This is an amended version of my most recent Huffington Post blog.
My recent blog article for the Huffington Post outlined just how sexist the world of parenting can be and highlighted some of the barriers us fathers face.
There are without doubt barriers to us men becoming the enthusiastic and involved fathers we would like to be. Sexist product branding, poor childcare provision and ignorant healthcare providers are all guilty of making dad’s life difficult.
It is, however, very simple to point the finger and whinge about the status quo. The truth is that only us fathers can change the world of parenting and break down the ovarian Bastille I referred to. I’ll go a step further and say that sometimes us men should do more to become active parents and make this happen.
Before I continue, I’ll admit that I’ve based this blog purely on anecdotal evidence and personal experience. Never-the-less I like to think it proves my point.
A good example of where men mysteriously fail to engage is the school Parent Teacher Association (or its equivalent for those whose children are at nursery and not school). I’m the only father that sits on my daughter’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and I can never figure out why because plenty of men drop off and collect their children each day.
If you think about your child/children’s PTA, I’ll guarantee the majority of members, if not all, are mothers. The obvious reason for this scenario is that many mothers don’t work full time so have greater availability to get involved with the PTA. This logic doesn’t wash with me and a quick look at any school’s governing body will reveal why.
I was, albeit only for one academic year, a Local Authority appointed School Governor. The role of School Governor is more demanding than sitting on the PTA. It carries a significant legal responsibility and involves attending mandatory training, often organised at the weekend. Pages and pages of background materials need to be read before each meeting and failure to attend meetings will see you losing your post altogether.
You’d imagine fathers in full-time employment would give the governing body a wide birth. In my experience the reverse is true; most school governing bodies have a healthy male to female ratio, especially when compared to the PTA. One can only assume the power and glory of the governing body appeals to the male ego.
The world of blogging and digital communications is a much more simple example. The mummy blogging market is saturated with women writing about parenting and family life. Father bloggers like me are a much rarer beast. I really don’t understand why because there are some fantastic daddy bloggers out there and a few more would not hurt.
Along with a lack of daddy bloggers, men are less likely to use social media to engage on parenting matters. The example that springs to mind is the hugely successful Mumsnet. Despite the website’s name it is open to men and tellingly its strapline is “by parents for parents”. I’ve also seen the site’s twitter feed leap passionately to the defence of us fathers.
Mumsnet has a dedicated Dadsnet section but it is absolutely tiny. Maybe the association with Mumsnet puts dads off signing up. This is a shame because it can be a great source of information on a variety of parenting issues.
I’ve used the example of Mumsnet but the same can be said for similar sites such as Babycentre or Parentdish. Us boys just won’t play with the girls.
A further very simple example is the coffee morning. Mothers will think nothing of organising coffee mornings for their friends and children but I’ve only ever heard of one father doing this for his male counterparts. The thought of getting together with a group of people, encouraging the kids to socialise and collectively helping out with the childcare for a couple of hours sounds blissful to me but such an invite is yet to arrive.
I’m not for one second saying that everything is the fault of the male. We get blamed for far too many of the world’s ills as it is. Barriers are put in our place because we do not have breasts and ovaries. These barriers are very real and fathers have to tolerate sexism that women haven’t for at least 20 years.
It is up to us dads to change the world. We need to engage with the PTA and provide constructive feedback to the hospital when the sonographer ignores us. We need to complain when advertisers portray us feckless and incapable of changing nappies and we should use social and traditional media to raise the profile of father’s contribution as parents.
It’s a simple call to action. Now who’s in?