Debates like this one set parenthood back twenty years. Let’s be a little more thoughtful about what kind of parenting content we write.
I’ve been thinking about how silly that ‘doesband’ article in the Times was the other day. It’s taken me a while to digest it and realise how patronising it is to both dads and mums.
To be fair, it’s a clever pun – and we all know how much of parenting self-help is orientated around a snappy catchphrase. Not only that, but papers are more than happy to publish articles around this subject specifically with the goal of getting people like me to respond angrily online. On that count, they’ve succeeded. But how could I not when the idea of a dad who has “his own hectic job, but still does his fair share at home Without Being Asked” is so phenomenally irritating.
For starters, it sets the bar spectacularly low. Taking out the bins? Knowing where the Calpol is? The idea that a father ignores when his child is ill and stands around waiting for his female partner to dole out basic medication because they can’t open their own cupboards is ridiculous.
Of course, there are unequal relationships. I’m not trying to pretend that I do “the same” as my wife, although so much of the dialogue around parenting is about pitting everyone against each other.
But we’re a team…and I’m not a sociopath (I don’t think?). She has a busy, pretty-much-full-time job. We are decently off, but can’t afford fancy things like a nanny or a housekeeper, although we do pay for two hours of weekly cleaning.
So if I didn’t do things around the house then we would end up living in squalor. We would be wearing last week’s dirty pants. We would have brinner for dinner every night. If I didn’t drop off and pick up the children at least a couple of times a week then we would get prosecuted for encouraging truancy.
Surely that’s not the work of a doesband, but the work of a non-insane human?
I’m not going to suggest I’m the primary carer, although I’m probably more than most. I’m also not arguing that there aren’t parental set-ups where the dad does nothing. But that’s about the immaturity and unkindness of that human. Or the financial situation being so dire that a parent is essentially never home (which is tragic really). I’m not sure having a child or not having a child has anything to do with it.
We can only strive for true equity, sure. And one of the reasons so many of the next generation are trying to change and improve the way we approach and feel about work is because they want things to be more equal. But articles like this really don’t help.