One For The Dads
“This one is for the daddies driving Polos/Changing nappies, making lunch and playing yo-yo.”(Probably Not) Nikki Minaj
I am conscious that this feels like a female space. Not blogging per se, but the world of parent blogging. Wait, scrap that. Just parenting full stop. Biologically and statistically, it’s us girls who take the longer maternity leave, join the groups, swap numbers, come home with armfuls of ‘gentle sleep training’ books borrowed from our new best friend (who still can’t get her baby to sleep), and it starts there. From breastfeeding to baccalaureate subject choices, it is often the mamas who take the lead and, in many cases, nosedive from a successful career path into part time or flexible hours in order to do the school run, organise the weekly schedule and put decent food on the table. Ladies, you are amazing and this post isn’t about knocking what you do.
But, where are the dads? Because, beyond the magazine fodder of career-focused narcissists and secretary-banging wasters, I know that most dads are truly exceptional and deserve their place on the parenting podium. Only they miss it because they’re too busy taking the bins out, or finding what was under the sofa, or calming a tantrum, or reassuring mummy, or finding batteries, or explaining the plot of The Gentleman for, like, at least the fifth time. Am I right? My husband is a saint. And that doesn’t mean I’m a lousy mum. He just does what I do minus the fireworks. What did Ginger Rogers say? “I did everything he did, backwards and in high heels.” Well, that’s him.
The narrative of parenting has always belonged to women. Or been forced upon women, depending on which chapter of history you are looking at. From nomadic times through to relatively recently, women remained in the home and were surrounded by other women, undertaking all the domestic tasks and, of course, raising the children. Men left to hunt, fight, and go to the office. So the structure of our lives have changed radically, but our mental landscape has not. The dad at playgroup is still ‘the dad’ at playgroup. Fathers present at nativity plays and parents’ evenings still get the small smile of approval, noting that you must truly be a superhero to have skipped your meeting for this. Walk in wearing an ergo-baby papoose all you like, my friend. Old habits die hard.
One of the things that struck me when we became a homeschooling family, was how equally shared the responsibility seemed to be among the couples we met. There is a lot of faux eye-rolling and ‘I-don’t-believe-I’ve-introduced you-to-my-fourth-child’ among mainstream parenting. When I met the dads on the receiving end of this stuff down the line they were, almost universally, awesome dads. And complaining about your other half is just a bit of banter; I get that and I’m not above it myself. What I mean is that the homeschool world took me by surprise in the way that the dads seem totally present and represented. It’s nice to see because good dads are like gold dust; you know they’re invaluable, but where-the-fuck-are-they? Oh, changing batteries again. As Nikki actually did say: “You’re a hell of a guy.”
“I did everything he did, backwards and in high heels.”Ginger Rogers (& Teenwolf)