Why ‘dad skills’ lists don’t help anybody

With Father’s Day on the horizon, lists of the most important ‘dad skills’ are doing the rounds. With over seven years of blogging under my belt, I’ve seen a lot of these. And I really wish they weren’t a thing.

I can see why people make these lists as marketing tools, of course. Society is slowly starting to recognise the changing role of dads and it seems that we can’t help but define it in writing. Indeed, a lot of these dad skills lists aim to celebrate this gradual cultural shift. But I don’t think they’re very helpful.

Take one such list I read recently, for example. It comprised 25 skills, only one of which was specific to dads. And I think this proves a point. The remaining 24 abilities are ones that any parents can achieve.

With the exception of things like telling bad jokes, being up to speed with fashion trends and knowing the lyrics to chart songs, they’re all important skills that I’m not going to knock.

But they’re so painfully obvious that we shouldn’t need a list of them. Feeding your children, doing the school run and providing the best environment for a good education should be second nature to any parent.

I wondered whether similar lists get published around Mother’s Day. I’m sure there must be some out there, but I haven’t managed to find any that resembled the ones aimed at dads.

This doesn’t do either gender any favours. The suggestion is that knowing how to bring up children is intuitive to mums but not to dads. We need a to-do list, apparently!

The insult to mums, of course, is the suggestion that dads should somehow be celebrated for achieving basic tasks when they get no such recognition.

To quote the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard: “Once you label me, you negate me.” Yes, I only know that sentence thanks to a line in Wayne’s World, but the point it raises is an important one.

The act of labelling dads as needing what is essentially an instruction manual may not render us obsolete, but it grossly underestimates us.

These dad skills lists are like the punchline of old jokes concerning the reason for quitting jobs in tiddlywinks factories. They’re counterproductive.

And, no, that’s not a ‘dad joke’. It’s just a very bad pun that parents of both genders should keep to themselves.

What do you think of dad skills lists? Are they a help or a hindrance?

2 Comments
  • Nige
    June 8, 2018

    Totally agree mate. These lists just stereotype dads it irritates the hell out of me, because I know I can multitask or do any job as well as any other parent, male or female great read.

  • Dynamic Dad
    June 15, 2018

    Devils advocate: neither. They’re part of the shift, which is a good thing, but society as a whole has a lot of catching up to do.

    Equality is a progression and this recognition that we parent at all is a good first step. I see it something like this:

    1. Yay, dads can do parent stuff! Make a card!

    …several years later…

    2. All dads do parent stuff, what are these cards for?

    We’re somewhere in the “several years”.

    Should we need these lists, no. But, I’m not entirely convinced we (active parent dads) are in the majority. I know for me personally that I stepped my game up after separating – and I wish there had been more influence on me to have been a lot better, a lot earlier.

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