When my eldest was about 6 months old, I called my husband at work and asked if he could be home before bathtime. His colleague, a dad himself, heard us on the phone and said to him:
“The sooner she realises she can’t rely on you, the better for both of you”.
I don’t remember even why that day was so particularly difficult, we all know those days when everything just goes a bit wrong, everyone’s tetchy and the best thing for all concerned is a third party to break the cycle of whining and irritability. At that time (as now) my husband works in one of those jobs which doesn’t guarantee a 5:30pm finish, and often means he misses bedtime. We knew that would mean that he has a lot on his shoulders work-wise, and I have a lot on my shoulders parent-wise and we help each other out by relieving the strain on those shoulders wherever possible.
But four years later, those words still haunt me. Because I see traces of them everywhere. Yesterday was Fathers Day, and the shelves were full of cards with pictures of beer swilling dads watching sport on TV, with messages like ‘It’s no coincidence that ‘he farts’ is an anagram of fathers’. Then, last night, I caught sight of this book online: OMG! That’s not my husband…. He’s changing a nappy.
Because apparently that’s what fathers’s do don’t they? Try not to….well….father.
We talk a lot at the moment about the changing roles of mothers. Although the recent rise of women choosing to full time parent is still met with headlines about ‘1950’s housewives’, I hope there is a building expectation that mothers can fulfil that role in whatever way they see fit – that there are countless ways to be a mother and each and every one of them is valid.
But why aren’t we talking about the 1950s dad? Because that’s the image I’m seeing everywhere. The nappy-changing, part-timer metrosexual I grew up with – leading me to believe that an equal relationship was not only possible but something to be expected – seems to be getting replaced by a career-focused shirker of laundry. But do any of us know that man anymore? Or, by not calling out these messages, are we doing a huge disservice to the men of our families? Can we really expect any less than the dads in our lives to care about their children at least as much as we do?
The very fact we are still trying to push mothers into the little pigeonholes of working mum, SAHM, WAHM, gentle mum, Gina mum – rather than just accepting the overarching physical fact that a mum is a mum no matter where she is – shows how little we value the act of parenting itself. If we really valued what mums do, the way they do it wouldn’t matter one nanobyte. Similarly, these insidious messages about dads reflects a general attitude that a fathers’ work isn’t meaningful.
Our work is meaningful. Whether you’re at home, at work, or on another planet – as a parent, you matter.
And anyway, who says you can’t drink a beer and change a nappy at the same time?