1) Men can’t multi-task.
I had to laugh not long ago when I read a story in the weekend paper about a Dad who’d taken his kids swimming for the first time, and because he was “multi-tasking up to his eyeballs” had got into the pool wearing his underpants instead of his swimmers. But rather than being evidence of men’s inability to multi-task, I think this just reflects the fact many men don’t get much practice at it with children! Don’t believe the hype, the truth is men can multi task; they just need the motivation, and they need to practice. When you readjust your priorities and become primarily child and household focused you tend to get a great deal of practice, and having you own child is the best motivation in the world to learn to look after them as well as you can. Men just need the opportunities to practice and the chance to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
2) Men don’t know how to look after a baby.
Yes, thanks for this one must go to the Daddy Day Care franchise and the host of ads that make Dads look like bumbling idiots (to sell, for eg, baby food). Once again it takes practice doesn’t it, and with practice comes increasing self-confidence. Most men who have taken on the stay-at-home role describe an initial sense of being suddenly struck with the enormity of being responsible for the welfare of this tiny person. But then again so do most Mums I’d wager. What the stay-at-home Dads find is that in time they discover that they can look after their babies and that their babies are happy, well looked after and loved.
3) A mother’s love is always best; small children need their mothers with them more than their fathers.
According to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick (writing in the Sunday Life 20th June 2010), “most Australians have a deeply held cultural belief that a good mother is someone who is always with her children”. But a cultural belief is not the same thing as a fact. Thankfully, humans are one of the 10% of mammal species where the male gets actively involved in childrearing, and thank goodness for that (apparently marmosets are also prone to co-parenting, thank you ABCs Catalyst). If you get the chance to talk to some stay home dads about it, you’ll find that the strong attachment that a baby has with their primary carer is related to the amount of time they spend with that person, as well as the quality of that time, not simply the gender of the care-giver. And so its possible for baby to be attached to dad just as strongly as mum.
4) Men don’t hear a baby crying at night
Are you kidding? Maybe if baby is sleeping in another house! It’s more likely that those men who do seem to sleep through night time wails, howls and sobbing have actually just got very used to their partners getting up to the children. Try leaving those same Dads at home overnight with their kids, and without Mum around, and see if they still sleep through then.
5) Stay-at-home Dads are lucky cos they get to play at home with the kids all day.
And look! There goes a great big pig flying through the sky! As any stay-at-home Mum knows, or in fact any parent with responsibilities at home, playing is only a fraction of what happens at home. It’s not that you never have time for those play times, its just that there’s a lot of other things to do at home to keep the place ticking over, in addition to the practical tasks of caring for baby (cleaning, washing, cooking etc etc). As one Dad said to me at a playgroup several years ago, after he’d been at home for two weeks while his wife was away, “ I thought this would be one long round of coffees and reading the paper, but its hard yakka!” Although some men seem blissfully unaware of the amount of effort it takes to ‘run’ a household, most women are painfully too aware of this fact.
6) If you see a man out and about with kids on a weekday, it means he’s babysitting.
Many a stay-at-home Dad has felt slighted by being greeted by some well meaning person at the shop/park etc with a cheerful ‘day off with the kids today eh? Have fun!’ Mums don’t do babysitting for their own children, do they? And neither do Dads, they both do, um, well,… parenting.
7) Dads are no good at shopping for kid’s clothes.
Typical quote to stay-at-home Dad at kids’ clothes shop, ‘Oh, you’re very good, most dads who come in here get the sizes wrong’. Hmm, think it’s that practice issue again. Hanging up the same size 2 tracksuit pants on the line several times a week tends to give you a good sense of how big your kids are…. I once overheard a bloke who was holding up a shirt for his son while shopping with his wife, say, ‘How about this one, it’s a size 10?’ The Mum replied, ‘Don’t be stupid. He’s a size 8!’ And the Dad finished with, ‘Well how am I supposed to know?!’ How indeed, when you’re not usually the one who does the shopping, or the washing…
8) Working Mums have to struggle with work-life balance, but working Dads don’t.
The basic assumption of the term ‘working mum’ is that Mums who go to work also do the majority of the child care and household work. But as the expectations on ‘working dads’ gradually increase, the responsibilities of a Dad’s role is also changing. It’s moving away from being purely a breadwinner role, to a role that also includes household duties and child care no matter what Dad’s work situation. When he’s at home he doesn’t sit down and read the paper and wait for his dinner, but gets involved with the day to day tasks of looking after kids and the house. So I think that the work-life balance will be an increasing issue for ‘working dads’ too. Not so much as a simple request to ‘spend more (recreational) time with the family’, but as a need to spend more time on parental responsibilities within the home.
9) Men can’t breastfeed.
Oh hang on, actually that’s true isn’t it…