'mothering instinct'; 'mummy knows best'; 'only a mummy can fix it'; 'daddy should be working'; 'mummy shouldn't go back to work "early"';
'can you trust dad with the baby?'
Dads taking on the role of a full-time parent is shaking up a lot of the things people are use to. Some people don't just expect mums to be the only person responsible for the baby, they also think it's better than the dad being in charge. They think it's neglectful for mum to return to work 'early', and that the dad needs to keep up his role as breadwinner for the family (awkward stereotype for me since the wife earns way more than I do).
Nowadays, it's rare to come across these views openly, but a lot of people think them privately. Around 22% of people in the UK still think that mum makes the best parent, with most of those thinking that mums just make 'more natural' parents, or that dads just don't fit into the role of full-time parent well... But I haven't met a single dad yet who hasn't been overrun by goose-bumps and nurturing instinct for their little trolls. Nor have I seen a single reason why dads make worse parents than mums...
More dads are pushing back at these traditional ideas, and with time they'll probably fade along with other prejudices. But it's worth spelling out, wherever we can, why the ideas have as much strength as fruit tea. (I really think I might be missing the taste-bud these teas are aiming at).
'Dads taking over is bad for the babies'... Hmm, let's not get too frustrated here. A few dodgy studies claimed a while back that children were crippled when their mums 'abandoned' them and went back to work. But let's get this straight, not only is it clear now that mums going back to work is not bad for their kids, and that it can also be good for them, but we're talking about dads taking on the role of the parent, so the kids are a long way from being abandoned.
The arguments for a woman's career, if she wants one, are pretty clear. If the dad can take some of the parental leave, then she doesn't have to take such a big hit to her career plans. So a win for working mums, and hopefully the whole family too since everyone should benefit from a more fulfilled and professionally successful mum.
I also know that the only way we both know how to comfort him when he needs it, and to sense what his problems are (all problems are big for a little person), is practice and spending time with him. The instinct is parental, not just maternal. And it's learnt, through weeks of waking up every hour during the night, through the messy mishaps of putting nappies on wrong, and through hours of holding them when they're sad so they smile whenever they see you. Sharing these moments with the dad doesn't make the mum any less of a mum, it just makes it easier to be a mum.
So, despite some old fashion ideas about who should be looking after the kids, sharing parenting when you can seems to be a win for Baby, Mum and Dad together. A real family hat-trick!
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots
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