With Father’s Day almost upon us, dads are very much in the spotlight at the moment. I’ve read numerous articles and blog posts lately that focus on us – particularly those about the need for us to be seen as equal parents.
This is great, of course. Being part of the discussion represents an important step towards dads being thought of as equal – because, sadly, we’re still not.
That said, there are still many things that need to change to help things along. Here are some of the things that I’d like to see change for the better.
Being allowed in maternity wards outside visiting hours
This may sound like a rather specific complaint, but I’ve encountered it twice and know of many others who have too. Being treated as nothing more than a visitor soon after becoming a parent is a miserable experience.
Having a baby is a life-changing event for a family and partners should be allowed to stay without question. It’s frankly bizarre that, in some hospitals, Bounty reps are allowed to bother new mums but dads can’t stay if their child is born outside visiting hours.
A fairer approach to paternity leave
Statutory paternity leave is still only two weeks. It’s at a reduced rate of pay too and some families simply can’t afford the drop in earnings. As a result, lots of new dads take annual leave instead. Similarly, shared parental leave is only available to a relative few.
Two weeks isn’t nearly enough time to bond with a new baby. It puts dads at a huge disadvantage from day one. So workplace legislation needs to change. While some enlightened employers have started offering dads more flexible arrangements, most won’t because there’s nothing legal forcing them to do so.
Wider availability of changing facilities
Changing a baby’s nappy on a toilet floor is a sad rite of passage for most dads. It’s a horrible experience for all concerned. Yet there’s still a huge shortage of changing facilities that men can use as most are in female toilets.
Installing wall-mounted changing tables in male toilets or adding more non-gender-specific baby changing facilities isn’t exactly rocket science. But so many places haven’t bothered and this just demonstrates a lack of willingness to acknowledge dads as equal parents and that has to change.
An end to the use of ‘dad’ as an insult
Sadly, dad bashing is still alive and well and, in many cases, people do it without thinking. At this time of year, there’s always at least one brand that seeks to celebrate dads via the mediums of telling jokes or dance.
But prefacing ‘dancing’ or ‘jokes’ – or any number of other things – with ‘dad’ is a backhanded compliment at best. What people mean when they use ‘dad’ in these phrases is essentially something to the effect of ‘a bit shit’. And that’s a problem.
A more accurate portrayal in media and ads
Things have improved slightly on this front in recent years but they still have a long way to go. With the exception of gestation and breastfeeding, we can do everything that mums can do and just as competently to boot. In my book, that makes us equal parents.
But that isn’t generally reflected in adverts and the media. All too often, dads are portrayed as out of their depth when it comes to looking after their own children and that’s just plain wrong.
An end to praise for being hands-on parents
A flipside to the previous point now; people need to stop congratulating dads for doing everyday things. Looking after your children is a privilege and duty that no parent should be exempt from and that doesn’t require comment.
It’s simultaneously patronising to dads and insulting to mums who neither seek nor receive congratulations for doing such things. Dishing out superlatives to dads only serves to reinforce the incorrect and outdated view that parenting is only for mums.
Which changes would you like to see made for dads to be seen as equal parents?