As we near Father’s Day, I’ve been getting increasingly reflective about my journey as a father. A question I’m often asked is whether I think fathers are taken more seriously now, compared to when I became a dad myself.
That was only nine short years ago. Even so, I am an optimist and I think life for us dads has improved.
There’s still much to achieve, but we’ve seen the introduction of shared parental leave (even if its introduction was poorly executed). Issues such as the low levels of paternity pay are often discussed by politicians and it’s great to see that fathers can no longer be portrayed in the media as bumbling, insensitive oafs without script writers and production companies being held to account.
As I say, there’s a long way to go. We haven’t arrived yet, but I think we are slowly getting to a place where men’s caring abilities are being treated equally to those as mums and the brilliant job they do.
Nonetheless, there’s one issue I see far too often and it causes me pain. It’s when men question or doubt their own abilities as dads.
Watch your language
For an involved dad, there’s one thing worse than being told you are babysitting. It’s when you hear another dad refer to himself as babysitting his own kids. I hear men do this from time to time and it makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Yeah, sure, it may be said in jest. Thing is, what must children think when they hear dads refer to themselves in this way?
I think the time has come where babysitting jokes and remarks of that ilk should be consigned to history, like mother in law gags. It’s not that they’re offensive, they’re just dreary and send out such a bad message.
Reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes
I had a real #facepalm moment a couple of months ago. I overheard an acquaintance talking to a small child.
“You know how a mum does everything, she cooks, cleans and does everything for you. Dad doesn’t actually do anything does he?”
Just to make it that bit worse, two women who were nearby laughed and agreed with him. Again, while said in jest, I was shocked by this. Such comments, especially when said to an impressionable youngster, reinforce the worst of stereotypes.
I think for some people, there’s comfort in the status quo. Men go to work and women do the domestic stuff. Maybe I’m just awkward, but I want my kids to question everything and defy expectations. I certainly wouldn’t tolerate anyone speaking to my kids this way.
More than a supportive prop to family life
A couple of years ago I appeared in a magazine article with another dad. It was a double page spread and I featured on the left page. Dads, I said, did not exist simply to support the family, but should be involved with their kids and right at the centre of family life.
On the right-hand page was Dad No2. I simply had to laugh when I saw his comments. “My role is to support my wife,” he said! Even though I featured in the article, I lost interest in reading the rest of it after that.
It’ll soon be Father’s Day so let’s have a party
Come on dads, in a few days it’ll be Father’s Day. It’s a great time to celebrate family life with the ones we love.
We aren’t there to simply support family life, we don’t exist to play second fiddle to mum and we certainly aren’t babysitters. Dads are equal to mum and should behave like it.
More to the point, we should celebrate our dad-ness. Build a den, climb a tree, tell awful jokes and put on an awful display of magic. Just be the best father you can.