Parenting is not an easy feat for mothers or fathers. We regularly hear about the problems faced by mums breastfeeding in public, and this article is not intended to demean any issues faced by mothers at all, but what about things that fathers have to cope with? Every time they leave the house with their young child, most men face challenges.
Pregnancy and birth
It is probably not intentional, but the midwife appointments and antenatal classes I attended with my then-husband were geared almost entirely towards the mother and her needs. As a mum to two rainbow babies, I realise that we do have, by far, the hardest job physically – when it comes to the pregnancy, labour and beyond. While emotionally us women’s hormones are playing all sorts of nasty tricks on us, men seem to be forgotten about. Is this the ‘men don’t cry’ mentality?
At the birth of my second child, which was somewhat traumatic, the father was left in the corridor at one point, unsure what on earth was going on. How is that fair? It isn’t! After the delivery, I was tended to and cared for by everyone. Yes, he could have gone off to get himself a drink and something to eat, but he wanted to stay by my and our baby’s side. Only one person (my excellent community midwife who happened to be in the delivery suite at the time grabbing a knife to cut a colleague’s retirement cake!) thought to ask him how he was feeling. In fact, she was the one who marched him into the room I was labouring in and forced others out! So, I realise this isn’t true in all cases, but largely, men do feel as though they don’t matter. Having a baby is emotional for everyoneinvolved.
Although the situation is a lot better than it was ten years ago, men still face problems finding baby change facilities. Many are still located only in the female toilets. What’s more, when there are dedicated areas, dads can face disapproving looks and whispered comments from the mothers already changing their children.
“Does he help out?” is a question that a lot of women get asked once the couple has evolved into a family. Doing jobs around the house, cooking and cleaning for example, isn’t helping out; this is being a team and sharing responsibilities. If the roles were reversed and someone asked if the mother helped the father out, I am certain there would be uproar.
Many fathers have been on the receiving end of comments from people stating that the time they spend looking after the children is “babysitting”. The term implies someone from outside of the household or family looking after the children in exchange for money. Fathers don’t babysit their own offspring. They care for, love and nurture their children. Whether they are able to do this day in day out does not mean they should be titled a ‘babysitter’.
A mother sitting on the bench in a park watching as her children climb up and down, run around, screaming their heads off with excitement; no one bats an eyelid. A father sitting there doing exactly the same and, whether anyone says anything or not, there will be someone thinking the worst. Yes, we all know that there are predators around and it’s important to remain vigilant. However, no one should jump to the unfair conclusion that a man watching his own kids means he is a danger. There are female paedophiles as well.
What about single fathers? If their daughter wishes to have a sleepover to celebrate her birthday, are the parents of the friends who are invited happy about them attending? Things that us mothers take for granted can cause waves of mistrust when it’s the fathers organising them.
So, while this post certainly does not cover anywhere near all of the issues fathers come face to face with, I do hope it has provided food for thought.