Yesterday was Father’s Day. A day to celebrate the dads in our lives… whether you think days like that, including Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are just made up Hallmark crap, or you think it’s a lovely way to tell someone how much you love and appreciate them, there is no getting away from them.
I can be accused of being a bit of a cynic, but I really do think it’s nice to have a day where you can celebrate someone and tell them they are doing an awesome job, so yes I’m a big fan of Father’s Day.
But here’s the thing and before I get accused of man-bashing here, let me say this. My husband is an amazing dad, he’s been in the trenches in terms of nappies, baths, bedtime and feeds since the beginning. But and here’s where it gets tricky, why is it that we tend to congratulate dads for doing these sorts of tasks? Why do we give them the world’s biggest pat on the back for changing nappies, for giving their kids a bath, for getting up in the middle of the night, for bringing them to the park etc.?
Because we don’t do the same for mums.
Think about it. When you’re a new mum, people often ask those well-meaning questions like –
Oh is he sleeping through the night yet?
Most of the time, the answer is a big fat no, with a subtle thanks-for-bringing-that-up-can-you-not-see-the-humongous-bags-under-my-eyes, subtext?
But the rest of the conversation tends not to focus on congratulating you for getting up 50 times a night to do the feeds, changes, etc. It’s just accepted that as a mum, you should do those things and a whole lot more.
Like it or not, in today’s society a woman is supposed to willingly accept the role of motherhood. No matter how much we think we’ve moved on and have both parents out working or stay at home dads and career mothers, when you get down to it, a mum is just supposed to get on with it.
We don’t celebrate her for the mundane everyday things; the feeding, the playing, the million nappies changed, the nursing when they are sick, the comforting, the picking up, the putting in the car seat, the taking out of the car seat, the block towers built, the dinners made, the washing done, the carpets hoovered, the tantrums dealt with, the food thrown in her face, the decisions made, the hard choices taken, the bad cop role, the tired body and overloaded mind.
Yet when a dad changes a nappy or brings the kids to the playground, we applaud him.
Would ya look at him, he’s such a great dad!
And he most certainly is a great dad, I’m not saying that he is anything but that. However what he is doing is normal. It’s not special. It’s not out of the ordinary… it’s just part of everyday parenting. He doesn’t deserve a medal every time he does it or a round of applause from his wife every time he changes a nappy. It’s not something that should be singled out on every occasion and lauded as extraordinary.
And if you go back to the start of this blog, you’ll see I’m guilty of doing it myself… why did I feel that I had to qualify what I was about to say, by listing off my husband’s amazing dad creds? And yet I did. Because we’re still conditioned to think that we need to applaud dads when they take on, what in the past might have been seen as purely ‘a woman’s role.’
There’s no denying that the traditional gender roles of parenthood have changed and evolved. Just look at our own fathers, for a good percentage of them, the first time they might have changed a nappy is with their grandchildren. My dad wasn’t even allowed in the room when my mum was having me. Men weren’t actively encouraged to get ‘stuck in’ like they are now. And while I’m all for encouraging men to get ‘stuck in,’ there’s a big difference between patting them on the back for changing a nappy and celebrating it, like he’s just solved world hunger.
Support and encourage him, but keep the balloons and cake for Father’s Day.