I read an article in a newspaper (I think it was The Telegraph) a while back about how there is a new generation of dads emerging. These new kind of dads do the dishes, hoover the carpet, make dinner. In fact some even go so far as to be the primary care giver whilst mum goes out to earn the wage. Well goody for them. What do they want, a medal?
Women have been doing these jobs for ages and they certainly haven’t won any medals. In fact the press largely ignores their ongoing selfless contribution to raising the next generation of adults. But boy golly, a dad lends a hand to the running of a house and it is worth a feature article. Give me a break.
Let me tell you about the next generation of dads as I observe it.
1. Do Over Dad. This is the dad that has decided he isn’t quite happy with the wife and family he made the first time so he has decided to abandon them and do it all over again with a new woman and new children. This dad rarely visits his first children. If he does, it rarely ends in a satisfactory outcome for the children and the now single mother is left wiping the tears of children disappointed when these dads don’t turn up at their football matches or music concerts or dramatic performances. This dad is never around when they are sick or have nightmares in the middle of the night. The dad prefers to pretend that the first family never happened.
2. Absent Dad. This is the dad that left. And never came back. Ever.
3. Career Dad. This is the dad so obsessed with himself and his career that he never or rarely makes it home to have dinner with his children. He rarely, if ever, attends school meetings with the teacher because the only value he imagines himself as having is earning more money or getting an outstanding performance appraisal from his boss who would quite frankly make him redundant with the nod of a head if it was between him or the dad. He’s fooling himself and leaving his children feeling abandoned.
4. Late Again Dad. This is the dad who never makes it in time to anything. He misses the first half of the birthday party because he wanted to watch the last half of the football match on television or finish his pint at the pub. The message this dad sends to his children is that the time he spends away from his children is worth more to him than the time he spends with his children.
5. Mobile Device Dad. This is the dad that is there in body but absent in mind. He stands apart from the group of parents whilst fast and furiously typing away on his blackberry/iPhone/mobile device of choice. He is so self important he can’t be bothered to engage with anyone. He takes phone calls or replies to emails during dinner or a rainy Saturday at the cinema.
So maybe there is an increase of dads more fully engaged in family life. But I would argue there is a larger group of dads less engaged in family life who are abdicating responsibility for their family to their wife/partner whilst pursuing a self serving agenda.
Let me just say before everyone spams the heck out of my comments, there are a lot of great dads out there. My husband is way more engaged in our children’s lives than my father ever was. He used to do the majority of nappy changes (I have a weak gag reflux – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). He does way more of the bath time than I do since I once read an article that children get better academic results if they are given bath time by their dad (I made him read it and have been using it ever since.) My husband has been known to make a wicked lasagna. It is fair to say that we don’t have a traditional divide of household duties in our home just like many of you out there.
And to be fair there ain’t nothing wrong with the traditional divide if that suits each skill set. Whilst my husband can just about manage to cook a meal, he can’t plan a a weekly meal schedule or do the grocery shopping (without wildly exceeding our budget), and trust me when he’s done every dish in the kitchen is dirty so I don’t let him do it very often.
What I couldn’t abide was this self congratulating attitude in the article that dads were doing so much better than they used. Looking round, that’s not what I see. Unless we have ridiculously low expectations of the men among us. And I know that can’t be true. Or maybe it is if you read The Telegraph.