Grant Woodward: The real reason why dads take a parenting back seat

INVOLVED: Modern fathers tend to take a more active role in parenting.
INVOLVED: Modern fathers tend to take a more active role in parenting.
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THERE’S a nappy change gap in Great Britain. Research has shown that middle class dads are twice as likely to go to ante-natal classes before the birth of a child as those from blue collar backgrounds.

It’s raised concerns that some dads are missing out on the experience of fatherhood and their children aren’t getting the most out of having a dad.

Personally, I don’t think we should be getting too worried. After all, attitudes don’t change overnight.

If you look at my own dad’s generation, they had minimal involvement in hands-on parenting, – that stuff was left to their wives.

In my dad’s case he worked long hours so we were asleep when he left to catch his train and in bed by the time he got back.

On Saturdays he played golf and every Sunday afternoon he disappeared for a nap ready for his early start on Monday morning.

For a growing number of modern day dads, that’s not how they want to go about things. They’d feel cheated if they didn’t play a sizeable role in bringing up their children.

It’s why I was one of those fathers-to-be who went along to ante-natal classes before the birth of our twins. Given there was two of them on the way, I figured I needed all the pointers I could get.

But society needs to do its bit too.

There’s still a temptation to paint dads as well-meaning idiots who never quite get it right.

It was there even in the days after our little ones arrived. Because they were early they had to stay in hospital for a couple of weeks. Bathing them one day in front of the midwives, there were a couple of light-hearted comments about “dad will need to get in some more practice”. I’m sure it was meant in jest but it doesn’t do much for a new dad’s confidence.

And when you become a father you tend to notice – and get sick and tired of – the TV adverts featuring families where the clownish dad is the butt of the joke.

Would advertisers really get away with portraying mothers as hopeless incompetents who keep getting it wrong and are there to be laughed at?

Of course not, so why is it ok to do it to dads?

It may seem a bit of harmless fun but this sort of stuff just reinforces timeworn stereotypes about dads not having a clue.

So children see them and think their father is the sidekick rather than someone who plays an important role in their lives.

And for mothers it can reinforce their own subconscious thoughts about where the father of their children falls short.

Because if more men are going to really embrace being a hands-on dad then they need the women in their lives to show a bit more faith in them.

Too many mums seem reluctant to trust their other halves with taking the lead when it comes to looking after the kids.

It’s true that dads often do things differently.

I remember bumping into a mate of mine whose kids were wet through after a play in a little outdoor pool in the park.

They were in T-shirts and shorts while ours were fully kitted out in swimsuits. “Do you want to borrow a towel?” asked my wife, instinctively noticing that he didn’t have one.

“Oh, don’t worry,” he said cheerily. “They’ll dry on the walk home.”

I swear I saw my wife suffer an involuntary twitch but his kids were none the worse for the experience.

It’s true that we dads don’t always get it right. Ask us to pack a bag for the children for a day out and there’s bound to be something we leave behind.

But we’re also pretty good at improvising and are generally less inclined to wrap kids in cotton wool. That’s a good thing.

The more new dads are told they’re useless by society, the more they’re going to believe it.

And it’s going to make them even less inclined risk being anything more than a back-seat parent. All we are saying is give dads a chance.

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Date: 20th September 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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