As the number of stay at home fathers increases, and household labour is (slightly) more equally divided, dads of this generation want to be more involved than ever. This is a great thing, but are they getting the support they need to succeed in the hands-on fatherhood of the 21st century?
This Father’s Day, we polled some dads (including our husbands) to determine what society could do differently to support them in their quest to be equal partners and parents. Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Put change tables in the men’s washrooms.”
This one’s been in the news a lot lately, but our mates can’t say it enough. Nobody wants to try and find space on a tiny counter-top to change their baby, or even worse, have to get down on some germy bathroom floor to do it. It’s gross and uncomfortable, and making it the mother’s job (or assuming that one of the parents is a woman) is so passé it would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that some businesses still don’t get it.
2. “Give us paid parental leave.”
We’re lucky in Canada. Parents can share leave of up to 18 months following the birth of their child. Still, many companies offer extra maternity benefits to women that they don’t offer to men. Corporate culture assumes a father will take his two weeks and be back at work, but this attitude does a disservice to mothers and fathers, not to mention single dads and men in same-sex relationships. Most dads who take extended leave are glad they did. Not only did they get a chance to bond with their children, they also gained an appreciation for how much work children require.
3. “Be friendly to us on the playground.”
This bit of advice comes from a friend who was a stay at home dad for several years. Despite being a regular at the park, he often felt excluded by the local mothers. “I sort of understood it,” he says, “I didn’t give birth or breastfeed, and I appreciate that some women might have felt uncomfortable talking about these topics in my presence. Still, we all had babies, were trying to survive sleepless nights, excited for the milestones and looking for support.”
4. “Use inclusive language.”
We are so on board for this. From playgroups still called “Mommy and Me” to household products advertised to women, the narrative needs to change. Even many parenting books assume the reader is a mother. One particular potty training book had a “Dad’s Checklist,” that would ensure that he didn’t counteract all his partner’s hard work with toilet training. To assume that only one parent is doing the heavy lifting of parenthood is a disservice to everyone involved.
5. “Don’t Leave us out of pre-natal care”
During a pregnancy a lot of the focus is put on the mother, rightfully so since she’s the one carrying the baby! However, sometimes dads can get lost in the mix. One Dad we spoke to said, “I felt like I was the chauffeur, and that I was not impacted by what was going on in the various pre-natal appointments.”
Let’s hear it for hands on dads, step-dads, grandfathers, uncles, and all the men who take an active role in raising their children!