Society has changed and everywhere we look, we see evidence that many parenting roles are interchangeable and not set in stone.
That’s why I find it incredulous that so many misconceptions and stereotypes about fathers and fatherhood still persist. Just look at adverts and you’re likely to see dads portrayed as ridiculous and incompetent about running a house or utterly overwhelmed by their kids’ functional and emotional demands. More often than not, dad will be given a supporting role somewhere in the background being seen reading the paper or mowing the lawn, etc. but not as directly involved in the kids’ lives as the mum.
I’m not undermining the hugely important role that mothers play in the family. I’m simply questioning why we find it so normal to disregard or even poke fun at fathers’ roles and insist on spreading misconceptions including:
1. Dads are messy.
Maybe this one comes from the stereotypical teen boy who has a permanently messy room. For some reason, people assume dads don’t outgrow that stage or that all of us are inherently messy. You would think we inhabit a world of chaos from our wardrobes to the car and office desks. Of course, this is patently untrue. I’m personally a pretty neat and organized guy and I detest clutter. I just can’t live or thrive in disorganization and most days, I’m the one who tidies the house. Messiness is more of a personality issue than a gender one so let’s stop assuming that to be a man is to be messy.
2. Dads can’t cook.
Look, some of the world’s greatest chefs are men so assuming that dads are incapable of preparing nutritious meals for their families on account of their gender is just nonsense. Although it took some time to get the hang of it, I’ve become pretty comfortable creating things in the kitchen. Within the last few months of putting my New Year’s Resolution to the test, I have actually used my wife’s Bosch mixer more than she has! I love making bread, cookies and other baked goodies for my family and friends. My sons can also hold their own in the kitchen, having been taught by yours truly.
3. Dads are all or nothing with discipline.
I’ve heard it said that dads are either the only ones who discipline their kids or they prefer to be more passive, leaving all the discipline stuff to mums. My wife is actually more direct and firm with the kids than I am. I’m more the talk-it-out kind of father and this works for us. The disciplinarian role has more to do with a parent’s character than being a gender-specific role and what works for one family might be inappropriate for another.
4. Dads don’t have much time to spend with kids.
That might’ve been true 40-50 years ago but nowadays we’re seeing more work-at-home dads, like me, or those who choose to work part-time so they can spend more time with their kids. The highlight of my week is the special one-on-one date I have with each of my kids. We just hang out and do whatever they want to do. This has strengthened our bond and given me fascinating insights into their characters.
Just because one or more of these misconceptions might be true for some dads doesn’t mean they apply to all of us. I believe it’s time we stopped assuming that dads are incapable of being good parents and instead focus on giving them the support and encouragement they need.