I did not have an immaculate conception.
My children are 50/50 mine and my husband’s.
And yet when I’m popping out to meet friends for dinner, get my hair done or see a film at the cinema for a child-free treat, we both often refer to it as “daddy day care”.
We do it flippantly without really thinking about what it means. But when I analyse it, it really sends out the wrong message about who dads are in today’s society and the role they play as parents.
It’s 2017, not the 1950s. Dads don’t spend a token 30 minutes playing with their kids every Sunday while mum is slaving over a hot stove getting the roast done.
My husband plays with our kids whenever he is home, frequently does bath and bedtime, takes the children out to the park while I rest at home and cooks his share of dinners. He’s not a glorified babysitter, he’s my children’s father.
And yet, despite my feeling that we shouldn’t refer to dads as nothing more than a manny, I do think we’re kidding ourselves if we think mums and dads can divide the parenting duties perfectly in half.
My grandmother saw my other half changing our eldest daughter’s nappy when she was a few weeks old and remarked my grandfather didn’t change a single nappy. Can you imagine the reaction to such a man today? The Mumsnet chat room would implode with the rage of millions of seriously p***ed off women.
My dad was a different story. He was always very hands on with us.
And yet it’s still my mum who I can recall doing the lion’s share of the nitty gritty stuff. Making sure we had clothes, making sure we ate right, making sure we had a proper bedtime and comforting us when we cried.
It’s not that my dad wasn’t there at every step, it’s just mums seem to fall naturally into the role of primary caregiver. They get the practical organisation done and dole out the magic cuddles that make everything all better.
Is it a case of too many cooks spoil the broth, I wonder? If me and my other half were both up at the same time in the night debating what method we think should be used to make our baby go the f**k to sleep then I can guarantee no sleep would be achieved for anyone.
The fact is most mums and dads approach and experience child-rearing differently, both mentally and physically.
I carried our babies, delivered them safely into the world and then had to get to grips with breastfeeding a hungry newborn 24/7. I was knackered and emotional for at least the first six months with both kids.
I worried more about what could go wrong. Is the baby too hot or too cold? Is the baby eating enough? What the hell is that rash? Would giving formula ruin breastfeeding for us?
Although my husband does worry, he doesn’t sweat the details anywhere near as much as me.
Dads don’t have boobs, so unless you’re mixed feeding they can’t contribute in that department. Although my other half loves our kids just as much as me, unfortunately for him there are times when only mummy will do.
It’s mummy who babies recognise the most from their smell and voice, it’s mummy who can dispense the white stuff on demand and its mummy who comforts inconsolable babies through most of the sleepless nights.
And when it comes to my toddler, when she wants comfort or gets asked who she wants to take her to bed, she always says me. She also picks me when she needs her nappy changing, which is like the s***test compliment ever. .
So I needed him to be my support. To keep me going so I could care for our babies. Sometimes that meant stepping up to take over for part of the night. But mostly it meant enabling me to get sleep when I could and doing a lot of housework.
I acknowledge that every family has a different set-up, different work situations and different backgrounds. But it seems to me women just naturally fall into this primary caregiver role, no matter how militantly feminist we are.
Ultimately it’s what you and your other half feel comfortable with. If everyone is pulling their weight around the house in some way, then most couples are going to be pretty happy.
So I’m calling for an end to the “daddy day care” label in our house. And I would like to dodge a few more nappy changes in future too.
Do you divide the parenting duties 50/50 in your house? Does your other half do as many night feeds as you? I would love to hear how you approach this in your house.
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