10 Fatherhood Stereotypes and Why they just aren't true
It's the 21st Century. The genders have never been more equal, the imbalance in salaries is beginning to narrow, and more men are now staying at home to bring up their children. So why are we constantly told that men make terrible fathers?
When you have children, there are certain stereotypes about your experience that you hear time and again. Trust me: none are correct!
Stereotype 1: Dads have absolutely no idea what they're doing
They're basically Homer Simpson: well meaning but hapless, they don't have a clue when it comes to bringing up children.
The truth: Dads are no more clueless than mums. All parents learn as they go along, no matter what their gender – women are by no means inherently better at it than men. Leave us blokes alone with the kids for a day and, lo and behold, they tend to be fine.
Stereotype 2: No dad wants to be in the hospital delivery room
Men are queasy and have no desire to watch their partner give birth. They feel a bit out of place in the maternity unit and would rather be in the pub.
The truth: The vast majority of men wouldn’t dream of being anywhere other than by their partner’s side. We want to be able to welcome our new son or daughter into the world, and to support the woman we love through this major moment in life. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are in the minority.
Stereotype 3: Dads never get to see their mates
They can wave goodbye to those regular weeknights in the pub after work: from now on, it’s all about watching repeats of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 while their other half attempts to wind the baby.
The truth: If you had good friends before you had kids, chances are you’ll remain just as close afterwards. Unless, of course, you become entirely one-dimensional, only ever talking about your children and failing to understand that texting your mates at 6am on a Saturday, just because you happen to be up early watching CBeebies, won’t do much for your friendship.
Stereotype 4: Dads always feel very protective of their daughters
Any father with a girl feels a natural obligation to watch out for her safety during her every waking moment.
The truth: Yes, we feel protective towards our daughters - but no more than our sons. I have one son and two daughters. My son is just as vulnerable as my daughters – and as he grows up, I think I might feel even more protective towards him (knowing, as I do, what it’s like to be a teenage boy). The idea that dads want to wrap their daughters up in cotton wool whilst encouraging their sons to tackle whatever the world throws at them is rarely correct.
Stereotype 5: Dads feel out of place at the school gate
They think the drop-off/pick-up zone is ruled by Queen Bee Mum, who chairs the PTA, acts as the class rep, and organises the fete. She’s surrounded by other mothers, who hang off her every word and maybe help out on the tombola or attend the occasional class trip to the zoo. No man knows quite what to do in the face of this parental proactivity.
The truth: Nowadays, the twice-daily school run is undertaken by a myriad of different people: single parents, grandparents, gay parents, mums and dads who work from home – the list goes on. The idea that school pick-up and drop-off is the domain of women alone is completely outdated.
Stereotype 6: Dads can't cook for kids
Heating up a jar of baby food is about the limit of the typical dad's culinary capabilities - and even then it often comes out as something resembling molten lava.
The truth: Following a recipe isn't that hard, and we're well versed in how to warm up food in the microwave from our dinner-for-one bachelorhood days. Of course we can cook for kids.
Stereotype 7: Dads feel constantly torn between home life and work life
They never get the balance right: at home, dads are considered absent figures liable to miss important occasions; at work, they're held to be tired, distracted and flighty workers.
The truth: Pretty much every dad I know has taken time off work to see their son or daughter run the three-legged race, or play the role of the donkey in the nativity play. Even men in very senior positions of responsibility know they need to prioritize parents’ evening. Similarly, family men tend to be happy men, and happy men tend to be good workers. Holding down a demanding job while still seeing children grow up is a challenge, but it's one most people - male and female - rise to.
Stereotype 8: Dads are a constant embarrassment to their children.
The phrase "Oh Daaaaaaaad" resonates around every family like a stuck record.
The truth: OK, this does sometimes ring true, but are dads really any more embarrassing than mums? My own mother kept my umbilical cord in a photo album for 25 years, dwarfing any momentary embarrassment brought upon me by my dad.
Stereotype 9: Dads make friends at NCT classes and keep them for life
Ante-natal classes are full of terrified men who can't help but engage in father-to-be bonding talk. The shared experience binds them together for life. For richer, for poorer.
The truth: Your closest friends remain the people you grew up with, or went to university with, or have known for years. You might get to know a few other ante-natal dads, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be heading off on family holidays together for the rest of your lives, or that you’re a failure if you don’t end up swapping phone numbers with at least eight other pre-fatherhood blokes.
Stereotype 10: All dads become their own dad
It's the irrefutable law of growing older: however much you rebelled against your dad as a teenager, you'll still become the same, grey-haired and bumbag-wearing figure thirty years down the line.
The truth: Our parenting is shaped by our own upbringing to some extent - but our partner's childhood, the culture in which we raise our children, and our own outlandish theories on child rearing all play a significant role. Plus, I’m never, ever going to wear a bumbag, even if it’s “far more convenient than a wallet”.
By Sam Jackson