I’m a corporate dad with a two-year-old and a two-month-old. I love being a dad, and I’m fortunate to work for a company that offers equal parental leave for men and women.
While these policies have enabled me to spend 10 months off as a full time parent, they’ve also opened my eyes to an interesting phenomenon.
From the ads at the supermarket to social banter — our culture sets and constantly reinforces a low bar for fathers.
I first realised something was amiss as I approached my first seven months off as primary carer of our son. I was repeatedly asked what I was going to do with ‘all that time off’.
We chat to co author of the book The Father Hood, Luke Benedictus, about changing the stigma around actively involved dads. Post continues below.
My wife had just completed over seven months of her parental leave, and no one had seemed confused about what she did with the time. Instead she had an incredible network of friends, colleagues and government agencies acknowledging how gruelling this time could be and reaching out to check on her wellbeing.
People spoke to me like I was secretly stepping out to work on a book deal or undertake some home renovations.
In the stores and online, I found everything about caring for children was marketed to women. Instead of sleep training hacks, stain removal tips and articles on childhood development milestones — my social media feed didn’t go much further than superficial suggestions on how to stay fit as a dad, techniques to give my wife a relaxing foot massage, and tips on how to connect with my child while travelling.
This inherent bias only became more obvious during my leave. Out in public, I was constantly congratulated by strangers on what an outstanding dad I was. This was in response to such heroic acts as: feeding my child, changing a nappy, pushing a pram, or simply not being at work. Again, accolades people had failed to lavish on my wife as she went about the daily routine of keeping our child alive.