Mums and dads; why don’t they play together nicely?

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That black line down the middle? It’s permanent. Don’t whatever you do, don’t try moving it. Pic credit below.

Mums and dads; why do they not really socialise together? This is a question I’ve been asked a few times recently (albeit not quite in those words).

Firstly, let me clarify something. It’s a very blunt statement to say mums and dads don’t socialise. In my world they do, but I think us stay at home dads are at a disadvantage.

Allow me to demonstrate this with a few brief examples. First of all, a friend of mine was telling me about a mum he knows who drops her child off at school every day. There are a few stay at home dads in the playground that she’s quite keen to speak to because she’s noticed they get ignored.

Only thing is, the conversations never take place. Apparently she just doesn’t quite know what to say to them.

A further conversation I had was with a full time working mum. Her partner is a stay at home dad. She believes he’s disadvantaged because mums won’t befriend him. “Mums drift off and have coffee,” she says, “but my other half doesn’t get invited.” She thinks it’s because the mums might think it awkward if there was a male in amongst a group of women.

The third example is quite depressing. Someone else I know was telling me about a mum who noticed a dad in the school yard was a little excluded and so, shock horror, had the occasional conversation with him. Someone else with an active imagination felt it couldn’t be innocent and had the audacity to question whether there was more to these conversations. Charming, yeah?

In his brilliant book, Men can do it! Gideon Burrows recounts the time he organised a play date for his kids. It involved having several mums round to the house at one time and, feeling slightly awkward about this situation himself, engineered it so his wife would be around at the beginning of the proceedings.

It just makes me wonder if the mere suggestion of impropriety is what sometimes keeps us stay at home mums and dads apart. In fact, I don’t wonder about it, I think it goes a long way to explaining why we don’t mingle like we should do. It’s understandable, but it’s also sad and can make for a lonely existence.

Are you a mum? If so, how do you deal with stay at home dads? Are you a stay at home dad? Do you find yourself ignored or do have no problem socialising with mums? Please leave a comment with your experiences.

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14 thoughts on “Mums and dads; why don’t they play together nicely?”

  1. Tom @Ideas4Dads (and Mums Too!)

    I susbscribe to the theory that the majority of mums think that if a dad is trying to speak to them his motive is to get up to monkey business. I find socialising hard at the best of times and I think Mums could try and be a bit more empathetic. I wrote this recently for BritMums on my experience of going to a toddler group which mirrors alot of what you have said!


    1. I have an alternative theory. Yes, mums may think that a dad is simply looking to get up to monkey business. Are the mums, however, equally concerned about what their husbands / partners might think if they were seen spending too much time in the company of another guy? The mums might trust us SAHDs, is it the perceived reaction of the partner that causes the issue?

  2. This is a great topic and a tricky situation. I think being part of a group of stay at home parents is a good idea and steers clear of any misunderstandings. Also, when the kids are around, there’s always something to talk about which makes it easier!

  3. Superb topic, i see this all time when picking up my daughter from nursery, but personalling from my experience i know i share common ground with all parents (no matter the gender) as all our children go to the same nursery, so for me i say good morning and afternoon to everyone. Everyone is polite back and now and then when no one is rushing (as i find we live in a rushed society these days) i would have a convosation. There are many factors some are inviduals confidence, life style and judgement. Too many people will judge someone on appearance or what material things they have rather then just be polite and say hello, oh and technology is a big problem with people constantly looking at there phones typing good morning to someone miles away rather then again be polite. Like the old days you would say hello and strict convosation say at the bus stop, now your’ll see everyone on there phones. The art out convosation unfortunately is dead.

  4. Great post!! You’ve had me sat back thinking here, trying to understand the situation in Sweden… Here nearly every dad is on paternity leave for 4-6 months following the mums maternity leave of about 8-12 months… And still we don’t really mingle!

    I’m a sociable person …No truly, I’ll speak to just about anyone 😉 But I can honestly admit that at least when I was on maternity leave with my oldest, there was this sense that that dad over there just wouldn’t be interested in talking! Something of an uncertainty that I wasn’t going to be funny or interesting enough to warrant more than a three sentence conversation anyway… But the truth of the matter is that there is a kind of social awkwardness because you can just see the difference in how at ease the dad is when another dad pops up to talk to him as opposed to a mum. It’s like he’s not just ‘waiting’ for someone to speak to him, he’s waiting to spot another DAD in the crowd. No one else will do!
    …Too harsh??

    Be honest guys! Are you jumping for joy when a mum comes over to talk to you, or does a flood of relief come when another dad walks onto the scene? 😉

    1. Well, everyone is different. I’ll give you an alternative view. It’s very easy to strike up a conversation with another dad because it’s just expected. When a mum does in fact talk to you it’s an entirely different thing. It’s like you have been accepted into the playground jungle.

  5. You’ve touched on an interesting topic here john. Perhaps it’s the fear of alienation that prevents other mums for being more inclusive of dads? If there was an opportunity to find a balance group to gather with (ie, more than 1 dad amongst the many mums) this might create a more harmonious group of parents rather than just mums?

    Just a thought. I think it would be a great thing if we have parent catch ups rather than just mummy groups. Would make for much more interesting conversations too!

    1. I totally agree Joyce. I sometimes find I am shuneed, sometimes, as the only guy, it’s clear I am very much wanted to add a little diversity to an occasion!

  6. I’m never normally in the playground long enough to chat. If I am it’s usually: “Late again eh?”
    “Yeah, we were watching Michael Jackson on YouTube, then that turned into a moonwalking lesson; then we had a listen to Van Halen cos he did the solo in Beat It…Or we were arguing over teeth cleaning. Or shoelaces.”
    That sort of thing. It’s a mystery why more mums don’t want to talk to me.

  7. You have raised a very interesting question that I have never thought about before. Here in the states, now that I think about it, it’s very much the same thing. With my kids being in elementary and junior high school, we have school wide social gatherings where there is more than one dad, who is usually there with his wife. Somehow, because these dads are at these gatherings with their wives, it makes it easier to approach them and have a conversation. You have the wheels in my brain thinking now though and I can’t remember any time, either in preschool or now, that I struck up a conversation with a dad who was at the playground or school function by himself. This is something I have to think about more but thank you John for pointing this out. I think this is something that many of us, men and women, do subconsciously? What do you think?

    1. Glad to have got you thinking Michelle. This is the whole reason I started blogging; to challenge people and their perceptions! The truth is, this is NOT a one way street; I believe mums ignore me because they don’t know what to say. I, however, do find it difficult speaking to mums I don’t know for the very same reasons. I would hate to get a reputation for being lecherous or similar.

      It’s desperately sad. The amount of time men spend with their children in the UK rose from 15 mins a day in 1970 to 3 hrs a day in 1997. That’s an 800% increase. We also have same sex couples legally adopting and having IVF/surrogate children. Those old barriers of social etiquette still remain in place. I personally think we all need to grow up a bit.

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