“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”.
Stereotyping is never very helpful, and when it comes to fatherhood, the stereotypes are usually quite insulting – you know the ones… Dad holds a baby like a football, puts a nappy on upside down, can’t work out how to get baby dressed etc… Dad-shaming is rife on social media, and still seen as acceptable!
Well, just have a look around at dads today. They are not uninterested their family. They are no longer acting like fish out of water when taking up the role of birth partner, and they are most definitely not the clumsy dads who need labels for arm holes and leg holes on babygrows.
Is every single dad in the world a doting parent? No, definitely not. But neither is every mother either. In fact, the numbers of families which are headed up by a dad as the sole parent, are increasing every year. Whether we are talking about mums or dads, the fact there are some who are not as involved in with their children, does not mean we should label all other parents in this way.
So let’s take a look at today’s dads.
Dads today want to know how they can best support their partners during pregnancy and the birth of their children. 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 actually, they’re often the ones booking them.
The dads of today know their baby gadgets too, from nappies to baby monitors, cots, pushchairs, car seats and carriers. 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 today 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 that if they cannot afford to take much leave, are thinking about their family while they are away from them, and look forward to getting home to see them. They are the ones who make flexible working arrangements to help care for the children and who will work from home when their children aren’t well. Some of them are the dads who become the stay at home parent while their partners go back to work.
And where they work full time and long days, the dads of today 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 do change nappies and bathe, burp and soothe their babies.
The dads of today are the dads who KNOW their children. They play with them, read 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. 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 a stereotype for dads has to exist, today of all days, 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. Dads may parent differently to mums, but this does not mean they are an inferior parent. Those differences should be celebrated, as dads are awesome too!
So to all dads of today, Happy Father’s Day!