I love being a dad. Being a dad is all kinds of awesome. Lots of men love being dads, in fact, and are really rather vocal about it. As a result of all this, society’s perception of those of us who a) have children and b) have a Y chromosome too has gradually improved to the point that people don’t puke up a lung in shock at the sight of a father proudly guiding a pushchair about town. Yay, society!
Sadly every now and then, however, marketing messages get it wrong. Badly wrong, in some cases. So it was that one such message arrived in my inbox this morning. Here it is, word for word – I’ve only omitted the eye-watering prices:
Gentle affection between mother and baby at the Hôtel Ermitage!
In the enchanting, revitalising setting of the Hôtel Ermitage in Evian, the Spa Quatre Terres offers a timeless break away with baby. A programme at a gentle pace so that mother can look after herself while enjoying discovery activities and bonding with baby.
The Spa Quatre Terres has created 3 and 5-day programmes which include a series of tailored treatments for mother and relaxation workshops for mother & baby. Delicate moments of emotion with the aim of making the mother-baby relationship even more special. While mother enjoys her treatments in total peace of mind, baby is pampered at the Baby Resort, which truly is an oasis of happiness reserved exclusively for little ones, under the watchful eye of qualified childcare professionals.
Guest rooms offer a cosy nest complete with all the necessary childcare equipment: fully equipped cot, recliner, baby bath, changing mat or table, bottle warmer, cold water steriliser, etc… Pushchair and baby monitor on request.
And for true moments of relaxation, carefully chosen babysitters look after baby.
And so that this experience can be shared with a partner or loved one, the Spa Quatre Terres also offers a relaxation programme for accompanying persons.
A tailored programme to relax, revitalise, regain energy and slim down one’s figure while enjoying moments of total bliss with baby!
Where to start eh? Well the implied pressure for new mums to adapt to being parents by removing themselves from the comfort of the home environment as well as to “slim down” are alarming enough. As is the thought of leaving a new baby with a stranger – however professional, qualified and trustworthy they may be. But it’s the lack of reference to male parents that is the subject of this particular rant.
There’s no explicit mention of dads in the ‘bonding programme’ that this purports to be. And while “a partner or a loved one” is grudgingly left to the penultimate sentence, the underlying message seems to be ‘Leave him at home; if you have to bring somebody else along, you could bring your mum instead’. They actually suggest leaving babies with strangers ahead of their fathers! I’m astounded that they seem to think that bonding with a baby is a mum-exclusive thing.
It’s nothing of the sort.
If anything, dads are already at something of a disadvantage when it comes to forging a bond with their new son or daughter due to the obvious anatomical stuff. Sure, we can talk to the bump every day beforehand, but that’s no substitute for holding your newborn baby, skin-to-skin contact and good old fashioned quality time. So to suggest that a mum naffs off to the continent for a few days leaving the father of her child behind during what could be a defining point in the parent-child relationship is ludicrous.
I know it’s only a cynical attempt at cashing in on new mothers’ insecurities, but the way in which they promote their programme is just as bad. There sadly seem to be those still out there who think that dads are somehow second-class parents whose importance and feelings don’t need to be considered. Marketing messages shouldn’t shape people’s attitudes, but they do contribute to them – and if you hear something often enough, it’s easy to start believing it.
I realise that making an example of one organisation which hasn’t considered dads as equal parties in the wonderful journey that is parenthood isn’t going to change much and is probably the same thing as shouting down a well, but we can’t do nothing either. So I’m calling on all parents to fly in the face of those who get it so horribly wrong. These misconceptions can be damaging and should be challenged.
Let’s remind them that dads are parents too.