Beer and Babysitting – can dads really be trusted to look after their own children?

Funny Story: So me and the little man were at a local soft play center. They had a little swing gate between the toddler and baby areas. He loves gates, doors… pretty much anything with a hinge. It does get boring sometimes, not being able to pass a door. But having noticed the obsession I took the opportunity to use it as an early lesson into how not to get your fingers trapped and he never has. With that box ticked we moved on to learning about manners. Holding the door for people, being polite, ladies first etc. So that’s what we were doing by the little swing gate that day. I was standing next to him. He had it down like a footman at the Ritz. He wasn’t getting many thank yous (I don’t actually remember any) So I was chuffed when a kind lady bent down to speak to him. She’d obviously noticed a lovely, well-behaved, kind mannered two-year old and was going to congratulate him. Solidifying the message he’d been given by his Dad, confirming that what he was doing was good….

[Quick reminder: I’m standing right next to him.]

“Oooh do you know where your Mummy is?”  “Do you want me to help you find your Mummy?” She then put her hand on his back and started to usher him into the play area.

Stunned into silence, all I could say was “would you like me to help? I can probably help” The lady replied “who are you?” I replied “I’m his Daddy. Mummy’s at work.”

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the vigilance and would be very grateful for any interjection if he actually was lost. But what I find most insulting is, the thought that his Daddy could have taken him there hadn’t even entered her mind. I was literally standing next to him.

Okay so it’s not that funny a story. Nor was it the next time it happened. In Tesco.

Okay, so I had let him drive his cosy coupe in the shop but I was still with him. “Where’s Mummy?” My polite response “It’s okay, he’s with me. Do you really think his Mummy would let him drive that in here?” They have those little (massive) car/trolleys which are noisy and nigh on impossible to push because they don’t maintain the wheels (I have actually WD40’d one in the middle of the shop). He gets bored with them half way round and wants to get out. At which time I’m always beyond the point of no return with a fullish basket which means I either have dramas or he walks and I push the thing around kidless. No, that’s nonsense. If I take his car, he’s happy for the whole shop. He stays close, I can teach him about lane discipline and not crashing into people and things (and why), he doesn’t want to go to the toy section and we have a calm, even fun, shopping experience.

We never go when it would be too crowded to cause an issue. We’ve now actually evolved to the awesome little tikes shopping cart (watch video) which combines the best of both worlds because he can actually help with the shopping. He’s quite well-known now in the local Tesco and he always stops for a chat with the staff and anyone else who wants to talk but “where’s Mummy?” is still a regular question. I’ve just got used to it now. People’s perceptions are still that “Mummy” looks after the kids. This is a perception that the ladies have been trying to shake too so it works both ways but it is only women that say it.

I have noticed, in my short three years as a Daddy, that this attitude is slowly changing. There are definitely more Daddies at the play centers and at the park and it is lessening as a taboo, thankfully. I have mentioned, in a previous post, the sense of exclusion I’ve felt at stay and play/toddler groups so I won’t go into that again. I’m hoping that as Dad bloggers we are helping catalyse this change. It is discrimination and it’s not acceptable although I can understand it’s roots.

The “#dadsforchange” campaign by The Dad Network (UK) and the Dads Don’t Babysit  T-shirts by the National At-Home Dad Network (US) will surely help.

I think that guys are portrayed in the media as hapless buffoons around the home, a bit of a laughing-stock. It’s okay, we can take it, but it doesn’t help with the progression of general perceptions about stereotypical gender roles in society. I think that everyone would agree that equality across the board would benefit all. If everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet it will make the transition so much smoother. We need to get away from the image of Dad sitting on the sofa, swilling a beer with the football on while Mum is out and the kids are going wild trashing the house.

Even CBeebies is guilty of it… (Little Roy – the  ‘Mega Sucker’ episode) I’m not going to deny that if we’ve had a fun time at home and made a bit of mess I get a panic on at 4.30pm when I know Mum’s coming home in an hour. But we make a game out of tidying up. This isn’t because I’ve lost control or can’t cope at home, it’s because I don’t want my wife to come home to a shambles after she’s had a hard day at work. It’s much easier to relax in a tidy house.

Advertisers are guilty of this too. I know men and women are different and we are targeted in different way by marketers but I once saw KitKat Chunkys for sale in a beer can (complete with ringpull) and a football embossed on it. Really? I was in-sensed by this so complained to the shop (It was a long time ago and I’d have probably let it go these days). They really couldn’t see why I was making a fuss. I was genuinely insulted by it though. I’m not saying I went home, ran a bubble bath and had a Cadbury’s Flake, but what the hell has a KitKat got to do with either football or beer? It was ridiculous.

I thought we (blokes) were being portrayed as simple creatures. Looking back, now I can’t remember what had sparked this all off. I’ve always been a sensitive soul but there must have been other straws on the camel’s saddle. I once replied to a job advert for a cafe manageress only to be told “did you not read the advert?” I had a similar experience when I tried to get a job at a kids nursery when I was 18. I had loads of experience with young children from my family but, no, they wanted a female. I know that doesn’t happen these days but it probably contributed to my sensitivity on the subject.

Back then, I didn’t even drink Beer! mainly because I liked driving so much. I didn’t actually have my first pint until I was 27. I still don’t drink much. I was fed up with the assumption that all blokes do is drink beer and lout about shouting at the football. They go down the pub after work and then come home after the kids have gone to bed and the housework is all done. What a crock! Because I’ve always been good around the house my sisters used to take the piss that I was a bit “metro” but as it turns out I was just ahead of the trend 😉 But seriously. “Ooh aren’t you well-trained?” Isn’t an appropriate thing to say to a guy who just knows how to pull his weight and divvy up the home chores. After all we both work full-time so why wouldn’t I? “Domesticated” that’s another one. Like a pet that you’ve managed to train not to shit on the floor.

I’m not about to conform to the stereotype but Mummy gets a LOT of free beer from work as perk. That would make sense if I told you why but I’m not going to. None of her colleagues like the non-alcoholic stuff so her boss usually gives it to me. So on those long, hot summer afternoons when Mummy is at work and I am “babysitting“… in other words playing in the garden with the little man. I can kick back, crack open an ice cool Clausthaler and raise a toast (and a couple of fingers) to the bigots. The little man can even try some if he likes… “Urgh Yuck!”

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