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Dad *.  He’s got quite the reputation, according to many online and offline sources.  Either he’s incompetent / lazy / absent or he’s saintly simply by “babysitting” his own children.  In the same way that I get cross about the way that women are stereotyped on screen, I imagine that some Dads* are also a bit fed up of their labels.  They may be deserved in some cases, but I’d like to advocate for Give Dads a Chance.

* Before I go any further, I want to address the asterisk.  I am using Dad here as shorthand for adult who spends least time with their children.  Not all families are hetero-normative.  Families where there is no Dad, with a Step-Dad, two Dads or where Dad is in the shoes Mum occupied in decades gone by may also identify with what follows.  I do not wish to exclude anyone, I’d just rather not have this conversation in every paragraph.  I am very happily married to a man who I respect and trust, so my experiences and examples are shaped by that.  If you’re in a relationship with a psychopath or serial killer please exercise your judgment on what’s appropriate!  I’m sorry if the Dad in your family really does live up to his stereotype, but consider trying out my advice before coming to that conclusion.  Just wanted to clear that up so I could make my main points without that distraction 🙂


Now that you know what my agenda is and are hopefully less distracted by “Dad”, I’d like to tell you some short stories from my teaching career and draw parallels with parenting:


I trained as a High School teacher in the UK about 15 years ago.  It’s both a bad idea and against the law to put a random adult in a classroom and expect them to start teaching straight away!  So I spent two weeks in a classroom listening to academics, then a few weeks watching experienced teachers.  Then I was allowed to try teaching for myself.  In my first half term of teaching, I taught just 10% of the lessons expected of a qualified teacher.  This percentage gradually ramped up to 70% by the end of my training year. Even as a qualified teacher, my first year was only at 90%.

As a pregnant woman, I received loads of advice. Some great, some OK and some less than helpful.  But at least I was included in the conversation.  My husband was congratulated on getting me pregnant (!) and not a lot else.  No preparatory lectures for him.  Society often forgets that Dad is a parent too.  Or just assumes that he is not as interested.

Maternity leave was an adjustment period for me – and what an adjustment period!  I’ve never known a learning curve so steep.  There was a short time that my husband was at home with us, some time that my parents came to help and then I was on my own.  In contrast, a Dad may get a short while of helping out (and if you exclusively breastfeed that’s the best that he can do) and then he’s back to work.  He has to switch between old world and new repeatedly.  Of course, some countries are better than others at giving Dad a chance to learn:

Paternity leave


By the time I had stopped exclusively breastfeeding and was able to leave my husband completely alone with our son for hours at a time, I was an expert whilst he was still a trainee.  This Mum learned on the job, whilst Dad learned his skills at evening classes.  Bear this in mind when judging Dad’s competence if your children are still very young.


Micro management

As a trainee teacher, everything I did was very closely scrutinised.  I received pages of written feedback on the lessons I taught: which students had not been paying full attention; which teaching methods were confusing; how much respect I had commanded; how much learning had taken place… you get the idea.  I could not wait to get the class to myself and try out my own ideas.  I found the scrutiny demoralising at times.  However, after the first term, some experienced teachers said that they liked the resources that I had made and asked for copies for use in their own lessons. It felt great to receive some recognition of my progress.

After the training year when I got my first paid position as a qualified teacher, I was held accountable. By students and their parents for the quality of my lessons, marking of their work and the behaviour of each class.  I was held accountable by Ofsted;  and by the Headteacher and Governors for the exam results of my students.  I no longer had a more experienced colleague watching my every move.  I had to learn for myself by trial and error, acting on feedback from all sources.

Dads are often closely scrutinised too.  Mum, I know you had / are having a tough time.  Wondering when the day would end, wondering if the baby would nap this time.  But it’s not a competition.  Step out of yours and try on Dad’s shoes for a second.  Feeling scrutinised by a boss is one thing, but Dad’s your peer.  An adult, capable of independent thought and action. Try being mindful over the next few days.  Does Dad have room to experiment?  To try a different way?  Does the baby really only like to eat with that exact spoon?  Or will your toddler try eating kale for Dad?!

Sorry Dads, there’s a flipside:  Dad is accountable for his mistakes.  When was the last time Dad parented solo for a extended time period?  Give Dad space to try things out his way, but let him be the one who deals with ALL of the immediate fall out.  If he thought it was a good idea to give the toddler ice cream for dinner and play an energetic game right before bed, Mum can go out for a drink with a friend (or hide in her bedroom, if preferred) and have a night off.  Either it will be fine, or Dad will decide for himself that you were right after all!  He might even positively surprise you.

There are several advantages to avoiding micromanagement:Dad can parent too

  • Mum gets to experience a child-free social life / solitude
  • Dad gets to play with his kid(s) more
  • Dad will come up with new games and fun activities that Mum didn’t think of
  • Dad has increased appreciation for what Mum does, having had first hand experience of all that being a parent involves.  It’s not as easy as it looks.
  • Dad is good at / interested in different things to Mum and kid(s) benefit from a new perspective
  • Dad will learn from his experiences over time.  (just like Mums, some will learn faster than others)
  • Two heads are better than one.  Dad may notice something that Mum missed
  • Dad may sometimes devise a better solution to a parenting problem and be a knowledgeable sounding board for Mum
  • Mum and Dad are now interchangeable, allowing flexibility in work and social arrangements
  • Mum realises that Dad is not an idiot (hopefully) and can be trusted 🙂

Different priorities

Remember how I had a lighter timetable in my training year?  This can be translated into parenting by saying that Dad will not be Mum’s carbon copy in terms of efficiency at first.  He may end up with kids in bed on time; fed, clean and happy but those dishes have not been washed and the kitchen is a mess!  I feel your frustration, Mum.  I really do.  Try to make some allowances and focus on Dad’s achievement this time if you can.  His learning curve can be steep too though, so don’t let him off the hook permanently!    You can always try applying SMART to Dad as he becomes more skilled in the art of household management 🙂  In our house, we have a small blackboard on which we all write out the jobs that need to be done.  If I keep them in my head, my husband has no idea of what my priorities are and vice versa.  Take away Dad’s excuse for not washing up.

Here’s your flipside though, Mum.  Dad may not have cleaned the car, but it’s possible that he did the grocery shopping / completed some paperwork / hung out the washing instead.  Household chores annoy people differently.  I don’t care very much if the grass grows long, but I hate it when the kitchen is messy.  My husband feels the exact opposite and is entitled to write his list on the blackboard too: a great opportunity to explore the division of labour and what is fair.  I’ll continue to trade dishes for tax returns for as long as I can.

Parenting priorities can also be a source of tension.  You both may not share the same vision and that’s difficult to manage.  If you’re reading this before you have a family, it’s a great idea to talk about what you imagine before a baby arrives.  Luckily for us, my husband and I are almost completely agreed on how to parent, but there is still work involved.  We regularly talk about issues after our son is asleep and try to develop agreed upon solutions.  Presenting a united front to our son is important, so we discuss differences of opinion in private.

Lets try to give Dads everywhere some credit – and more responsibility too.  Next time a kid is acting out in public, glare at the Dad for a change!  It’s equal opportunity judgment!


Original article from:


A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently.  With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!

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A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently. With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!

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