“Oh no, it’s worse than I thought.” This was my reaction to a newspaper article I read about Prince Harry. What was so bad about this article? It confirmed Prince Harry was an involved father because had been changing baby Archie’s nappies. More than that, he was called a “model new father” and this is apparently the “first real test of modern fatherhood.”
This issue of changing nappies comes up time and again with reference to fatherhood. It seems to be the bar that is set for a man in the public eye. If he crosses it, he can be considered an involved father.
That, to my mind, doesn’t come close to defining an involved dad. Oh no, that bar is far too low. Having been the main carer for my daughters for several years, I may have a biased opinion, but I don’t think a man can consider himself an involved dad until he can tick the following five items off his list (adoptive and foster dads are exempt from point one):
- Witnessed a woman go through labour (bonus points for witnessing an episiotomy or Cesarean section)
- Been vomited on…..more than once
- Spent at least 48 hours looking after the children on his own
- Knows about Key Stages and can describe the difference between the Early Years Foundation Stage and loosely describe the differences between Key Stages 1-5
- Can have a knowledgeable discussion about school catchment areas.
As children get older, the involved father will also need to master various other skills. This will include: Shopping for school uniform, communicating with their child’s teacher and knowing what the ‘Singapore method’ is, downloading and updating apps and video games, helping the PTA and talking to his children about difficult subjects, such as why their friends’ parents are getting divorced.
Yes, okay, I am being facetious. Yet there is a serious point to all this. A father is for life, not just for the early days. A man does not become an “involved dad” simply because he changes the odd nappy (or by revealing his heavily tattooed torso while posing topless on Instagram with his newborn in his arms). There simply shouldn’t be any question as to whether a man is going to change his kids’ nappies or not.
This, of course, is where we have a problem. Some men who are public role models genuinely do not change nappies. Unfathomably successful backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg famously admitted he did no such thing for any of his six children. Russell Brand, meanwhile, recently came out with some rubbish about being more concerned about his child’s “mystical connotations” than using a changing table.
For most men, nappy changing really is no big deal. It may not be hugely pleasant, but it’s just a job that has to be done.
It is bizarre that a story about a man changing his child’s nappy would make the front page of the Sunday Times. I could understand it making the pages of the paper if he didn’t change nappies, but the obsession with nappy changing sends a bad message to dads that it’s all they have to do to be “hands on” while giving women the message they should consider themselves lucky to have a man who undertakes this most mundane of tasks.
Sorry guys, but if you want to prove you’re an involved dad, nappies are just the starting point. This should come as part of the standard ‘dad package,’ not an add-on or optional extra.
I’m also going to do something a little unfashionable and spring to the defence of Prince Harry. For all we know he’s been changing nappies, doing bottle feeds at 2am and getting one of his butlers to head out to the all-night pharmacy at 2am to get gripe water. Thus far, however, his fatherhood efforts have been reduced to changing the odd nappy and that seems a little unfair.
I think we should have a bit of fun here. What tasks do you think a man should complete to prove they are an involved dad? Leave a comment with your own ideas below.
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