HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Having recently become a first time father, I have realised just how biased and sexist society is against the male parent. This isn't to say that it is the fault of the mothers as from what I have seen they are all fabulous and very happy to share the workload. It is more to do with the industry professionals, advisors, and media that surrounds pregnancy and parenting, and the astonishing opinions that are held by some of these people.
Recently we had a Health Visitor sit in our living room and tell us about all the groups and activities there are for mother and baby, and how Mum should be utilising all of her support networks to assist with raising the child. When I explained to her that I would be at home for at least the first year she said "oh good, because Dads can have a role to play in a child's upbringing too". Have a role to play!
Resisting the temptation to forcefully eject this woman from my property I calmly reminded her that I do not just have a role to play, I am 50% responsible for the raising of our child, as I was 50% responsible for his creation. The only things us men can't do is gestate, give birth, and breast feed the child, none of which is really our fault. Our 50% of responsibility can be made up of other things, and we are more than capable parents whose contribution is hugely important to family life.
Unfortunately, this dismissive attitude is one that I have encountered far too many times recently. I totally understand, and agree with the fact that there is an extensive support network for the mother, as in most cases she is the primary carer of a child, particularly in the first few months of life when she is on maternity leave, and she needs all the support she can get.
But times are changing and men are much more involved than ever before, because we want to be and because modern lifestyles mean we are rightly expected to be. So when will society catch up and provide us with a support system comparable to that for a woman? In my area there is no provision for treating male post-natal depression - a more common ailment than you would think. There are no male-only meet groups or help-lines, and more than any of that are the appalling attitudes some people have towards men's roles in a child's upbringing.
If we take time off work, a mum is being a mum, yet we are a "stay at home dad", likewise if we are involved we are a "hands on dad". Why do we need to be labelled as such? Aren't we just being a dad? When a father mentions that he is taking time off work, or the mother is going back to work before him, an awkward undercurrent develops in the conversation where people are clearly suppressing questions or opinions about the situation, and why we are being different. It is embarrassing, for the man, for the other people around, but mostly for the people that hold these outdated opinions.
How often have we heard a woman say that she is going out and the father is going to do "Daddy Day Care" or "babysit" the child. Again, why the separatist label? As I said in the title - dads don't babysit. The majority of us take an active role with our children, we are very capable as parents, and do you know something else - we love being a dad.
So come on society, start treating fathers as equals and providing for us in a proportionately comparable way as you do for mothers. We need this support as much as they do and I can guarantee that in return, you will be amazed how much we can give as parents and how our children will benefit from our involvement.