Dad’s are parents too!

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A few weeks back my husband returned from a supermarket shop with our two year old and mentioned a rather patronising series of comments that he’d had from the lady on the checkout. Now Max is pretty good in the supermarket – he loves to help with a task, so is generally happy to find things for you and put them in the trolley as you go round. But once you’ve done the shop and made it to the checkout, his patience has worn a bit thin and he gets grumpy. The lady helpfully pointed out that he wasn’t very happy, and then rather patronisingly suggested that it can help if you give them something to hold. Now, my husband is a genius when it comes to occupying Max, but ultimately, when he’s had enough, he’s had enough, and if you give him something to hold it’s just going to get thrown angrily on the floor. Much better to just plough on with packing the bags and get it over with!

When it comes to unsolicited parenting advice, I think we’ve all been on the receiving end, but it seems to me that Dads experience this far more often. If John took Max out shopping without me when he was a baby, I remember he had more than a few ‘where’s Mum?’ comments. And I’ve heard more than a few instances of my absolute pet hate – when people refer to Dad’s as ‘babysitting’. Errm… it’s not babysitting when it’s your own child, it’s usually called Parenting!

 

John and Max, both smiling, Max holding up toy train

 

But the expectations on Dads are so different to Mums. It’s just assumed that a Mum will change a nappy if it needs doing; it’s assumed that a Mum will have prepared all the right equipment to bring out with them. And hand in hand with those expectations is the judgement that Mums experience when they don’t get it right, or when their children aren’t behaving. On the flip side, particularly from our parents’ generation, my husband will receive looks of admiration when he head off to change a nappy, and if I’m there, I’ll hear about how I’m so lucky to have a husband who is so hands on.

Yes, you can say comments like these are a hangover from previous generations where expectations were that Dad’s would be more hands off when it came to parenting. And yes, I’m lucky to be living in an age where we are equal partners in a parenting team. But why is it always viewed in the light of me, as a woman, being lucky? Why isn’t the comment about how lucky Max is to have a Dad who wants to be hands on?

We both chose to have our son after all. There are some decisions we’ve made (such as me working part time) which have meant that I have more time with our son, but ultimately we’re a team and I know that he wants to be involved as much as I am.

The low expectations we place on the capabilities of Dads doesn’t just do a disservice to all the hardworking mums out there who get no recognition; it’s patronising and demeaning to all the Dads out there who are doing a wonderful job. It results in the kind of comments like the supermarket incident I mentioned at the start of this post, where we assume that a Dad doesn’t know how to amuse his own child. But it has bigger implications too. It’s the reason that it’s so difficult to find a baby changing station that isn’t situated in the women’s toilets – because it’s assumed that the mother will be changing the baby. It’s the reason that, despite shared maternity/paternity leave, it’s still society’s expectation that the mother will be the one to take time out from her career and look after the baby. And it’s attitudes like that that stop men being the equal parents that they can be and want to be.

 

Two Tiny Hands

 

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  • Island Living 365

    Love this post and completely agree. I have had comments from my own and husband’s family about how lucky I am to have Mr C who is willing to help out when needed. The implication being that it is just my responsibility. Makes my blood boil. Mr C and I are a partnership and that means we share all duties, including raising our children #BloggerClubUk

    • Totally – it takes two people to have children and in my view you’re an equal partnership and equally responsible for raising them.

  • Go Dads! I have been annoyed with the negative jokes about dads not knowing what to do too. This post is well put and hopefully encourages dads! Thank you for sharing. #FamilyFun

  • Laura @dearbearandbeany

    Love this! I agree we are a team and we both chose to have our children. It annoys me when Andy’s mum says how hands on he is and how lucky I am. No not me love, his children are lucky. They are the ones that benefit from having two parents who share parenting. I really hope this way of thinking changes over time x

    • Exactly – it’s the children who benefit from both the wonderful relationship with their dad, but also having a mum who’s not run ragged from trying to do everything! And yes, I’m lucky to have my husband because he’s a pretty fab guy, but I don’t understand why that’s always the focus of the comment!

  • Becky Clark

    Love this post! There’s a lot of discussion in the press at the moment about equal rights, but what about equal parenting! When I return to work in March I’ll be going back full time. I would have to think that people would not judge my OH as an equal parent! God forbid they found out we both worked full time then we’d probably be acused of child neglect!
    Times change but unfortunately people’s opinions don’t.
    I also hate it when people refer to dads as babysitting! I hate it even more when I hear an actual dad refer to it as that!
    #BloggerClubUK

    • Eesh, I’ve never heard an actual Dad describe it as babysitting – I’d definitely have something to say!!

  • Annette, Four Acorns

    I have seen the look of envy and/or admiration on other people’s faces when my husband helps out with the kids or the housework. Funnily enough, it seems to happen more often back home (I’m French). So this ‘hangover from previous generations’, as you nicely put it, is more prevalent than one would like to think… Anyway, thanks for this post!
    #BloggerClubUK

  • Tammymum

    Oh this is such a topic isn’t it. I think largely society is at fault on this one and it will be some times before that changes as it’s s mentality as old as time. Sigh. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun x

  • Yes I totally agree that Dads get a raw deal when it comes to comments. I love that Dave is hands on with Robert and I am so glad that many men do this too. It’s hard to shake off generations of stereotyping! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

  • Kat Dooney (Confessions of a W

    Great post! We had to fight for my fiancĂ© to get paternity leave and then I didn’t the whole time worried they would find a way to fire him and we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage. We’ve always parented equally. My daughter doesn’t know any different so hopefully we are setting a good example and her generation will break the negative cycle #SharingtheBlogLove

  • Alex BetterTogether

    Love this post and 100% agree. Scott has always been super-hands on, he took all of his annual leave for the year when Lily was born so he could be there for the first 6 weeks. He’s had similar experiences but the most annoying thing for him was always when there were no baby change facilities that weren’t in the women’s toilets! #BloggerClubUK

    • That’s wonderful that his work allowed him to use all his annual leave like that – those first few weeks are so important. I’m so glad to read that there are so many other hands on dads out there too!

  • Mary Peterson

    Katy, I’m constantly amazed at how insensitive strangers can be to dads. Did that lady in the supermarket assume that your husband has no idea of what to do with a toddler who is less-than-happy to be there? Like this is the first time he has encountered that? I definitely agree with your assessment that much of that sentiment IS a hangover from the older folks, but it’s no excuse! Props to your husband for not losing his patience with that woman….
    #FamilyFun

    • This is it – Max is nearly 3, could she really think that this was the first time he’d had a tantrum in front of his Dad? John is very laid back about it to be fair and just told me as a passing comment, but I felt irrationally annoyed on his behalf!

  • Mrsmummyharris86

    PREACH!!!!! I’m all over this post!!
    I hate how people say how its wonderful that Ben’s dad helps out – and even he says that he is a parent too! we’re both in the new generation where there is equality for all (however the parental leave caused a big issue due two someones career being “more important” than mine – ooops)
    One of my pet hates is the lack of baby facilities for men. I was really chuffed that Winter Wonderland had a unisex facility rather than as usual it being down to me to do it.! #familyfun

  • Jaki Jelley

    Totally get this and you’ve discussed it brilliantly. Love it. #familyfun

  • Agreed 100%!! Dads are certainly capable of doing the same parenting job as moms but a lot of times that’s just not how it seems to go. I hate when people say baby sitting when dad minds too… that just fuels the idea of mom as the do it all parent doesn’t it? #BloggerClubUK

  • Yes to all of this – it drives me mad too when I hear the phrase “babysitting” used when dads are looking after their own children and get told I’m lucky if my husband is hands-on. It also infuriates me when baby changing facilities are just in the ladies’ toilets. Not helpful if the dads are out alone with the babies. It does both mums and dads a disservice to assume that one is more of a parent than the other. #bloggerclubuk

  • Absolutely Prabulous

    Yes yes yes. I’m screaming yes by the way. Love this and utterly knackered and incapable of a proper constructive comment but will definitely share.

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