Dads. They’re so dumb, right?
They can’t cook. They can’t change nappies. They never comb the kids’ hair. A “daddy day care day” will just lead to a night when mum will just have to do twice the work when she gets home, amiright?
That exhausted cliche couldn’t be further from my experience. In my house, it’s Dad who often gets up in the night to deal with bad dreams, coughing fits and that strange noise in the wall. It’s Dad who does drop-off more days than not, and it’s Dad who gives the kids their dinner three out of five nights.
In my house, there’s nothing ‘dumb’ about Dad in the domestic realm. But our family, it seems, is far from typical.
When blogger Rosie Devereux wrote a piece on her blog in defence of dads recently, she was feted for supporting her man, and then inevitably attacked for suggesting that dads could ever be as good as mums. She was criticised for taking seriously the jibes and jokes about fathers – and for suggesting that they were disrespectful and unhelpful. That they might actually be holding us all back. Because if the men are so universally useless, what’s a girl to do but to take it all on herself, after all?
I couldn’t agree with Rosie more, and I set out to discuss the excellence of fathers on This Glorious Mess, Mamamia’s podcast about family life. My co-host, very good dad Andrew Daddo, and a guest, dad of almost-two, writer Jeffrey Charles, were to back me up. GO DADS.
It didn’t happen that way:
There is a certain breed of father who has a vested interest in maintaining a facade of bumbling incompetence. After all, if you are rubbish at stuff, eventually people will stop asking you to do it.
And there’s a certain breed of mother who has a vested interest in clutching that domestic power tightly to her chest. After all, if you are taking on all the day-to-day drudgery of house-running and kid-raising, you don’t want to feel there is no virtue and skill in it. It’s not like anyone could do it…
Guess which dad camp Jeff slotted into duing our conversation: “I don’t think we’re naturally built for [parenting], but we try,” says Jeff. “I can barely wash my own clothes, never mind nappies.”
“There’s an assumption that [men] are not as good at the nitty-gritty of parenting. Men, generally are pretty good at taking the joke about it,” says Andrew.
The truth of it is that, as Annabel Crabb has wisely pointed out in her book The Wife Drought, at the point when your average heterosexual couple leave the hospital with their first tiny, vulnerable baby, neither of them have any idea about what they are doing. They have exactly the same level of parenting experience.