It’s our pleasure to bring you this guest post from John Adams, author of Dadbloguk.com. John is married, has two young daughters and, in this blog post, outlines some of the barriers men face as parents.
I was completely oblivious to the barriers us men face as parents until I gave up my old job to look after the children. The issue just washed over me.
After 18 months of dealing with a constant stream of passive sexism, I decided to do something about it and last October my blog, Dadbloguk.com, was born. Although I write about all aspects of parenting, the aim was to highlight the impediments I believe us men face as parents.
I am always clear about one thing; there are very few concrete obstacles in our way. The overwhelming majority of the barriers I talk about are subtle. They are found in the language used to describe parenting or the attitudes of the healthcare, education and childcare workforces. The attitudes of some employers, the family courts and paternity leave are probably the only areas where men are blatantly disadvantaged (the shared parental leave system the Government wishes to introduce should make paternity leave less of an issue for men).
If most of the barriers are subtle, you may very well be asking what the problem is? Allow me to give you a few examples.
On a coffee table in our living room are two books I was given for our baby daughter. Both come with instructions as to how “mummy” might want to read the books to their child. There’s no mention of “daddy” whatsoever. On our dining table is a packet of breakfast cereal that states a child might want “a little help from mum” to get the food into a bowl. Call me radical, but I don’t consider feeding and education to be exclusively female responsibilities.
These examples are just a bit irritating and don’t signify the end of the world. The thing is, the examples keep coming. Despite the increasing number of stay at home dads, you still come across the occasional “mother and toddler” group. I’ve twice seen employers illegally trying to recruit “stay at home mums” and just the other day I received an email addressed “Dear Mum” from an online retailer.
This retailer asked me to join its “mum bloggers network.” As if this wasn’t offensive enough, this retailer (I won’t name it) specialises in selling clothes, toys and furniture. I know this might seem a bit radical, but fathers do in fact have an interest in these products and buy them for their children.
Like most men, I’ve also had a few unfortunate experiences with health service providers. The classic, that most men seem to have experienced, is to be completely ignored by the hospital sonographer. When our youngest had her 12 week scan the sonographer didn’t even look at me, let alone say hello or offer me a chair. You’d be surprised how common-an-experience this is.
I’m also a bit miffed about the time I took my youngest for some inoculations and the nurse started physically looking round the room for my wife. That was just bizarre and I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or laugh!
Men are constantly drip-fed the message that parenting and raising children is women’s work. This does nothing to encourage men to show a greater interest in their children’s lives or get more involved as fathers. I was a little older than most when I became a father so I had a bit of age and a reasonable level of confidence. I can see why a young dad or a dad with low self-esteem might believe the hype and think parenting should be left to mum and that’s a real shame.
I’m not, however, going to tell you that men are blameless in all this. It is up to us men to demand equality as parents. We must highlight the obstacles we face as parents because, at the end of the day, there’s very little mum can do that dad can’t.