I hate mums. I love my own mum. She's lovely. I love my wife, who's also a mum. Oh, and also lovely. These mums, I love to bits. Not literally. The mums I hate are those collectively used as a depictor or descriptor of who does the childcare. Yeah, I'm looking at you, collective-depictor-or-descriptor mums. I'm a lucky father of three mesmerisingly wonderful children. Better than anyone else's children, that's for sure. I do around half of the childcare. And I'm the victim of sexism. Parental sexism, if that's a thing. If it isn't, I'm making it one, because I believe I write on behalf of all 'around half' fathers. Or at least around half of them.
We're labelled 'hands-on dads', 'engaged fathers', 'dads who do' and even 'mom dads'. Nothing emasculating about that. Therein lies the kick in the balls. Our culture emasculates 'dads who do', resulting in too many 'dads who don't'. But why not just 'dads'? We don't have 'hands-on mums', just 'mums'. Who I hate, as I've said.
My first target is marketing, because it doesn't target us in marketing (I dislike the very idea of being 'targeted' - won't that hurt?). I'm unrepresented. Unless I'm represented by cooing and cuddling mummy models with high-vis teeth. Which I'm bloody well not! By not addressing us, marketing dresses us in pink rubber Marigolds.
Nappy packaging is one example, though the picture is (literally) identical across all childcare products. Dad-less. We're the invisible millions. A recent survey found that 70% of fathers 'have responsibility for the main household grocery shop'. A pinch of paternal posturing, perhaps. But another study identified 2.09million UK fathers who do the shopping. Even rounding-down for some hubby hubris, we are legion. Some nappy packaging features black mums. This is exactly as it should be, marketing should reflect our multicultural society. There are 462,623 black women in the UK. However many of those are in the market for nappies, shopping dads are far greater in number. Shouldn't we be represented too? Yeah, yeah, I know, 'political correctness gone mad'. 'What next, showing black gay disabled fathers? Is that what you want?' Yes (sigh). That's what I want.
I do some work for a company that makes nappies, so I probably shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me. Or bite the hand that wipes my kids' bottoms (eww). To be fair, there are fewer doofus dads in ads nowadays (the ones who don't know their toddler's arse from their elbow). Recent Superbowl commercials have portrayed fathers more progressively. High five. As in many things, America is somehow ahead and behind at the same time. I suppose I should have attended the recent Dad 2.0 Summit in California. But, well, you know, it's called the Dad 2.0 Summit. An actual thing, called that. Still, baby steps. But why, oh why, can't we buy the Beckham Bugaboo...am I right, ladies?
It would be easy to also blame the media. So let's do that. I should really have exhaustively analysed parental portrayal in media, but that sounds hard. And did I mention I'm a working and caregiving father of three? I'm too exhausted for exhaustive analyses. But through my sleep-deprived eyeballs, I see few examples of fathers like me. Or, more importantly and less arrogantly, fathers I'd like me to be.
Consider the only media I get time to see these days. Digital media. Sometimes this is on my phone (on a completely unrelated subject, why is it that beleaguered new parents take extra-long in the toilet?). But most of my media consumption is on my laptop, at work. Erm, during my lunch break. Yes, let's go with that. And let's say, during my lunch break, that I want the best kids advice. I have to woman-up and enter the land of Netmums. I feel like I should go there in disguise. I certainly leave there with my tail (by which I mean my penis) between my legs. The Netmums founders recently started a YouTube channel, called Channel Mum. I don't know which pushes me away more, the emasculation or the smugness. Obviously, they can be called whatever they want, and be for whoever they want. But their slogan is 'the honest face of parenting', a tagline that's almost its own punchline. Media, you've always been a good friend to me. Don't desert me in my hour (well, next eighteen years) of need.
Finally, I'll swing a couple of wild haymakers towards government and business. Let's end this...whatever this is...with parental leave. I'd be rich, if I had a krona for every time I've heard about the 'amazing' parental leave in Scandinavia. If I understand it correctly, I believe both parents can take the rest of their lives off, on double pay. Here, fathers are not so lucky. Or are we? If you go out to work, whether you're working hard or hardly working, looking after the kids is harder. Even when you have beyond-perfect kids, like all of mine definitely are (bless their really little cotton socks). And it gets harder, with each tour of duty. Sorry dads-to-be, but these wrinkles didn't crease themselves. Yet here I am, calling for more parental equality. Advocating something for men, that no man should actually want. I'm saying it for you, mums. You're welcome.
Indeed, everything I'm saying here is really for mums too. And there was me, saying I hated you.