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"As the primary caregiver of my family, I think Mothers’ Groups should welcome Dads."

I’ve always wanted to be a member of a Mothers’ Group. Something about the laughter and cheeky eye rolls from a group of sleep-deprived women has made me desperate for an invitation.

There’s just one teeny, tiny, itty-bitty thing holding me back from getting that membership card: I’m a dad.

In fact, I’m a dad in a same-sex relationship. So here I am, the primary caregiver in a motherless home, longing for acceptance from a group that simply won’t have me.

Sean Szeps parents group
"I’m a dad in a same-sex relationship. So here I am, the primary caregiver in a motherless home, longing for acceptance from a group that simply won’t have me." Image: Instagram

That’s why I’d like to formally request that all Mothers’ Groups in Australia change themselves to Parenting Groups. Here’s why:

1. As the definition of “normal” evolves in Australia, a new modern family has emerged. Not just same-sex couples, but older parents, single parents, adoptive parents, and foster parents too. Simply put: not all families have mums as primary caregivers, so we need to think of the “others” too.

2. Mother’s aren’t expected to stay home anymore. Sure, some will leave the workforce for good. But many will take time off and choose to go back to work. In many cases, their partner will take the primary caregiver role. And in some cases, that partner is a man. What is he expected to do?

3. Paternity leave has adapted in recent years to match the shift in expectations of modern families. This means it’s now possible (if not expected) for dads to take time off work to help raise their children. This means a man will become the primary caregiver at some point, longing for a crew to call his own. Why should he feel isolated at the park when he’s surrounded by mums in a very similar situation to him?

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4. One in 10 Aussie dads will experience postnatal depression following the birth of their child. Shouldn’t we be thinking of how we can best support them, too?

LISTEN: Sean Szeps opens up about postnatal depression on The Baby Bubble. Post continues after audio.

5. As parents, it’s really important that we take care of each other. We all know how isolating and challenging those first few months and years can be. Just ask yourself: If you knew someone was lonely and in need of support, would you turn your back on them?

6. All parents experiencing the difficulties and joys of parenthood should benefit from the support of others.

Listen, I’m not a dummy. I understand the benefits of female-only parenting groups. Mums should have access to a safe space to discuss the physical and mental transitions occurring directly after the birth of a child. I get it, I do.

But here’s where you lose me.... If a couple adopts a child, the mother is still welcomed into the group due to her sex. She doesn’t need to give birth to earn that spot. Same for lesbian couples or foster mums.

Is her experience more valid than mine, a primary caregiver desperate to connect with people raising tiny humans?

I believe the primary purpose of Mothers’ Groups should be to provide support and a safe space to likeminded individuals.

People who disagree will say, “but women won’t be able to talk about their vaginas” or “women won’t feel comfortable venting about their husbands”. But I call bullsh*t. If the men (or women) can’t handle the honesty that occurs in Parenting Groups, then they don’t need to return the following week.

Men will benefit from hearing the brutal truth of what the female parenting experience is like. And vice versa. We’ll all be better off if we’re able to communicate openly with people from “the other side”.

Parenting is bloody difficult. No matter what your gender is. That’s why I believe Mothers’ Groups should be challenged to match the diverse makeup of modern Aussie families.

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