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I was ignored by all the mums…

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Published on 26/09/2018

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a toddler group with my almost two year old. It was a toddler sensory group, with lots to see, do and interact with.

You see, I’m a freelancer, that means I have the luxury of picking and choosing my work, but also that sometimes, when I don’t have any work, I get to spend some really good quality time with my wife and two boys. I feel very lucky to be in this position, even when the work isn’t flowing in, because our time is now, and the boys will soon be growing up and becoming less and less dependent on us.

My wife wanted to try out a new group in a nearby town to where we’ve recently moved to, and asked if I’d like to take our youngest to try it out.

Of course, I did, I love playing with him, and any chance I get to watch him playing, interacting and learning from other children is a real privilege.

I duly packed him into the car with all the bits we’d need (or I’d need, to keep him happy). We drove to the group and I shook off the slight apprehension that it was a new group, full of new people for me and our toddler to meet, and each group has its own little quirks.

When we got there, I breathed a sigh of relief, it’s ok, they’re just mums, they aren’t big green monsters, we’ve got this. They were parking their cars, unstrapping their little ones and walking into the building where the group was so we followed suit.  

As we walked in, my nearly two-year-old did a big excited intake of breath as he saw all the toys, soft play and sensory bits to explore. He pointed at them, tugging on my sleeve, making sure I had seen all the toys, and looking for affirmation that he was allowed to go and play. I beamed down at him, heart swelling, and gave him a nod and a quiet, “go on then!”

That was all he needed, he was off, sliding head first into a large paddling pool full of balls and a few other children. He was happy, I was happy, this group was going to be fine. I looked up to acknowledge the other parents stood by the paddling pool, all mums. A couple of them looked in my direction, or rather, through me, but none made eye contact; no welcoming smile, nod or acknowledgement that I existed or that my toddler was now playing and giggling with the other children in the paddling pool.  

A fleeting feeling that maybe we didn’t quite have this, but quickly swept aside as the group organiser bounded over to me with the energy of a young labrador. The kind of friendly and instantly welcoming energy possessed by those people who tirelessly run groups for young children day in, day out, making every moment special and fun for them.

I felt at ease at once, she really was lovely. She knew my name, and my son’s name, after my wife had contacted her about the group the previous week. She made a fuss of us both, then went over to greet other parents (mums) who were trickling in. By the time everyone was there, I counted 19 mummies, and 1 daddy, yours truly. Plus of course, loads of little ones.  

As I followed my little one around the soft play, eager that he play nicely and share toys and apparatus (I needn’t have worried, he was on form, playing with other children, instigating games and throwing himself wholeheartedly into each activity) I was very aware that no one was speaking to me, or even making eye contact with the odd smile. I thought it odd, and then it really started to bug me. I made the odd comment about my little one playing with theirs, or the odd “oops” as they bumped into each other, but nothing, no interaction with me at all.

Now don’t get me wrong, this seemed like a really friendly group, all the mums in little clusters, chatting and enjoying each other’s company, I just seemed to be the only one no one was willing to talk to. I began to feel like a bit of an alien. Of course, I was the only dad there, but did that really matter? If a new mum had gone along to a group like that, would she have been ignored for a whole hour? Do mums feel they can’t talk to lone wolf dads with their little ones? What’s with that?!  

Even when during group circle time, when the organiser introduced my son and me to the group, there was nothing, not even a “hi” or a murmur of disinterest. Do mummies at groups feel awkward with dads around? I’m well aware it’s normally a mummy only zone, but with more and more dads either working freelance or deciding to stay at home, surely there’ll be more and more dads at these type of groups?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. I’m not an ogre, I wouldn’t consider myself unapproachable, and I’m definitely friendly!  

So my plea to you mums out there… spot a new dad at a predominantly mummy orientated group or event? Stop and take the time to welcome them, share a joke or just chat with them.

We don’t bite, we feel insecure in new environments just like you do, and trust me, we want the same things out of a group like that.

In fact, spot a parent at a group whose new or on their own, and see if you can spark up a conversation. You never know, you might make a new friend.  

We’re not all that different really.

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  1. Simon

    I’m really sorry you were made to feel like that. I’m a full time stay at home dad and believe me I’ve been there. I very nearly gave up on taking my tribe to toddler groups because it was such a depressing experience.

    I was fortunate though, I was adopted on the school play ground by a local child minder who was friends with one of the mums I was friendly with. She took me along to all the toddler group she took her minded children too and with found these far more friendly and accepting, especially as I was being vouched for by a mainstay of the groups.

    I’m now a regular at all the groups I attend and haven’t looked back. In fact one of the groups has rebranded recently. When I joined all their posters and such like said ‘mums and tots group’ but when they re-did then they changed them all to ‘parents and tots group’.

    to;dr – persevere and soon enough these people will realise you are just like them, and as a non-threatening male in that situation they may even realise that you are useful for a male perspective to all their problems they are discussing with their mummy friends. I certainly find myself being ‘one of the girls’ at these things!

  2. Rebecca

    Oh I am so sorry, it shouldn’t matter whether you are a mum, dad, grandparent, carer, you should be made to feel welcome. That certainly hasn’t been my experience at baby and toddler groups and I always try to talk to people at them regardless. Please go back, it sounds like your son had a fab time and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Nikki

    As a female, and a Mum I feel the need to apologise to you on those mums behalf. Unfortunately this is not something that just happens to Dads. I have experienced exactly the same, and it makes you feel like absolute rubbish. After my horrible experience I vowed I would never do that to any other new Mums or Dads that attend any class I go to, so I always make the effort to say hi, or even just offer a smile. I love seeing Dads taking their children to classes, and my husband loves taking our wee man to his classes. Persevere with the classes, it will get better. As long as your son and you enjoyed it, that’s really all that counts x

  4. Chloe

    What a rude group of people! I talk to any new member at groups, particularly those lookimg a it lost or alone! Sorry you had that experience. You’re a far better person than all of them for making an effort to talk to them.

  5. Emma

    I’ve tried the 3 local toddler groups to me and haven’t been back to any of them more than twice. I decided going a couple of times allowed me to see if it was a fluke or not but even when one of the organisers “forced” another mum to talk to me it only lasted as long as the organiser was watching before she ran back to her coven. So no, it’s not just dads it’s anyone new sometimes in that environment

  6. Fergus Justice-Mills

    I had a similar experience with my two when they were little but thank god I knew one of the mums there, so although it was awkward when I was there to start with on my Todd, really awkward, when she arrived it got a bit better. Think the reason might possibly be the mums don’t feel comfortable taking about ‘mummy stuff’ with a man in the mix , especially all the stuff about their husbands/partners not being involved enough..etc etc….it wasn’t so bad when I went along with my wife too, but still felt a bit weird if I went on my own..

  7. Greg

    I can definitely relate to this as i have a experienced the same thing at one of the play groups
    This definitely should be addressed more and passed on social media so people can read it
    Thanks for sharing and this is a great statement ( We’re not all that different really.)

  8. Greg

    I can definitely relate to this as i have a experienced the same thing at one of the play groups
    This definitely should be addressed more and passed on social media so people can read it
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Dominic

    Yes I’m afraid I’ve also experienced the same.

    No idea why it has to be like this, but maybe Mum’s feel like it’s a Mum’s zone.

    I gave up going.

  10. Graham

    Had the same but persevered and found a bunch of nicer people this week

  11. Ebun Faturoti

    I’ve come to gloss over it now.

    I was stay at home dad with my older two (now 11 and 10) and we did all the usual groups, Surestart stuff the works. The only woman that would speak to me was one lady who had her son on the same day as our oldest. We had a link because of that but none of the others ventured to speak to me. Even if I instigated conversation with them.

    Fast forward to school runs. Same deal. No Mums would come and stand near me in the playground. Talk to me while we waited. Nothing. I worked part time for our local Community Project at that point so I was quite ‘prominent’ in the local area but that didn’t draw people in either.

    I’m now back at the pre school/playgroup stage with our just 2 year old. I am immune to it now. I don’t even expect conversations to start so I just solely put all my focus on my child.

    Their loss!

  12. Rebecca

    My husband works the weekend so gets two days off during the week. He says this awful happens when he takes Our youngest son to play groups. I just don’t understand. They’re both really friendly but the Mums just don’t want to know or maybe feel too shy to say anything?

  13. Thyra

    my husband compresses his hours so he does 1 day of child care for our daughter. he took her to one group And a little boy came over and was playing with my daughter and my husband. a mother stormed over and grabbed her son by the hand shouting at him “what have I told you about never going near strange men?!” then looked at my husband, looked at my daughter before sneering “is she even yours?” as though he were just using a random child in order to gain access to other children. really really sad. he’s an amazing dad and I’m glad he’s always been such an involved dad. it makes me sad that this child and woman presumably have such an uninvolved dad that the idea of a man taking his child to a playgroup is so utterly inconceivable amy man there must be a predator. saying that, as a mum I’ve been excluded many a time by pre formed cliques, so I think it’s not always exclusive to men that these behaviours occur.

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