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.
But from there, it’s still often the woman who will take the lead, sometimes leaving men swinging in the wind, and eventually settling into a supporting role. One that seems to come with less responsibility for hands-on tasks.
“The first couple of months of parenting I had no idea what I was doing,” says Jeff. “But I did try.”
“Still… I can’t even cook scrambled eggs. I can microwave, but I can’t cook. I’ve got nothing.”
Then Daddo tells a story about dropping a knife on his own foot while looking after two tiny children and being rescued by some capable female neighbours who even cleaned the blood off the kitchen floor while he was at the hospital.
Parents, If we want to kick the stereotype of the dumb dad, we need to face some home truths.
MEN: Not being able to cook a simple meal, when you have OTHER PEOPLE in your home who need looking after, is not funny. It’s just unhelpful and a little bit embarrassing.
Laughing at your own incompetence might be the quickest way to make sure you get left to lie on the lounge and watch TV while your home revolves around you, but it’s also lazy, and lame.
And WOMEN: Stop cleaning up the mess. There’s only one way to learn how to parent, and that’s to parent. So let them do it, and stop with the lists, the constant critique and correction.
The Husbands on House Husband’s aren’t always hopeless…
It might be funny now, but why would you be laughing about having to do every scrap of domestic duty in your home, usually on top of your own job.
That’s the real fools’ game.
Does your partner pretend there are parenting jobs you’re just better at?
Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here, including conversation about the woman who took her newborn around the world, and whether or not it’s your responsibility to keep someone else’s kids sugar-free.