For some fathers, taking care of their children is innate and totally normal, including doing the things that are traditionally taken care of by the mother like changing poop nappies, waking up at the butt crack of dawn for feedings and putting their bundle of joy to sleep. Why is it then that fathers are lauded like they found the cure for the coronavirus for being active in their children’s life?
As a father, my wife and I recently took my newly-born daughter for a routine eye test which involved having a medical device gently thrust against her eyes, we were told that my daughter needed to be sat up and confidently held to have this procedure done, my first instinct was to do exactly this, pick her up and hold her confidently so that the procedure could be done, “you’re such a hands on dad” the eye specialist said in a tone that made it seemed like I had been the first male in history to birth a child, and although I was been paid a compliment for my patriarchy, I couldn’t help but think n my head “You’re supposed to be a hands on dad, you dumb mother f*****r”. A throwback to Chris Rock’s 1996 HBO Special Bring The Pain, and is in reference to black fathers bragging about stuff that dads should be doing….Taking Care of Your Kids.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s the year 2020! gender roles and stereotypes have evolved significantly from the Don Draper world of being pigeon-holed into “liking” activities based on whether your genitals hang or are inverted and being a parent is no different. I seldomly see men complimenting women at hardware stores with a, “You’re putting a shelf together yourself, you’re so hands on” if anything with the feminist movement upon us, this would be offensive.
As modern men, taking care of our children financially, socially and emotionally including preparing feeds and changing dirty nappies should be seen as normal, the idea that a father’s only role within the family should be one of overtly masculinity and providing financially, robs not only the child of a deeper emotional attachment with their father but also robs the father of emotionally bonding with their child. There is a cycle of machismo amongst South African fathers, I remember in Primary School how after a Karate or action movie, boys would say things like “Yeah, Bruce Lee is strong. But my father could probably moer him” but never “Yeah, the chef on Kideo can bake good muffins, but my dad can bake much better” these are the same children who grew up wanting to be like their macho father.
We can sit back and blame society for men not being seen as natural caregivers, malls and restaurant almost never have baby changing stations in men’s bathrooms, television shows and movies often portray father’s as emotionally uninterested, and of course we live in a country where it’s not out of the norm for children to be raised completely by their mothers. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate compliments, my frustration lies in getting credit for something that you should be doing after all you wouldn’t compliment a tree for having leaves.
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Sean Saville is a Film and TV producer and is a father of two amazing daughters, 3 months and 10 years old whose aim is to be a hands on dad, whether it be changing diapers to playing Roblox online and chatting about life to both of them.