It’s amazing that you can talk to other dads from anywhere in the world and they all have one thing in common…
They are all sick of the same old nonsense that people say to them on a daily basis. Usually these comments are not meant with any ill will, but it is often hurtful. I’m talking about those little remarks, possibly just an attempt to make lighthearted smalltalk, that undermine the role of a dad in bringing up their children.
Here are some examples of things you should never say to a dad.
(How many have YOU heard in the last month?)
1) “You’ve Got Your Hands Full!”
Obviously there are times when saying “you’ve got your hands full” to a dad is perfectly acceptable. For instance, if he literally has his hands full, that would be an appropriate time. Of course, it would be an odd thing to say as it would already be fairly obvious he had his hands full, but some people fear silence and have to fill it with something.
When it becomes irritating is when I am out with my two kids and the dog and someone says this to me. Yes, looking after all three and ensuring their safety at all times requires concentration and patience, but I wouldn’t see it as a burden. It’s just part and parcel of being a parent and a responsible pet owner.
The crux of my annoyance with this is that they wouldn’t dream of saying that to my wife. To many people, mums are expected to naturally take on this responsibility without a second thought. However, the implication of telling me that I have my hands full is that I deserve a pat on the back for having a go at trying to emulate a mum.
2) “Are You Giving Mummy a Break?”
Leading on from “you’ve got your hands full” comes “are you giving mum a break?” Once again, this relies heavily on the idea that mums are the 24/7 parents (aside from these special break times) and dads just swoop in as seasonal temp staff.
As if the only thing that compels us to spend time with our children is some kind of EU parenting directive that means mums must retire to their fainting couches for 15 minutes every seven hours, at which point dads are required to stop chopping logs and wrestling bears so they can push the kids on the swings for a bit.
I am not giving mummy a break, I am hanging out with my kids who are actually a lot of fun. She can have the dog 24/7 if she wants, though. He’s intensely annoying at times.
3) “Can’t You Get up in the Night With Him?”
When our youngest was in the throes of his worst bout of broken sleep (most of the first year of his life if we’re being honest), I actually had someone ask me directly whether I had considered getting up to help my wife out. It just happened that I had been up with the boy for a total of three hours the previous night. And most nights that week.
The fact that they assumed 1) my wife would naturally take on that job as solely hers, and that 2) it might not have occured to me to lend a hand, is baffling. I know they were just trying to help, but those latent attitudes are damaging to both mums and dads. They put incredible pressure on mums to ‘do it all’ when there is no need to, and they undermine the role of dads in a child’s life.
Also, just tread carefully around sleep deprived people. It’s a miracle I left that conversation without either launching into a tirade or breaking down in tears.
4) “Use One of the Mother and Child Parking Bays”
Language matters. It does. I know the Piers Morgans of this world think that only snowflakes care about discriminatory terminology, but the words we use really do influence the way we think.
Morgan worked himself up into a self-righteous froth over the use of ‘firefighter’ rather than ‘fireman’, even though the former is more accurate. However, by continuing with the male-specific ‘fireman’ we are subtly asserting that it is a job only for men and that is simply not the case.
In the same way, using terms like ‘mother and child parking bay’ or ‘mother and toddler group’ suggests that mums spend time with their children and dads don’t. Presumably because they are too busy chopping logs and wrestling bears to pop to Sainsbury’s.
5) “Are You Babysitting?”
And let’s finish with the classic. “Are you babysitting today?”
NO, I AM NOT BABYSITTING, I AM SPENDING TIME WITH MY CHILDREN.