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Mumsnet, stay at home dads, The Times

A couple of days ago, I appeared in a feature in the Times magazine headlined Rise of the alpha dads. I was one of five stay at home dads talking about why we gave up our careers to look after the children.

I was apprehensive about what would appear in print. Even so, I wanted to participate as it was a superb opportunity to raise the profile of us stay at home dads and create debate about our roles.

You can, therefore, imagine how happy I was to have my wife stroll into the kitchen on Saturday afternoon brandishing the family iPad. “Someone’s started a thread about the Times piece on Mumsnet,” she declared.

As far as I was concerned, this was big stuff! If there’s one group of people I would love to discuss the presence and role of stay at home dads, it’s Mumsnetters. Love Mumsnet or loathe it, there’s no doubting Mumsnetters are an influential group of people. Why else do politicians clammer to feature on this website? The news that someone had started a thread about the Times article was dope, as someone 20 years my junior might say.

Although this puts me at odds with many men, I’ve always had a soft spot for Mumsnet (and also Netmums). Yes, you have to get over the name, yes the quality of the debate on its fora can be questionable and yes it is a resource overwhelmingly used by women. Even so, its strapline is “by parents for parents” and I’ve always felt it has an underlying, pro-father stance. After all, by helping fathers become more involved in family life, you are helping women. I have even been a guest at a couple of Mumsnet events over the years see here and here). But I digress.

The question posed was in the Am I Being Unreasonable (AIBU) thread. It was posed by someone calling themselves holdyourown;

AIBU to feel irked by Times article about Super dads?

Holdyourown went on to ask if such an article would have been written about women for giving up a career to hold the babies.

In my opinion this was a completely fair question. Why on Earth should we be portrayed as super dads simply for looking after our kids?

This, however, only tells a tiny part of the story. The article itself was about 3,000 words in length. At no point was the phrase super dads used within it. Added to this, none of the men interviewed referred to themselves as super dads.

The phrase had been used as a teaser both on the front page of the newspaper and the front page of the magazine. That was it, pure and simple. It was possibly not the greatest choice of words, but the article itself did not portray us as super dads.

I’ll be entirely honest, it’s not a phrase I like. I have been called a super dad in the past and it makes me feel uncomfortable, for the very reason holdyourown specified. Mums aren’t considered super so why should I be a super dad simply because I’m the main carer for my kids?

This, however, does miss the point of the article. It was essentially an exploration of the small, but rising, numbers of men who are taking on this traditionally female role. We were specifically asked about the issues we faced.

Some issues were irritating. For instance, one man referred to the unthinking café owner who created a “mummies’ corner” on their premises. Other issues were much more serious. All the men expressed concern that their children miss out on social interaction because mums, for a variety of reasons, can be reluctant to engage with stay at home dads. Probably the most shocking example came from former PepsiCo executive James Lester. Lester said he had been asked to leave a Sure Start Centre, simply because the presence of a male was, aparently, unsettling the female attendees.

I don’t believe dealing with these issues makes us super dads. They are, however, issues that men in our position have to deal with in addition to all the usual stresses of family life and having young children. I think we were quite correct to highlight them.

One of the most fascinating things about the Mumsnet thread is that all the participants missed out on another significant article in the same edition of the magazine. Just a few pages ahead of our article was the story of Svetlana Lokhova, a former banker who has just won a major sexual discrimination case against her former employer after a three year battle. It makes for an interesting comparison; a woman fighting for the right to be treated fairly in the workplace on one page and a group of dads wanting to be treated equally at home and in public just a few pages further on (not that I want to make light of Lokhova’s case. She really does seem to have been through an awful lot).

To conclude, no I don’t think I, or any stay at home father, merits being called a super dad simply for taking on the main childcare role. I am, however, delighted the issue is being talked about.

Like this post? Well please vote for me in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards! I’ve been shortlisted in the ‘family’ category. Thanks to evryone who has voted for me so far, but if you would vote for me again and help me get into the finals I would delighted. You can vote by following this link and selecting Dadbloguk in category 13.

12 thoughts on “AIBU to deny being a super dad?”

  1. You are very reasonable! I would be very p*ssed off if someone had written that about me! I would have wanted to say ‘stop slagging other people off and get on with looking after your own kids!’. (There’s a reason why I never go on forums!)
    You have always claimed to be no better or no different to mums who stay at home, but the point of the article is that it’s different. (Just as a new princess being born is different from all the other babies born on the same day or at any other time.)

    1. I am most certainly no better or worse than any mother Sarah! Absolutely correct. I’ve said my piece on the issue, I don’t think I’m going to say any more. I have kids to look after nad I am going ot focus on them!

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head in the fact it was a “teaser ” on the front cover. I see that happen often. Some publications using more shocking headlines than others to grab readers attention. You do have to actually open the magazine/ paper and read the whole article before making an informed observation. Good on you for not engaging in any sort of argument, and staying very diplomatic. (I had to laugh when you used the word “dope”, for a second I thought “therrs no way John said that ” and then I read the rest of the sentence)

    1. As a fromer journlaist, I totally get it. You need a sexy headline ot draw people in and that’s absolutely fine by me. Referring to us as super dads possibly wasn’t the greatest idea but some of the comments from the Mumsnetters prove they never actually read the piece!

  3. Thoughtful, wise response John and I totally agree with you, the points made and why the teaser was questioned.

    It was an important piece that I hope inspires more men to become Stay at Home Dads. Blogging for we women, has created greater equality in the workforce enabling us to work on our time and terms, and it’s beginning to do the same for many SAHD’s such as yourself as well, offering you a career that works around your family. I know this wasn’t touched in on the piece but I think that’s an angle for you to pitch too. So proud of you John.

    1. You are correct Vicki. I did talk about my bolgging activities but it was clear that the reporter’s breif was to focus on home and family life. Even so, I think blogging has done amazing htings for women and I am very happy to be one of the minority of men that do it profitably and fit it round the family. It can only be a growing trend! As ever, thanks for your kind, inspiring comments.

  4. If calling you a super Dad encourages more men to make this choice when it’s right for their family then let me hand you your cape!

    1. Alas Charlene I don’t actually have a cape. If I did, ‘thoguh, it would be ankle length, made of black leather and feature gold edging. Would that work do you think?

  5. What a really thought provoking article, I think that anything that challenges stereo types and generalisation is great regardless of the gender .. i think on this occasion this mumsnetter was way off … anyone that challenges the expectations is fab and i know given a chance my hubs would like to stay at home and its an ongoing battle … whichever parent takes care of the kids good luck as its one of the hardest job x

    Well done on your nomination in the BiB’s x

    1. Thanks Jaime, that comment means a lot. Glad you agree with me and if you husband ever wants advice on becoming a SAHD…send him my way!

  6. Along with John I was one of the five dads featured in the article. It’s still unusual for a man to put aside his career to be a full-time child carer and although friends and family are largely supportive, we do encounter traditional views criticising our decision and support structures that exclude us. It’s for these reasons that I thought contributing to an article to aware awareness might be helpful to others out there doing the same.
    I entirely empathise with mums being annoyed at dads being labelled for a role they do, however that’s not what the article does – alas the paywall meant many Mumsnet posters drew conclusions without reading it. We all make the same hard decisions about what’s best for families and in an ideal world, whether that’s a salaried career or childcarer, they’d be equally respected.
    John rightly points out that as dads and being in a small but growing minority we do come up against challenges mums don’t. There are definitely social circles and activities going on that I’m excluded from, for instance and groups to help stay-at-home parents set up businesses seem to be specific in being mums only.
    We are not super and I would never describe myself as an alpha male, although hopefully a competent dad. We do, however reflect a growing trend and if we can be accepted, considered and integrated into the child care world then it will benefit not just us but our children also.

    1. It was a pleasure to be invovled in this Times feature with you Dan. It was inevitably going to attract a few negative comments from detractors. Even so, I think the majority of feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Your final paragraph sums it up for me. Until the next time we bump into each other at a photographic studio!

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