Dear Dad To Be…

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Hit any of the images in this post to be taken off to see the video in question. But hurry back.

I’m conflicted.

This video popped up in my Facebook feed and within ten seconds I’m questioning whether or not I’m a terrible hypocrite. I write about this sort of stuff all the time – beating around with stereotypes can be a great way to grab a laugh while squeezing in a point – but this video made me feel talked down to.

So I have to ask, is this video as condescending as it feels? Am I being silly and reading into it too much?

I’d like to think I’m not creating this sort of internal atmosphere when I write my lists on the blog, like Ten Things New Dads Should Know About New Mums or Ten Things I’ve Learned About Housework.

I’d also like to think I make fun of some common problems which are more in need of shifting gears than changing modes of transport. They’re tweaking and highlighting occasional oversights, if anything. Certainly, from the readers’ comments on Facebook when I post them, the things I write about aren’t confined to these four walls. People are almost universally good natured about it too, even when they link their partners in so they can have a read and a giggle.

But am I right to think that?

Several years ago, in I think my second year of blogging, I was approached by a couple of other daddy bloggers for my views on the stereotypical dad being a blunderer and not as good at parenting as their wife.

“That’s me to a tee,” I told them.

And it is. But it doesn’t mean I don’t do a good job, or that I’m a bad parent. It just means I don’t care about a lot of stuff, like if the kids go to the shops in bare feet and pjs, and I stuff up a lot of things, like remembering parent teacher nights and which bit of pink belongs to which of my girls, because my head is off with the fairies. Or more likely, in a book or iPhone. It doesn’t mean I don’t care or try or help. I just acknowledge Tracey hands down does it better. Just like she will acknowledge I make a better risotto or banana cake. Doesn’t mean she can’t, won’t or doesn’t cook nice meals – usually spaghetti bog.

“What about when they say we’re babysitting our own kids?” I was asked pointedly.

“Even I say I’m babysitting my own kids,” I told them.

But then I used to say it when I was a single dad to my oldest two and their primary carer too. And Tracey and I both say it when the other parent is dumping the little ‘angels’ on us to go shopping or socialising. It’s part of our fun.

There is, of course, a point to be made how there’s a power in language and words beyond what is simply said. It’s what’s implied. But I also think often offence is taken, not given. As in, I’m sure some of my jokes can be quite offensive, but if I’m not saying them to offend you then am I still to be considered a dick? I love the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. I think some people give themselves way too much scope to feel shitty about something.

Am I offended by what this video says? No, that’s not it. I’m more disappointed. It feels like I’m being talked down to by a bit of a knobber. Like I don’t know this basic stuff about relationships and being a decent husband, or just a decent person.

Do I think there are guys out there who need to be told to do these things? Of course there are. But do I think this video will make a difference to their home life? Nope. Here’s the thing: selfish, lazy, inconsiderate asshats generally know they’re selfish, lazy, inconsiderate asshats and are okay with that.

So why has this video disappointed me? I guess, because it’s serious. There are some genuinely good points here – not the bath one – but there’s been no attempt to hide the fact they think dads-to-be are inherently useless. Or for that matter, that mothers-to-be are super duper fragile. For the record, fragile is not a word I’d use to describe my wife when she was pregnant. She was a force of friggin’ nature. She was in her element. She was, occasionally, scary.

So like I say, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I not at all offended by this video. Emotionally, it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not about me. It’s not about most guys I know.

But intellectually, if I can be so bold as to use that word in reference to myself, I can see it comes from a sad little place where guys are stereotypically useless and need to be taken by the hand and encouraged to grow up and be big boys now, tying our laces and adding milk to our cereal all by ourselves. That sort of thing. And surely that isn’t necessary because that’s also not any guys I know.

The dads I see around the place are awesome. They’re involved in their kids’ lives and you can tell they love being a father – a parent. It’s the work the last few generations have done in breaking down of the traditional ‘man works and is in charge’ and ‘the little woman is expected to keep house’ which has made it all so much better these days, meaning we surly don’t need these sorts of nonsense videos. Our personal lives aren’t governed by some stupid set of antiquitated gender specific roles and…well, stereotypes. We can all just get on with loving each other and being the best we can be, as a couple, parent and individual.

Tell me if I’m wrong. I’m seriously up for discussion on this because I just don’t know. Tracey seemed to like the sentiment behind the video until I said why I wasn’t fussed, and then she sort of saw my point. Should I be actually offended? Is disappointed strong enough? Should I instead be pleased with the ad?

I don’t know.

But I’m spent. Rant over. Time for bed.

Well, after I explain this one more thing. For no good reason other than it made me feel good to get a bit of a chuckle out of this, I’ve taken it upon myself to rewrite the messages the video should have used. I think I owe you this after dumping on you.

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This is the correct distance between you and your partner when she’s suffering morning sickness. Any closer and you’re in the splatter zone, and that just makes more washing for the poor girl. (Don’t be offended – that, was one of them  jokes I was talking about)
Jeezus, if your wife doesn't feel like sex don't be a dick about it - see what I did there? You've got two hands, bigfella. Alternate them for variety maybe? And hang out for the third trimester. You will be the one begging her for a break. My advice? Keep up your fluids.
If your wife doesn’t feel like sex, don’t be a dick about it (see what I did there?) You’ve got two hands, bigfella. Alternate them for variety maybe? And hang out for the third trimester. You will be the one begging her for a break. My advice? Keep up your fluids.
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This guy is showing you the ‘don’t do it like this’ stance. You stand between your pregnant partner and the fridge and you’re gonna want to cup those hands over your dangle berries.
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You need to go with your wife because she might keep the gender a secret and then say ‘you can pick the boy name and I’ll pick the girl name’. They’re crafty like that, these women folk. And also, don’t joke with the specialist. They’ve heard them all. At least seven times from me.
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No. These are her last months of ever being alone in the bathroom. Let her have them. But you might make her a cuppa tea and take it in if you want to check out her rack. 
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Pregnancy or not, if you don’t do this already you need to reassess the sentences coming out your mouth.
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If you have this dance move in your disco arsenal it’s a wonder you were given the opportunity to impregnate a woman. Stop that shit immediately. There are about to be children present. Also, don’t walk around the house in shorts and black socks or your child won’t get a sibling.
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Love and care for her, yes. Protect her? From what? You go up against my pregnant wife and I’m calling you an ambulance. Her tongue can cause you permanent brain damage.  Actually, there is this one thing you can protect her from – unwanted advice. Probably from your mother.
Even though your partner doesn't feel much like sex between vomiting and napping to make eyebrows, as tempting as warm washing is, don't get caught doing this. There's no coming back from that.
Even though your partner doesn’t feel much like sex between vomiting and napping to make eyebrows, as tempting as warm washing is, don’t get caught doing this. There’s no coming back from that.

Raising a family on little more than laughs.

7 Comments

  • That Dear Dad thing came up on my feed too. I didn’t actually make it past the second image because it was obviously rubbish, possibly aimed directly at the author’s useless and thoughtless partner? She should probably ditch him if she’s resorting to making sad graphics hoping to turn him around. Your version, on the other hand, was well worth the read!

  • If my husband had tried to give me a bath when I was pregnant…. I would of drowned him in that bath….. that said, our bath was a tiny pitiful thing that I didn’t fit in, not if I ever wanted to get out. Surely the only guy who needs a guide like this is the one that knocked up his girlfriend after a month or so and now has to ‘man up’?

  • Hey Bruce, totally agree. It’s like the default position for perceiving dads. As dads we can joke about it, but it really is quite condescending for all men. And we wonder why there are a lot of men who don’t want to become dads…

  • I actually think it’s condescending and patronising to women as well as to men…”she might be feeling lonely” “bath her yourself”

    I get the impression, though, that’s it’s written by someone who’s first language may not be English. Hence although the words are correct, it lacks the nuances required to make it a sweet helpful little video instead of one that patronises both men and women.

    Ahhh the subtleties of language.

  • Hate the adverts on TV that show the mum saving the day from “dopey dad” and doing that stupid smug smile. FFS I don’t know which section of drawer I’m supposed to put the washing powder in, I quite often give the kids nutella sandwiches after staring at the fridge for 10mins and who knew the school socks came in winter, summer and sports!! My husband is all over that stuff.

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