘the other’ and strange. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Interesting post. I know that my husband would give his right arm to be a stay at home dad, and I hope soon that we will be able to share the childcare more equally. I think my son would benefit hugely from having more time with both of us. I think you are absolutely right about women being more judgmental of other women though.

    I am not sure Dads are so much victims of sexism but perhaps more of ignorance?

    1. I’m really pleased to hear that the desire for Dads to be more involved is so wide spread. I have compressed my working hours to get an extra day off every two weeks to look after George. I can see that he enjoys that time with me as much as I do and it really strengthens the bond between us. Could your husband request something similar?

  7. Such a thought provoking post… We lived in Denmark before here and being the parent at home is quite the norm for Scandinavian Dads, t’s not seen as different at all… There’s also a huge number of male nursery workers, which in turn gives boys the view that being a carer isn’t just “womens work”…

    1. Well that’s another reason to be jealous of all Scandinavians! My son’s nursery is an all female environment and I know the gender balance is unlikely to shift until he gets to secondary school. I totally agree that showing there is no such thing as ‘womens work’ from an early age is important. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Very interesting post. It would be such an improvement if parents could just make the decisions that work best for their family without being judged and having their choices questioned…

  9. What a thought-provoking post. I’ve heard a lot about Dads being on the receiving end of sexism but hadn’t thought about it the way you describe it (e.g. About not being judged for the type of milk you use etc.). I think, perhaps, there is too much judgement about parenting in general and that’s something that needs to change. Especially as a lot of the judgement comes from other parents! As for the sexism – yes, it’s there. But, as some of the comments show, although we have a way to go, we have come a long in comparison to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. How many Dads do you know who were not present at the birth of their children? That in itself is a giant leap forward, do you not think?

    Sorry I rambled a bit. I tend to do that :-/

    1. I don’t think you were rambling, makes perfect sense to me. You are bang on when you mention how many men are present at the birth of their children. There has been a cultural shift so that not being at the birth is seen as unusual or strange in some way. A friends Dad told me how he was down the pub for the birth of both his daughters and that idea seemed totally alien to me. Hopefully the cultural shift will continue. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Andy firstly this sentence is just beautiful;

    “As I sat and watched the grin burst across George’s face”

    Secondly this post brings to light the very evolution itself of the modern Father. In such a short time the role of the Father has changed considerably and it has been only recently that these aspects of our society have come to pass, hence your excellent post and the thought provoking comments and discussion points above.

    It is not our fault we haven’t been able to deliver a tiny human through our genitals. It’s narrow minded to think that just because you bear the womb you should also become the child rearing expert. If I could have taken the place of my wife during childbirth I would have done it and I don’t think I’m the only Father who would do the same.

    Times have changed. Society has changed. Parenting has changed. Everything is evolving to the point where it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. All we can be is excellent and open minded parents regardless of our gender.

    Excellent post.

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