Year of the Dad

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Dad holding daughter by a lake

Happy Year of the Dad! In case you missed the memo, this year in Scotland we’re celebrating dads. However, a big barrier in celebrating dads is the fact that we’re led to believe that straight men cannot be held responsible for babies. We see this across the board, be it economically, culturally, or in our own relationships.

Despite all the political chat over the years, we still have crappy paternity arrangements, men don’t tend to work part time or flexibly, and many of them don’t do caring on their own unless their partner is having a real treat, like doing the food shop, or going to the loo on her own. [#mumlife]

Dad carrying child with a plungerCulturally, we’re full to the brim with lol films about useless hetero dads, because as we all know, men are hopeless fools when it comes to looking after people. Big spoiler: mums also have absolutely no clue about what we’re doing, we just are expected to know ‘instinctively’. Meanwhile, dads get a free pass to be clumsy and fail, and put nappies on backwards, but also be hilarious and just a big kid themselves because men! amirite? GAH.

I’m one half of a co-parenting team with my lovely partner, who also happens to be a great dad. Because he works some weekends, he was able to swing it so he got one day a week off to parent our daughter. On his own. Watch out baby, you’re in for some serious hijinks and bad outfits!

In all seriousness, he does a great job, because just like me he loves his daughter. I do not for one minute believe that identifying as one particular gender makes you inherently better at parenting. But I do believe that structural sexism makes the useless dad myth a reality.

Baby with eyebrows drawn onWhen we – and I mean society – tell dads that their role is minimal, when we don’t question how the workplace is structured to enable more men to work part time, when we don’t hold absent fathers to account for caring and paying, when we blame single parents (mums mainly) for anything and everything, we enable this culture of useless dads and grateful mums.

I’m not going to throw a big party for my partner for taking care of his daughter, because hello, that is what parents do. It actually kind of annoys me that I’m supposed to feel lucky that he ‘looks after’ our daughter so I can leave the house to do more than go to work. I am lucky to have my partner, but not because he co-parents, co-cooks and co-cleans. This should be a given. I’m lucky because he’s awesome, and funny and kind.

This year of the dad, let’s go big and work towards a revolution. I’m talking a structural overhaul. I’m talking an end to the idea that men babysit their own kids.

Dad teaching daughter to fishWe need proper paternity pay, work place equality, cultural changes around work/life balance. We also need better films about dads that don’t involve dead mums or redundancy (the only two reasons men seem to care for their kids in pop culture). You guys need to stop saying you’re babysitting, and stop saying you’re useless. You are not- you are just a parent winging it, just like us mums.

Parenting isn’t all tantrums and nappies; it’s beautiful, and rewarding and fun (you get to sing songs and paint)! You guys are missing out on all this wonder if you choose not to be active in your children’s lives. Your children need you, and equality needs you too. Let’s use the Year of the Dad to kill off the useless dad myth and start co-parenting!

Author imageEllie Hutchinson is a freelance feminist who also works in housing. She has supported folk at rape crisis centres, organised marches, hosted pro-feminist discos and compered pub quizzes all in the name of gender equality. She has trained people in everything from feminism, to online technology, to positive aspirations. She launched the first campaign in the UK to challenge the sharing of non-consensual images (otherwise known as revenge porn), founded Hollaback! Edinburgh and co-founded Edinburgh Feminist Network. She lives in Edinburgh with her daughter, her partner and her cat. Likes: family, friends, 90’s dance routines, mix tapes and the work of Channing Tatum. Dislikes: SEXISM. Tweet her @EllieHutch_

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