Today’s post has been inspired by something that a friend shared with me (thanks T!) on the definition of a Full-Time Mother. The crux of the article was that whether we are stay-at-home mums or working mums, there’s no time at which we stop being a mother.
(It’s here is you want to have a read: http://thefeministbreeder.com/whether-you-work-for-pay-or-work-for-your-family-we-are-all-full-time-mothers/)
This got me thinking. Does the same apply to Dads? I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase ‘Full-time Father’, yet surely men don’t stop being dads when they are at work or away from their children in the same way that mothers do? Or am I extremely naïve?
Maybe my perspective has been skewed (in a good way) by Dh. From the outset he’s been an extremely involved father. Partly this has been down to necessity. Becoming a father to twins and a having a wife that works means that he can’t easily absolve himself of all parenting responsibility. Plus, he really wanted to be a hands-on father. We’ve always worked as a team and consider ourselves to be co-primary carers to R and G.
It’s raised a few eyebrows over the years though. I remember getting quite angry with the health visitor that paid no attention to Dh on her (brief) visits when the girls were tiny and addressed the answer to any question he posed to me. Friends and acquaintances of ours have been quite surprised that not only does he know the exact size clothes and shoes that the girls wear, but he happily buys them items of clothing without my say-so and I don’t throw my hands up in horror when he arrives home. He’s got pretty good taste actually. He’s taken them to the supermarket on his own countless times – I’ve only been brave enough to do it once. On days where I’m at work and he’s on a rest day and the girls are at home, he’ll take them to the zoo or the park with the minimum of fuss.
Of course, the girls drive him mad at times. There are times when the girls are in uber-herbert mode that he looks visibly relieved to be going to work so that he can escape the madness for a few hours. He’s not a saint for goodness sake, and nor would I expect him to be. It would be a hell of a lot for me to live up to for a start. There have been times when he’s had a bad day with the girls and I’ve dispatched him to B&Q (his favourite shop) to look at manly things like screw-heads and hammers and things. He’s not a wet lettuce either. He can do DIY, likes sport, plays extremely violent computer games (when the girls are in bed) and works in a pretty much exclusively male environment. Also, he puts up with me and I’m extremely high maintenance!
We’ve had glimpses of what a ‘traditional’ family set-up might be over the years. There have been (rare) times where he’s worked a normal day shift and I’ve been on leave. I thought he might really enjoy coming home to a clean house, quiet children and dinner on the table but while the novelty of the latter held some appeal, he confessed to finding it ‘a bit weird’. Of course, it works for plenty of families and that’s great. It just wouldn’t work for us.
I can’t quite work out if our situation is unusual or not. We live in supposedly enlightened times but I know plenty of men that would run a mile at the sight of a smelly bulging nappy and are genuinely surprised when they are informed that their lives are going to change dramatically when the baby arrives. I know that dh doesn’t stop being a father when he’s at work or out drinking with his friends. I wouldn’t dare to suggest for even a second that he’s a part-time father.
I think the difference is that there’s a perception that a man can ‘walk away’ from fatherhood but that a woman can’t stop being a mother. In my experience this is entirely wrong. Therefore, I believe that Dh can describe himself as a full-time father, as can every other committed dad. It’s doing them a disservice to suggest otherwise.