Fasten your seatbelts, because things are about to get all serious up in here. That’s right, folks. This week, instead of writing some pithy one-liners about dirty nappies or Calpol, I’m going to dust off what remains of my intellect and attempt to intelligently discuss a subject that I am becoming increasingly passionate about.
Which is… the precise formula for working out the speed of collision that needs to take place in order for an incident involving a bare foot and some upturned Lego to turn from an “ouchy, ouchy” into a “we got a bleeder”.
Only joking. I’m really going to talk about the exact percentage of a sleepsuit that needs to be covered in baby vomit in order to tip the scales in favour of an outfit change.
Got you again. I’m actually going to present six reasons why dads need to find their voices. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Read on, clear your throat and prepare to join the revolution.
1. Mums are leaving us behind
I recently attended a Q&A session with The Unmumsy Mum. It was organised by a local bookshop and packed to the rafters with mums. There were hundreds of them and every single one spent the entire evening listening, laughing, chatting, clapping, smiling and nodding. The free glass of wine might have prompted some of this, but most of it was down to two things. 1. The Unmumsy Mum is very smart and very funny. 2. Along with a number of similarly honest bloggers, she has given these mums the confidence to find their voice. And it’s not just any old voice either. It’s a liberated bellow that says: “We are mums, hear us roar. (About anything and everything, from weaning successes to Legoland meltdowns via potty training mega fails).”
The whole evening was fascinating and uplifting to witness, but as the only man in the room it was also slightly depressing. Why? Simple. Because dads currently have nowhere near this level of camaraderie. Sure, sites like The Dad Network are great at connecting dads and promoting dad issues, but if you asked me whether there is a dad blogger who consistently nails what it’s like to be a modern dad in the way that The Unmumsy Mum consistently nails what it’s like to be a modern mum, the only truthful answer would be no. Why is this? Maybe it’s because fatherhood prompts less shared experiences than motherhood? Perhaps it’s because there are a lot less stay at home dads than there are stay at home mums? Or possibly it’s just that not enough people have discovered my blog yet? I don’t know. All I know is that until a bunch of dads find a way to inspire a generation, we fathers will never experience the solidarity enjoyed by our partners.
2. We can help each other
Earlier this week; I received an email from a dad who was having some issues at home. It was a cry for help that prompted mixed emotions. I was sad and worried for him, his partner and their child. But I was delighted that, instead of suffering in silence, he had given me the opportunity to discuss his problem, suggest some solutions and reassure him that a lot of my friends had made it through similar situations. “It’s nice to know that I’m not alone and you have some wonderful ideas,” he replied, after I’d sent him my response.
Why am I telling you this? To inflate my ego, duh. Not really. I’m sharing this story, because it features a man who found his voice and reaped the benefits.
3. We’re lonely
How many dad friends do you have? If you count the thoroughly nice chap my wife and I have met in the park twice, I have one. Really? Yes, really. While my wife is fielding Whatsapps from Mummies A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J and K, I’m just a dad, sitting in a baby class, asking a cuddly toy if they’ve seen any men who I might be able to befriend. It’s an isolated existence that can lead to frustration and negativity. Thankfully, I have some old friends within half an hour’s drive and plenty of family around, but some dads are less fortunate and slip into post-natal depression. I know. I thought this was just a mum thing too, but in actual fact studies have shown that up to one in 10 dads experiences this mental health issue. Would things improve if we all agreed to open our mouths and speak to one another? You bet they would.
4. We’re still not taken seriously
If the nursery has an issue with my kid, they ask to speak to my wife. If Peppa Pig wants to make a cheap joke, she picks on Daddy Pig. If a large multinational brand wants to sell more children’s products, it targets mums. Why is this? It’s partly due to our forefathers’ ambivalence to all things baby. And partly because most dads figure it’s less stressful to accept this situation than kick up a fuss. This indifference ends here and now, men. Why? I’ll tell you why. It ends because it’s not fair that our wives have to field every child-related call. It ends because it’s not right that our kids are being taught that daddies are blundering buffoons. And it ends because some kids don’t have mums. And if we can use our voices to make things a bit easier for these kids and their dads, then that is exactly what we should do.
5. We’re important to our kids
Like most men, I take the easy option whenever I possibly can. And when baby is crying for mummy, the easy option is to quietly retreat into the corner and watch Love Island. The good news is this show’s scandal and gossip will undoubtedly benefit my life in the short-term. The bad news is my addiction to it could handicap my son’s life in the long-term. I say this because a study by the US Department of Education found that kids with highly involved fathers are 43% more likely to get mostly A grades than kids without highly involved fathers. 43%?! If that’s not a reason to roll up your sleeves and find your voice around the house, I’m not sure what is.
6. We could be Christmas No.1
I’m no television executive, but surely turning a disparate group of stay at home dads into a well-oiled singing machine would be the perfect next instalment of a series that’s seen bespectacled choirmaster Gareth Malone transform military wives, postmen, airport employees, NHS workers, celebrities, wounded ex-service personnel and the residents of a housing estate just outside Watford into note-perfect choirs. Think about it. We could arrive with Baby Bjorns and crying toddlers, and leave with designer shades and record contracts. Now that’s what I call great television.