“Stereotyping fathers potentially sets up self-fulfilling prophecies and limits the potential of men as birth partners and fathers, to the detriment of mum and baby” – Dean Beaumont, “The Roar behind the Silence”.
That’s right. Stereotyping is never very helpful. Everyone is different, and each family has its own dynamics and way of doing things, BUT… if we’re going to use a stereotype for dads, at least we should use one that fits the image and idea of today’s dads a bit better than the one we’re used to seeing in the media and advertising all the time. You know the one… Dad holds a baby like a football, puts a nappy on upside down, can’t work out how to get baby dressed etc. etc.
Well, just have a look around – men are not the un-interested and un-involved parties in the antenatal and birth preparation process that the media like to portray all the time. They are no longer acting like fish out of water when taking up the roles of birth partners, and they are most definitely not the clumsy dads who put nappies upside down. (And for the record, I bet every mum has also done that at some point, but probably didn’t have an audience when she did and didn’t feel the need to broadcast it too much).
Father’s Day is about ALL dads (and granddads!), with children young and old, near and far and regardless of how they choose to be dads to them. But today, let’s take a look at the dads of 2015.
The dads of 2015 shop around for antenatal classes which include and involve dads and want to know how they can best support their partners during the birth of their children, whether that means being there as the main or exclusive birth partners or not. They want to know about their options antenatally, at birth and postnatally, and we know this, because we see these dads at our classes, and because they’re often the ones booking them.
The dads of 2015 know their baby gadgets too, from nappies to baby monitors, cots, pushchairs, car seats and carriers. They shop around for the best products, which will be good for their baby and will make their and their partners’ lives easier. They want the best products, and they want to get a good deal, so they get involved, they do their research and they absolutely know what they want and why they want it for. (We also know this, because you can always trust a dad at a class to know a thing or two more than you about the latest baby product).
The dads of 2015 are the dads who take paternity leave if they can and who will take a longer parental / shared leave with their partner if possible. They are the ones who make flexible working arrangements to help care for the children and who will work from home when the children aren’t well. Sometimes dads just become the stay at home parent to help their partners get back into work.
And where they work full time and long days, the dads of 2015 are the dads who get home from work in the evening and often cook dinner for their family, give a bath to the children, read them a story and tuck them up in bed.
They know how to change nappies and how to bathe, burp and soothe their babies. They want to and know how to support their partners in the way they have chosen, as a family, to feed their baby.
They push pushchairs and go for walks. They strap in car seats and carry their baby in slings and carriers, close to their hearts. You name it, they can do it all, just like mums.
The dads of 2015 are the dads who KNOW their children. They play with them, read to them and with them, take them to the park, to play sports, to children’s parties, to school, to after-school activities and play dates. They will be seen walking around carrying the baby changing bag on their shoulder or holding the latest pink, Disney princess bag without batting an eyelid, if that’s what their child gave them to hold. They’ll have tea parties and have toe nails painted just as much as they’ll play with cars, train sets, dinosaurs and football (or any other sport their children like) in the garden.
Most of our boys will have their own children one day, and then Father’s Day will be about them too, and I bet they won’t even recognise the stereotype of dads that we’re so used to seeing today.
Because that’s just not how THEIR dads ever were.
So maybe if we’re going to use a stereotype for dads, today of all day, we should use one that celebrates dads and gives them credit for who they really are and for the integral part that they play in their families’ and in their children’s lives. Because these are the only dads that our children know, and with this example in front of them, our little mini dads-in-the-making are going to be empowered to be as involved in their children’s lives as they want to be.
So to all dads of today, Happy Father’s Day!
*If you are a dad or want to wish Happy Father’s Day to a dad close to you, tell us (in the comments) who you / they are and who they’re dads to. (For example, “Paul, dad to a 9 year old and a 5 year old” or “dad to John and Jessie”).