By Steffen Becker – Parent to Oscar and Emmi
Women have a distinct advantage over men in the game we call parenting, which is that they get to “meet” the little one roughly 9 months before daddy does. Just imagine a group of three friends. Two of those spent the last 9 months doing literally everything together and share this life-changing event where one buddy gives life to the another. And then you (the dad) enter the scene maybe at that life-changing event. And this is supposed to be a level playing field? Of course it’s not. Moreover – the friend who’s known the other one the longest also now provides nutritious food whenever that friend screams for it? Level playing field? I don’t think so.
So what’s a dad to do? Just tag along with the two best friends and always be the 3rd wheel? Or do you buckle down, show some effort and go the extra mile for true parental equality? I chose the latter – at least I’d like to think that I did. Was it easy? Hell no. I had to learn to stand my ground and my wife had to learn to let go and to trust me. I think in society there still is an innate trust in a mother and her instinct (and rightfully so), but that same level of trust doesn’t exist for fathers (yet).
Families need two things for there to be an involved father:
- A father who wants to be empowered and claims that space for himself, and
- A mother who is willing to provide that space by letting go of part of what she considers to be “her space”.
Like with most things in a partnership, communication is vital. I think that as fathers, we need to be more active and willing to claim that space for ourselves and we should communicate this not only to the mother of our children but to friends, colleagues and the rest of the world.
I would like to share some of my experiences which left me speechless most of the time because I am still unsure about whether these comments came from admiration, discrimination or something in between.
“So you are babysitting today!” – A female cashier at the grocery store when she saw me along with my two kids. I’ll quote Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory here: “Don’t call it babysitting; it’s your kids, it’s called parenting.”
“Wow! You are so brave” – Random person at the mall, when I went shopping with my kids. The question for me here is, am I supposedly brave because I dared to leave the house with my kids? Am I not capable of doing that? Has anybody ever said that sentence to a mother? I don’t think so – otherwise it would be the most used sentence in the world.
“Where is your wife?” – Uttered by a fellow guest on me attending a kid’s birthday party with my children when I was the only male adult in attendance.
“Can’t your wife do that?” – A colleague from work when I left work early to take my sick child to the doctor.
Dads, comment on whether you’ve come across similar instances and post it in the comments section.
To all the fathers out there – be loud and be proud and to all the mothers out there – you can relax, daddy’s got this. 😉