I've noticed something strange about the way society views us dads. By and large, where we appear in the news or on TV, we are seen as unreliable, feckless parents, or disinterested ones who are likely to abandon the family at a moment's notice. But that doesn't tally with my experience in any way.
I meet a lot of dads. Not only at the school gates, but also at NCT groups, dads' groups and at exhibitions for parents, such as The Baby Show. I can honestly say that every single dad I met is either being a hands-on dad already, or plans to be when his trooper is deployed. I've got forums on the Commando Dad website full of dads supporting each other to be the best dads they can be.
So where is the negative perception of dads coming from?
By its very nature, the media will go for a sensational story, and 'Lots of Dads Are Doing a Good Job' probably wouldn't make it into the papers. I don't think this is only aimed at dads though - I think parents in general get a bad rap: one headline will tell us the findings of a report show that society's problems are down to working mothers, while another will tell us the government is trying to get stay at home mothers back to work. Yet despite the conflicting headlines about parents, they all have something in common: we're all doing it wrong.
But I think it goes deeper than the media. Another thing that doesn't help us dads is the idea of 'maternal instinct', that somehow we are biologically programmed not to be such good carers as our partners. Why not parental instinct? I can assure you that the minute my son was born, my wife and I both had a huge instinct to love, protect and care for him - and we were equally clueless about how we were going to go about it. With the exception of breastfeeding we dads are as physically capable as our partners are of looking after our baby troopers, and as emotionally capable of bonding.
In 1970, when my mum was in labour with me and my twin brother, my dad dropped her off at the hospital and asked her to call him when she was ready for visitors. It didn't strike mum or dad as unusual that he did that - that was just the way things were done. But times have changed. Me and my brothers were at the births of our children. Now it's the norm. We dads aren't in the waiting room with flowers like in a Carry On film. We are hands on, in the delivery room, supporting and comforting our wives.
Yet after the birth it is all too easy for us dads to get side lined. I joke that I discovered I had a superpower after the birth of all my children - I immediately became invisible to doctors, nurses and midwives and all the attention was focussed towards my wife. Don't get me wrong, parents need all the advice, support and care that it is possible to give them, but dads are parents too. And we have a crucial role to play, right from the minute we welcome our baby trooper into the world.
I think that the deeper issue behind the perception of us dads is that our way of thinking as a society hasn't caught up with the reality of what's happening today. I'm not saying that all dads are perfect, because we're not, no more than any parent can be perfect. I appreciate relationships break down, that there are inadequate dads and that there are families without a father present. But I truly do not believe this is the norm. And I think the way dads are perceived in society needs to reflect that.
For more information on Commando Dad: Basic Training, a manual for new dads, or to share any experiences or advice with dads on the Commando Dad forums, please go to: www.commandodad.com
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