Sometimes I think about dads. Not like that! Come on people, lift your minds out of the gutter. I mean in a caring way. A compassionate way. It’s just a part of what I do. Working with them, that is – not randomly thinking about them. This is getting awkward – let’s move on. My point is that sometimes I think about dads and I wonder how they are managing to be the dad that they thought they would be, or the dad they had dreamed of being, or any kind of dad at all. I used to think that it was us mums who had the short end of the stick but nowadays it’s looking more like the men who are under pressure to be the kind of parent that even I don’t understand.
Allow me to elaborate.
Not so long ago when I was but a young girl, men were … well … men. Their role was set in stone. Get up of a morning, go to work, bring home bacon, eat dinner, slippers on, feet up – done. And if children entered the family, it barely changed that routine, except that maybe the children were the ones bringing the slippers over.
Fast forward to the present and it’s a whole different ball game. (No pun intended. OK, it was intended – couldn’t resist!) Nowadays, men are told not to be men, but still to be men, but not too much, and if they could add a sliver of metrosexuality into the mix with a good dab of their feminine side when necessary, even better. And that’s before they even come close to fatherhood. Cross that bridge and things become even murkier. Be everything expected of a father! And also some of the stuff expected of a mother. Be the protector but in a nurturing way, and the nurturer but in a protective way. Support the family in every way possible and keep working too – money doesn’t grow on trees you know – but don’t work late because that just doesn’t work for anyone! (Phew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!)
So, here’s what I suggest. (Brace yourself, it’s a little revolutionary but, as the old saying goes, a little dose of anarchy is as good as a rest, right?) Let’s throw away all parenting gender roles! Yes, you read that right. Let’s turn all expectations of fatherhood on their head. And once you’ve thrown that old rubbish away, simply ask yourself where your strengths lie. Are you a master at nappy changing? Do you have just the knack needed to get your kid asleep? Are your bedtime stories reaching legendary status? Has Lego approached you to put your constructions in their Hall of Fame? Does nurturing come easier to you than protecting? Because it does for my hubby. He’s far better at it than me. My approach to nurturing has often looked more like a crazy lady clinging onto her kids for dear life than the kind of fun, free approach he takes. He’s a natural nurturer. And that’s OK, because I’m the dogged disciplinarian and together it works like a charm. It doesn’t matter that we don’t fit the stereotypes. What matters is that our kids get all the nurturing and protecting they need, regardless of who should be providing it.
So now that you’ve unshackled yourself from those stifling stereotypes, what kind of a dad could you be?
Want to read more from Expat Living’s parenting columnist Orla Breeze? Find out why she thinks there is a baby conspiracy and asks are we making our children’s lives too complicated?
This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.