Over many years, I’ve read books and articles about fatherhood and I’ve listened to speakers, commentators and experts, and most of them have told me that I need to be doing a better job. I’m led to believe that mothers know more, think more and do more. They need a rest, and I need to buck my ideas up and step up to the plate. If I’m honest, I know I’ve even contributed to this culture in some of the things I’ve written and said myself. But it all leads to men becoming the assistant parent – that’s a man’s role, his destiny.
But I just don’t believe it. Being a man, a dad, does not mean I am automatically a problem who needs solving, a shirker who needs to work harder, a drifter who needs rescuing. If I am any of those things, it is not because I am a man, a dad. Gender has nothing to do with it.
I long to read a writer who tells me what a great job I’m doing, hear a speaker who says I need not feel inadequate and guilty. Let’s get things straight: I’m not opposed to being challenged. I enjoy being challenged. A challenge spurs me on and keeps me on top of my game – but I’m more responsive when the challenge comes in the form of a question and not as an already formed and deep-seated conclusion made about me because I’m a male parent.
I’m not lazy just because I’m a dad. I’m not incapable because I’m a dad. I’m not feckless because I’m a dad. I’m not unreliable because I’m a dad. I’m not childish because I’m a dad. So please don’t tell me that I am. Instead, tell me that I’m needed. Tell me that I’m essential, even. Tell me that I’m doing a great job, that I know what I’m doing. Tell me that I’m a success. I know I’m not perfect, and I know I’m not the best dad in the world, but I love my children with a depth that surprises even me, and I’m doing my very best.
Thankfully, I’m seeing seeds of change. Lately I’ve been tweeting, using #dadvert – examples of businesses using really positive images of fathers in order to sell their products – but it’s left me asking: why are other organisations such as schools, churches and medical services lagging behind?
Culture needs to change. Dads must be celebrated. We are adventurers. We are responsible. We are risk-takers. We are wise. We are constant. We are inspiring. We are valuable. We are honourable. We are nurturing. We are decent.
We are dads.