PARENTING CONFESSIONS: 'The behaviour of my friend's husband makes me uncomfortable.'

"Is he a hands on dad?"

As a mum, if I have to hear someone ask that question one more time, I honestly think I will lose it. This question needs to stop. Why? Because every dad should be one. Simple. As. That. Every father should equally parent. The fact that this still has to be discussed amazes me.

But as much as we want to convince ourselves of the active role many men have in their children's lives (because some definitely do), this fact remains. There are still a significant proportion of parenting relationships that are no way near 50/50. For some dads, their career, social and even leisure pursuits often come before their children and their role as a parent. And you know what? This is not good enough.

Yes, some mothers aren't 50/50 (I know) and yes, some dads definitely are 50/50, some even more. But I have witnessed first-hand, not just in one but in a few of the family dynamics I regularly see, that the mother is by far the active or 'hands on' parent in these families, not by a small margin but by a long shot. 

Recently I had my daughter's birthday party. A friend of mine and her partner and kids came along. When my friend's partner decided he wanted to leave he told her, quite assertively, "put the kids in the car." For context, at this party he didn't know many people. It was my friend that had the links and the one that was trying to politely say her goodbyes. But because, for him, she wasn't quick enough, he interrupted with his demand.

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At first I didn't think much of it (other than him being a bit rude) but later it occurred to me, does he not have the capability of putting his kids in the car himself? Does he not have arms, legs, hands or the knowledge to place his children into car seats so his partner can say goodbye to her friends? Well yep, he definitely does but his demanding voice seems to overpower his ability to jump in and help out when their mum is around. There was no other pressing task for him to do, he just chose not to help. Oh sorry, he did do something; he was doing a great job supervising her put them in the car.

I wish I could say this is a one off but nope, this is one of a few occasions where something like this has occurred. Where instead of jumping in and helping with their children (yes, THEIR children), he has instead insisted my friend do it. Why? Because he thinks it is her job.

And it's not just with this friend but with others as well. I often hear friends of mine tell me about the way in which they need to balance their career with their children's school and kinder commitments and schedules, the house tasksgroceries and cooking, cleaning. You know, all the life stuff that needs to be done. Often they decline an offer to socialise because of it.


I rarely hear them talk about their husbands or partners organising these 'boring life' things or declining offers that come their way. What I do often hear though, is them talking about how their husbands or partners are playing sport often multiple times per week, their regular gym or workouts that keeps them late home, their weekend days out with the boys or work commitments that seem to always take precedence over the 'boring stuff' that needs to get done.

And you know what else (yep, I'm really having a rant now)? I rarely hear my female friends discuss their sporting commitments, their regular workouts, their girls' days out or their work commitments that they've prioritised. Why not? Because it doesn't often, on a regular basis happen. It is often rare, sometimes non-existent for them to put these things first. For many mothers their family, which includes doing these 'boring tasks' is more important.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not expecting both parents to stop all the things that make them who they are, to never be away from their family, to never have other priorities or to never have fun away from their children. Obviously that is unrealistic, not to mention mental, physical and emotional torture. What I am saying is that this side of things needs to be shared, with the parenting 50/50, or as close as it can feasibly be. 

Spending time with the family and being 'hands on' isn't always fun. Sometimes it means putting your own wants and desires on hold for a while. It is saying no to a day with the boys, not for any big reason, just because.

Being 'hands on' often involves taking kids to parties you'd prefer not to go to, going to the playground when you just want to sit on the couch and taking them to sports commitments or music lessons. It's reading the same story over and over again, it is listening to your children cry or having a tantrum and trying to negotiate what is actually wrong and work through it. It is getting up through the night when they wee the bed or have a nightmare about a vampire wolf (even if you have work the next day), it is dealing with a poo explosion or being sneezed or vomited on.


And even after doing that, it is then not being thanked for it. It is not noting it down to use as leverage later, it is not being put on a pedestal for being a ‘hands on dad’ and telling the mother how lucky she is to have you. It is expected. Just like the 'hands on' mums out there who tirelessly do all of this without praise or thanks because for them, it is just expected. When that happens, that is 50/50, just as it should be.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

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