Why we should finally call time on dad bashing

As a parent blogger, I receive a lot of press releases about kids’ books. One that arrived recently really stood out. At first for good reasons and then quite the opposite.

The book in question features rhyming verse and colourful illustrations about fathers looking after their kids. “Brilliant!” I thought. “A title that celebrates hands-on dads!” But then I read some of the extracts.

Of the five double-page spreads I found both in the press release and via Google, three contained backhanded compliments.

For the record, these were that dads don’t care about their kids’ appearances, are a soft touch when it comes to giving sugary snacks and can’t read to them without nodding off.

So near yet so far. While it’s great to see dads being acknowledged as caring for their kids, the insinuation is that we’re not as good as mums. And I think that communicating this to children sends out a bad message.

It may seem innocuous to some, but I’ve become finely attuned to it since becoming a dad. However mild and affectionate they may appear to be, portrayals like this perpetuate the ridiculous myth that dads are second-class parents. Let’s call it what it is: everyday sexism.

In the same way that children shouldn’t be taught that women can’t do certain jobs, they shouldn’t grow up thinking that men make poor parents.

This book is just one example. Like a great many others that we’ve read, it has honourable intentions but ultimately fails to achieve its own raison d’être.

It’s not just in books, of course. From Daddy Pig to Homer Simpson, there are numerous dads on TV shows and adverts who exist solely as feckless figures of fun.

They teach children that, however well-meaning father figures are, they’re either not quite the finished product or nowhere near it.

This carries over to the real world. It’s apparently okay for complete strangers to ask dads whether it’s mum’s day off. Would we say things like this to a mum we don’t know? Of course we wouldn’t!

Similarly, I know of many dads – myself included – who haven’t been allowed to stay overnight in hospital after the birth of their children as they were merely considered to be visitors.

Dad bashing has become so normal and engrained in our culture that it seems to have become acceptable. And it has to stop. Is it any wonder that men still don’t get the same parental leave choices as women when society views us this way?

Father’s Day is on the horizon. Let’s take this as an opportunity to celebrate all the great things about dads. Just the good stuff. No backhanded compliments or pointing out incorrect yet stereotypical male traits.

Why not start by sharing something great about your dad, father figure or partner via the comments below?

9 Comments
  • John Adams
    June 6, 2018

    Och, it’s that time of year Tom, the time when we have to tolerate a certain number of well meant but poorly thought marketing campaigns. Going easy on sugary snacks? That’s not me! I think my wife would freely admit it’s me that keeps the kids active and does the most to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Dads are no better than mums, but we’re not worse either.

  • Tim Bonner
    June 6, 2018

    My dad is a lifesaver when it comes to DIY. There’s nothing he can’t put his hand to. I wish I’d learnt more from him in that regard!

    I’ve suffered a fair amount of dad bashing, particularly when I first gave up work to look after the kids. Now the kids are at school it’s all about when I’m returning to work. It gets to me sometimes and I wish people would keep their comments to themselves.

    I do plan to go back to work next year but I don’t need to be reminded that I’m a stay at home dad. I already know!

  • Nige
    June 6, 2018

    I have suffered a certain amount of dad bashing and it’s seriously irritating. I can turn my hand to anything and easily multitask. As John yes it’s that moment when some of campaigns are absurd great read mate and spot on

  • Mary Lynn White
    June 6, 2018

    Your point is well-taken! Dads work hard to be caring parents and children don’t need to get the message that they aren’t trying just as hard a moms. My father was not involved with us much, but my nephews and their friends are totally engaged and really do share the responsibility equally. So glad to see this generation getting it right!
    Thanks for you post!

  • Bob
    June 6, 2018

    Thanks for posting this. I feel like this is a really new though to have – emerging really only in the last one to two decades. I think as far as large scale marketing, there’s no end in sight, and it doesn’t really bother me that some nameless/faceless company is relying on generalities.

    What bothers me is things like commenter Tim Bonner said – the judgement that dad face when they are the primary caregiver – even if not for the majority of the time, even if just for the day.

  • Simon
    June 6, 2018

    A good piece “Tim”. Certainly some double standards here.

  • Ian Buckingham
    June 6, 2018

    Have shared this on Linkedin.
    Really well written.
    It is a particularly insidious issue and part of the reason why, instead of another business book, I wrote a trilogy of children’s books filled with positive role models of both sexes.
    When your own kids start to notice that the dads are always the idiots, it’s time to act.

  • kate
    June 7, 2018

    my dad didn’t and still mostly doesn’t provide much more than the stereotypical dad of the tv. This encouraged me to strive for a more equal balance for my own children. I wanted them to know their dad and for their dad to not miss out on seeing our children learn and grow and to be in all the memories made, rather than weekends or an occasional holiday. There have been certain unforeseen circumstances and as rough as they can some days be, that also led us towards needing a more equal role in the home. I work pt, my husband is a stay at home dad. He does more than me in many ways and the children are very aware of this, always straight to dad to get done what needs to be done. i feel we have established the role of a parent in our home not separated roles of mum and dad. Is that not how it should be? I massively appreciate my husband and although at times i’m not going to lie, I have relished just a little in the fact that he now truly does know and understand how stressful, tiring and rewarding the role of all singing, all dancing and always juggling parent can be, I cant help but at times also feel a little resentful of the praise and attention he receives for being a more hands on parent. As if he has achieved something that other parents and in particular mothers haven’t been doing with little recognition and full expectation for however many moons. Maybe its just a case of needing to be kinder to each other, having more mutual appreciation, recognizing that everyone of us is just doing our best as parents, partners and people and maybe just every now and then saying it our loud to each other.

    • Ian Buckingham
      June 7, 2018

      Well said. When our generation went to school as equals, then HE as equals, then worked as equals, then shared parenting, then worked together to balance provision vs chidcare on an ongoing basis, shared household tasks, cooking, cleaning, tending and DIY….it does more than sting when 1950s stereotypes appear in our children’s literature either presenting the “Little lady” at home while the great provider conquers work or the useless dad in the face of supermum. Bad enough having in-laws with their opinions and insecurities, we don’t need our kids learning those stereotypes too.

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