Being an active father, the sort of dad that spends time with his kids and then goes above and beyond taking an interest in all things children has made me aware that it is hard being a dad in a mother’s world. I’m a regular reader of websites and printed magazines aimed at having and raising children. It started when my wife was pregnant with our first, but what I noticed over the last (almost) 5 years is that everything is aimed at mothers and not many publications include dads in the same way.
It’s not just the publications; advertising in the world of babies and young children is also focused on mothers. There are countless television adverts claiming “as a mother you know what’s best,” and “only a mum knows…” Maybe I am that one dad that also knows, but I hope not. I hope there are other dads that are as active as I am. In fact, I know there are. And maybe we should be included.
I’m not going to name names but I just logged on to a very well known brand of baby product’s website. This website also has parenting tips. That’s right, parenting; parent being mum AND dad. Under the heading of advice for parents they list topics such as Women’s Fitness, Working Mums, and Mums and Bubs TV. They don’t single out fathers. They don’t offer us individual advice. They’re happy to pool us in under the parent grouping, but that’s where it ends for us.
There’s a shopping centre in Brisbane. A very popular one. Although I’m from Sydney we have family in Brisbane so we travel there quite a bit. It was almost four years ago when I first noticed a particular sign. The sign on the parent’s room said (I’m writing it as it read so excuse the poor grammar) PARENTS ROOM DADS WELCOME. Not mother’s room, dads welcome, not baby change room, dads welcome, Parents Room and Dads (who are parents according to my dictionary) are welcome inside a room that is designated for their use. Their use whilst being a parent.
A little further south, on the Gold Coast, there’s a tourist attraction that has been around since the 1940s, throughout this venue there are public toilets, some of the buildings look like they were built within the last decade, the decade where many Generation X men like me have had children. But here’s the thing; not one of the men’s public toilets have a change table, the women’s toilets do & it shows on the sign out front. There’s the men’s toilet with the wide legged stick figure man sign but he’s just there by himself whilst on the women’s toilet there’s the skirt or dress wearing stick figure accompanied by the baby laying on a change table.
With my wife working every Saturday I take my two boys to a lot of places. I take them to the park, I take them to the shops, I take them to play lands and other children’s parties. I often see other dads on their own with their kids & wonder what they think, how they cope being a father in a mother’s world. I wonder if they give it a thought or whether they did once, but have given up the fight for equality for the father’s rights.
I know I am in the minority with these thoughts. I’m not about to suggest that men go to some of the extremes that I see women go to when the claims of sexism arise and then they suggest boycotting sponsors, the publication or shaming the person who has wronged them. As I look around this mother’s world I see brands like Mother’s Choice, Mother and Baby Magazine, Mothercare, Mother’s Groups, but nothing to include dads, nothing. Some magazines have articles about dads but to me they’re almost patronising, and those adverts that do include fathers, make us out to be bumbling fools (that struggle to change a nappy without making a fuss, scrunching our faces or throwing up).
And then when it comes to those publications or websites that aren’t named in honour of mother’s only, there is still a very one sided approach to them. I am a regular visitor and active forum user on site for parents but what I mostly see is questions and comments addressing the mothers. In one that I have become very active within I have tried to change this and I am trying on other sites too. I am trying to get more dads involved and I think what would help is to have them included. No more “can any mummies help with this?” It should be “can I get some advice from anyone?” I know I can’t help out with certain things (I admit I really didn’t feel any pain through the pregnancy, childbirth or sore nipples from breast feeding) but everything after that and I have been there in some shape or form.
I have stayed up late, woken up a thousand times in a night, stayed cot side for hours, woken up early, had sleepless nights, had nights where I just wanted to pull my hair out. I’ve been thrown up on, had poo on my hands, and had the smell last all day. I’ve been punched while feeding, punched whilst dressing, punched just because I’ve said no. I’ve been screamed at, had the loudest cry in my ears, and had lots of “No Daddy, No Daddy, No.” I think I’ve earned my stripes. All I want in return is a little recognition, a little inclusion, some equality for us dads who are just as much a part of our kids’ lives as the Mums are.