I read so many blogging articles about how hard it is being a Mum, what an uphill struggle it can be raising small children. It would seem that the main responsibility falls on the Mother, from clothing the baby, to counselling teenagers us Mum’s seem to do it all. But do we? My other half gets pretty irritated about what he calls the ‘martyrdom of Motherhood’. Don’t get me wrong it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate all the things Mothers do, but he feels that most Dad’s don’t get the credit they deserve. Are all of us Mum’s just so wrapped up in our own day-to-day struggles of weaning, potty training and mini meltdowns that we don’t always appreciate what Dad’s are doing?
With Fathers Day around the corner, it seems a good time to stand back and look at the Modern Dad’s role, where doe he fit into a society that seems overly Mummy-centric? We seem to have recently taken to putting motherhood on a pedestal, but women have been Mothers for years. Maybe it is the sudden surge on social media of Mum’s sharing their stories that has highlighted the often thankless tasks that Mum’s do. Yet society is changing, I hear more and more of Dad’s staying home to care for children and what about all those Dad’s who have split from partners and have the children at weekends. Surely they are going through the same things, yet we hear so little from them. Is it that Dad’s are quietly getting on with raising their children away from the spotlight, or could it be that Dad’s have a totally different style of parenting meaning that the things that we as women struggle to deal with they simply don’t have to contend with.
This got me thinking about what Pudding & Pie get up to with their Dad when I am on shift. I have had people ask how Mr Pud copes when I go to work for 13 hours – what a question, of course he copes they are his children. Like a Al Ferguson from The Dad Network said, it’s called ‘Parenting not Babysitting’! I don’t know whether it’s because he is calmer, or because being with Daddy is a novelty but the kids automatically seem to behave better. They seem to understand that certain behaviours jut will not be tolerated so they don’t even try it. General tasks do seem easier just by the fact that Dad is a man, things like negotiating a trip out for example. The male brain doesn’t seem to sweat the small stuff, if I take the kids out, I like to be prepared for every eventuality. Not so Dad, he packs essentials, milk, nappies and his wallet. He doesn’t plan the route, or where they will eat for lunch, he flies by the seat of his pants, working on the mood of the kids and his own. It doesn’t stress him if he is out and he needs something he hasn’t got, he goes and buys what he needs. Even simple things like there is no lift, well that’s no issue, ‘I’am Man I will carry the pram up 3 flights of stairs’! I think the male brain is just wired totally different – they don’t get that ‘Mum Guilt’, they are not striving for that unobtainable perfect parenting that drives us as women round the twist.
Ok so he can cope with the kids you all cry – but what about the other household stuff? Well we laugh about Pink and Blue jobs in this house. In all honesty there is no job that is only pink or blue. We are a modern couple with modern values, we are not living out some 1950’s sitcom. I am more than capable of mowing the lawn, unblocking the loo, painting the house and organising the household bills. Equally so my other half is a great cook, can work the washing machine and has a hoovering obsession. What?! Yes he is exceptionally domesticated, maybe he is a rarity but I would imagine that in a society that marries later and later that most men will spend a proportion of their time living on their own before moving in with a girlfriend. How do we as women think they all survived before we came along? My other half spent 9 years living on his own before we met, of course he can an iron his own work uniform! When I head out to work I am safe in the knowledge that not only will the kids be fine but that the house will be cleaned, the washing will be done and there will be a hot meal and a glass of wine waiting for me on my return. What more can a girl ask for?
On top of being a great Dad and Husband, my other half also holds down a very responsible job. The stress of this job and the ridiculous shift patterns can really take its toll on family life. Not to mention the ever-growing concern that Mr Hunt and his band of cronies will be after our unsociable hours pay before long. A house of two nurses, is not exactly a cash rich environment so while I may end up juggling the childcare to fit round our shifts, my other half is juggling our finances around to cover the cost of raising a small family. I can feel him in bed at night worrying next to me about whether he will need to work any extra shifts and if so will there be time to do this? He misses his kids when he goes to work, his days are 14 hours long by the time he has commuted, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the shifts that run over or the on-calls he has to work. There already seems to be a lot going on in a Dad’s world doesn’t there? Of course he does moan about all these things, I mean after all he is only human! But I can see why he gets on his high-horse about the perceived idolisation of Mothers.
He is doing the same job as me, without the support network of other Dads or the majority of society it would seem. I think as Mum’s we forget that most of us are pretty lucky to have other Mum friends, someone to bounce ideas off or just to meet up with for an hour on those days when the kids are driving you nuts. But I don’t think men have it so easy – its pretty hard to make Dad friends unless your school friends have kids. Most baby classes are filled with Mum’s and I think most men would feel uncomfortable approaching a woman they had never met before and suggesting a play date! When I go out with the kids, people usually stop and talk to me, especially if one of the little darlings is being a little less well-behaved than is socially acceptable. I don’t think a Dad would get quite the same level of support from strangers.
Personally I do think that Dad’s get a bit of a rough deal, they are definitely seen as the second class parent, a bit of an after thought. In a society that is trying to promote parental leave and equality we need to take sometime to celebrate Dad’s. Parenting is a partnership, he may not be there to change every nappy, dry every tear or wash paint off the dog. But whether you live together or apart raising your kids is a joint effort and both parties need recognition for their role. I am not saying all Dad’s are amazing, but remember not all Mum’s are amazing either! Maybe if as a collective we all spent a little less time looking at whats Dad’s don’t do and a bit more time focusing on what they do do we could appreciate them more. As women we do have the propensity to take over and try to do it all, Super Mum, Loving Wife, Best Friend, but you know what? We really don’t have to. If we could just accept that things don’t always have to be done a certain way and let Dad’s step up to the parenting plate then maybe we wouldn’t need society to blow our Mothering trumpets and we could celebrate parenting equality.