“No man is an island” wrote the metaphysical poet John Donne once upon a time. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that I’ll feel like one on Saturday, though. I’ll be one of a select few men in a relative sea of women. Being a male parent blogger, I’m used to being outnumbered both online and in real life at conferences. It’s just as well then, as I’m off to Mumsnet’s Blogfest and only know of two other dads who are going!
I’m nervous about it, but only because it’s an event I haven’t been to before. Even so, I’m very much looking forward to seeing friends I’ve made at other conferences and also to the keynotes and roundtables, so it promises to be a great day. I know I’m going to be asked the following question at least half a dozen times though, so thought I’d answer it now. What’s it like being a man in a community dominated by women?
It’s certainly strange on the face of it, but I wonder whether that’s because I’m inadvertently reminded of the fact that I’m a little different so often. Having been to BritMums Live three times and on the radio on a handful of occasions too – I have a face for it, you see – it’s something I’ve come to expect to crop up in conversation.
Of course, it’s unusual being in the minority, but it’s not a bad thing. I certainly don’t feel out of place or unwelcome. I was the only boy in the ward when I was born and one of just three in my class at primary school, so I think that set out the stall. I’ve never really been one of the lads and my stag do was one of the tamest nights out I’ve ever been on!
So I’m happy with things in the parent blogging community. It’s friendly and I’m treated as an equal – but what about outside it? As I can’t help but look at parenting from a male point of view, one of my pet peeves is the way that dads aren’t treated as such elsewhere.
Shortly after I became a dad for the first time, for example, I was asked to leave the hospital as it was outside visiting hours. Apparently, my desire to support my wife after a long and painful birth and to bond with my son didn’t count for anything. I was just a ‘visitor’.
Then there are the numerous marketing campaigns from brands that seem to think that dads are either second-class parents or don’t have an interest in taking care of their children at all.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen baby and toddler products aimed solely at mums – which, of course, doesn’t do either gender any favour – and the few men you do see on such adverts are feckless figures of fun who are capable of little more than being outwitted by the most basic of tasks. And don’t even get me started on Daddy Pig…
At least it’s nothing like that in this community of like-minded people who both have children and write blogs. I’ve found a place I’m happy in, so that’ll do me.
Going back to the original metaphor, I stick by the suggestion that no man is an island. There’s no doubt that there are some unpredictable waters out there, but I’d contest that the parent blogging community is an enlightened island which defiantly rises above them.