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The Sexist World of Parenting

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The Church of England's vote on allowing women bishops has forced the issue of sexism into the spotlight. I've been watching the reaction to the vote with interest. It strikes me that a lot of female priests are more determined than ever to see women take senior positions in the Church and they are going to fight hard to make it happen. I, for one, wish them luck.

While the Church family is coming to terms with sexism within its ranks, I wish to draw attention to another form of sexism, one in which us men need to fight. Over the few years I've been a father, I've been the primary carer for our children. I somehow balance employment and family life but as my job is less demanding than my wife's it's generally me that deals with childcare, the playdates, the doctors' appointments and so on.

It's been a fascinating and enjoyable experience but it has opened my eyes to how mother-centric the world of parenting is. It can be unacceptably sexist and I've experienced and witnessed some eye-opening examples.

Before sitting down to write this, I had a quick flick through the most recent copy of a well known parenting magazine for parents of new born children. It features articles about dressing your baby, activities for your baby and baby skincare. These are hardly subjects that are of sole interest to women.

I counted 20 full-facial photographs of women on the editorial pages and only one of a father. In addition to this only one father seems to be quoted in the entire publication.

A few months back I accompanied my wife to the 20 week scan for our youngest daughter (born just a couple of weeks ago). The sonographer didn't even look at me, introduce herself or offer me a chair. If you speak to other fathers you'll find this is a depressingly common experience. Us men are not unreasonable, we expect the sonographer's attention to be focused on our partners at these scans, but to cut us out of the situation entirely is just plain wrong. The overwhelming majority of us want to be involved.

I can also think of a local childcare provider that I have twice heard referring to her business as being "for mums". I struggle to see how childcare is only of interest to mothers. The male pound is clearly not good enough for her and so I've taken the decision not to cross the threshold of her business premises.

I'm not some kind of jock-strap burning masculist and I am no fan of political correctness. I do, however, feel strongly that men should stand up and shout about the contribution they make as parents.

I am a relatively old and (even if I say so myself) confident father. I can imagine that a younger, less confident man, consistently faced with examples like those above, might feel very confused about their role as a dad and leave it all up to mum.

There are only two things that a man cannot do as a parent; gestation and lactation. While our sisters fight for the right to become bishops, us men must make every effort to break down the ovarian Bastille that exists in the world of parenting.