You’re amazing (even if I’m not meant to say it!)
It’s a tough balancing act, and I don’t mean parenting (although that is an impossibly hard balancing act), but the praise that we give to fathers in the present day.
It seems that if we praise men too much, we are told that there’s nothing special about a hands-on father and they should just get on with it (the same as women do!).
I agree, to an extent. I’ve read many blogs and opinion pieces recently where mothers get frustrated that men are praised for what is ultimately just looking after their own children, and I get that there is really no need for that!
But on the other hand, being a ‘hands-on’ father is a relatively new concept. I realise I am generalising here but I think it’s a fair generalisation; a lot of our husbands’ and partners’ fathers will (almost proudly) say they have never changed a nappy in their lives, and society is still not there yet in terms of accepting men as primary caregivers for their children. And, as much as we talk about women facing discrimination at work as a result of getting pregnant, having children and needing to provide childcare, so do men and I think this can be worse. I have anecdotal evidence that people (often of an older generation, and particularly other men) do not look favourably on a guy who has taken time out to look after their child, or who asked for flexible working hours to accommodate childcare arrangements.
…society is still not there yet in terms of accepting men as primary caregivers for their children
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that it may even result in lost job opportunities for men returning to work. How loud do we have to shout that to provide fairer rights for women we must must must offer those same rights to men, take away the prejudices and the discrimination and see childcare as an obligation on both men and women equally? Women returning to work will always be at a disadvantage if we don’t embrace shared parental leave and rights for men when it comes to children.
So, whilst I get that we don’t need to praise men when they take their children to the park, or when they change their baby’s nappy, or when they “babysit” whilst their wife has a night out, we should absolutely acknowledge those that buck the archaic trend of leaving childcare to the mother.
Men who offer true “co-parenting” (for want of a better word; not sure I really like that phrase!) for their families, should be appreciated and shouted about, not just because it’s always nice to be appreciated, but also so that when my son is old enough to become a dad himself, he can choose to parent his children in any way he likes, without judgement.
Hayley Yates blogs at Law of Mum. This article has been republished with permission.