There are three types of fathers when it comes to nappy changing. Those who don't and won't, those who will, and those who are excluded.
In the 1950's my father drove my expectant mother to hospital on the day I was born. He left her there, went to celebrate my birth in a pub, returned home and slept off his hangover. He awoke the next morning confused as to why his wife was not home, remembered, and then dashed to the hospital to collect me and my mum.
His actions were a little extreme even for his generation. As baby boys, both my brother and I needed our nappies changing, that was not in the job description my dad had as 'father'.
When my two children were born in the 1980's I changed the job description. I took nappy changing to be part and parcel of the responsibility of being a father. I wanted to be involved as thoroughly as possible.
A few men I knew were excluded from nappy duties, remarkably having this forced on them by their partners. Women who impatiently didn't allow their partner the opportunity to change the nappies, heavily criticised them when they tried, mothers gatekeeping such responsibilities. Telling others 'he's useless at it, he hasn't got a clue, he does it all wrong...oh come here, I can do it much quicker.' The father happily conforming to the stereotype.
Having spent the last 20 years working with men I've noticed a new type of father has emerged who is again excluded. Often it is the young father of a daughter who doesn't change her nappies out of fear of being called a paedophile. In extreme cases we came across fathers who would only bath their young daughter whilst she wore pants, creating hygiene problems for the child. We counselled such fathers that they wouldn't turn to monsters if they changed nappies or bathed their children, but it is a strong taboo in some families.
We sought to show them such activities are actually the signs of being a good father, and two weeks ago such a story was widely reported. Two Georgia police officers changed the nappies of two children they found desperately needing a change in the car park of Walmart.
The city council was rightly proud of the officers' reactions and is now equipping the two men with nappy bags for any future such incidents. "I will carry that proudly. I will show up with my gear bag and my diaper bag on calls. And if I need to change a diaper out on a call, I have changed many before, and I can do another one," said one of the officers.
The story made headlines across the world, a man changes a babies' nappy. I wish it were just normal, can you imagine the worldwide headline 'woman changes babies' nappy?'
I would hope that the number of dinosaurs like my father are dying out, but there are still lots of them out there. I ask mothers to be tolerant of their husbands' first fumbling attempts, and to encourage the men to persist, don't put them off. Let's make nappy changing aversion and ignorance a thing of the past.
I would hope that many more fathers are now accepting nappy changing as a loving and caring activity which is a blessing to us all in many ways. We are aware of the issue of absent fathers, nappy changing, ironically, is a good way of bonding the father to the baby. Another way of encouraging this is to ensure that the older siblings are all proficient at changing nappies, becoming used to the idea at an early age.
We must encourage fathers to participate fully in the care of their babies, to take their responsibilities seriously, and to be prepared to 'get their hands dirty.' (Sorry no better phrase came to mind)Suggest a correction