At the time of writing, I’ve been a dad for nine years. During that time, my expectation of what it takes to be a ‘good dad’ may have evolved, but one thing has remained constant: the wish to be present, to be there for my kids and to be involved equally in their upbringing.
It’s recognised that when a dad is engaged in a child’s upbringing it can reduce their behavioural and psychological problems and result in a higher IQ. Yet there still seem to be a gap between this win-win situation and reality.
This is what David Freed and James Millar explore in their book ‘Dads Don’t Babysit: Towards Equal Parenting’ and it is something that resonates with me: despite the benefits of active fatherhood, it is inhibited by ‘nuclear family’ stereotypes that have shaped the workplace, childcare provision and have limited parenting choices.
Considering everything from hormones to Homer Simpson, from parental leave to the pay gap, from parental leave to the pay gap, Dads Don’t Babysit asks why fathers are sometimes unwilling, but more often unable to share the pleasures of parenting.
Dads as Babysitters
The book opens with Serena Williams, arguably one of the greatest tennis players ever, who returned to the court after having a baby. The main focus of her return? The insinuation that she has left her husband to babysit their own child.
When I’m out with the kids without their mum, I have also received comments like I am not capable, or am doing something out of the ordinary rather than, you know, just being their dad:
Was out with 2 of the kids this morning for just 1 hour. Comments received:
‘Taking one for the team today?’
‘Got your hands full there.’
— ThreeTimeDaddy (@threetimedaddy) March 17, 2018
Towards Equal Parenting?
It is this preconception that the book goes on to explore – how the ‘dad as a temporary carer on behalf of mum’ attitude has a negative impact on dads who want to play a bigger role in the upbringing of their kids.
Split into six sections, the first starts by arguing for equality in parenting before moving on to explain the ‘parenting gap’, why dads aren’t getting involved as much as mums and the introduction of Shared Parental Leave. Having worked in HR for 13 years, I have seen firsthand how the latter is simply not being used and found the comparison to the similar policies in other countries, in terms of time off and financial support, very insightful.
The third part tackles parenting myths, while parts four and five explore why dads have such a hard time being taken seriously as a competent parent and why mums have so much pressure placed on them. I found myself nodding along and recognising a lot of the points made, such as how so many brands and advertising seemingly exclude dads from parenting, how dads on TV are represented as ‘irresponsible idiots’ and how mums suffer face unfair judgement no matter what choices they make.
Lastly, the sixth part explores the lasting impact of gender stereotypes on our kids and finishes with making a case for how inequality and barriers to the equal parenting ideal can be challenged.
Overall, I found the book thought-provoking and well researched, with valuable and insightful contributions from a range of key parenting figures and texts. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to be more informed about pressures and assumptions placed on parents, the impact it has on kids and how all of this can be changed for the better.
‘Dads Don’t Babysit: Towards Equal Parenting’ goes on general release from 14 September 2018 and is available to buy on Amazon here.
Disclosure: I was sent a pre-release copy of the book in return for an honest and genuine review. All views and opinions remain my own. And I like Daddy Pig. Sorry. This post does not contain any affiliate links.