Why mums and dads make equally good parents
Attitudes are changing fast around the role of dads in the family. But we’re still stuck with a lot of outdated baggage that guilts mums into being left with all the childcare responsibility, and implies that dads ‘naturally’ don’t belong in the role of a lead parent.
Arguments for mums ‘naturally’ being left with all childcare responsibility when the little one arrives:
Dads often miss out on the idea that they can be ‘naturals’ at parenting, or are even given the impression that if they do come across as good parents, it is unusual and something that prompts comment and even shock from strangers. This keeps open the paternity gap.
But we can just as equally make some daft arguments for why dads should always be the ‘main’ parent when the little one arrives:
These are tongue-in-cheek, but they show that nearly all the ‘reasons’ we give for mums being loaded with all the responsibility for kids when there’s a dad around aren’t as clear as we might think they are when we first hear them.
For every reason we have for mum’s being ‘naturally’ the only active parent, we can make up an equally daft one for dads being the only ‘natural’ parent. The word ‘natural’ is frequently misused to make the sexes look more different than they are in reality. It’s used to mean something we feel is right because of social rules, and what people around us expect, but doesn’t relate to anything substantial past that. The only natural thing that makes you a ‘natural’ parent is, well, being a parent.
The difference between the sexes when it comes to parenting is either negligibly small or irrelevant. What makes us ‘naturally’ better parents is not the contents of our pants, but the time we spend alone looking after our babies. It’s obvious when we say it out loud, but spending more time doing something, especially something as natural as childcare, makes us better at it.
Only less than a fifth of parents buy this ‘naturally better parent’ argument when they’re asked to think about it. But a lot of us can still buy into it without reflecting on it, from the things we hear at work, in baby advice books or from the platitudes like the ones above we hear around us.
It’s worth calling these ideas out when we hear them, and challenging them. That’s the only way we’ll encourage more people to feel comfortable with sharing parental responsibility between dads and mums.
What makes us ‘naturally’ better parents is not the contents of our pants, but the time we spend alone looking after our babies.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots