In a couple of our recent posts, we’ve had some very striking anecdotes about obstacles that fathers face when trying to do an equal share of childcare. On Helping Fathers Get Involved, Telbort wrote:
I’ve been very keen to be involved as much as possible, but as a male, my efforts were derided by professionals – for example, the maternity nurse took the baby away from me during my half-arsed attempt at a nappy change, and said “your a man you don’t know what you’re doing” whilst my partner, who could barely stand after the caesarean, was instructed to get on with it. Also, my motives in wanting to take on a fair share of responsibility of caring have been viewed with some suspiscion. There are many instances, but two stand-out.
First, during my first visit to a “parents” room (at a shopping centre) where I went to feed and change Telbort jnr two mothers in the room quickly bundled up their babies, eyed me with a knowing (and disaproving) look, and left indignantly.
Second, and most disturbing to me, was the following. Whilst we’re not in the U.K., so don’t have access to any statutory parental leave, my University has tried to create policies which allow fathers the same amount of paid parental leave as mothers. The university takes this very seriously. However, when I enquired, the administrator responsible for the scheme expressed some scepticism about the scheme’s value, and suggested that as a male I was unlikely to help my partner and would probably use the time to play golf.
And on the Equally Shared Parenting post extendedlp wrote:
our gp’s surgery; our health visitor; the nursery school; and on and on all only talk to ME. they only have time for mum. they don’t even ring out home (shared) number: they ring *my* mobile. with nursery, i got in the habit of saying ‘i’m sorry, i don’t handle this sort of thing [didn’t matter what sort of thing it was], so you’ll need to ring my husband’, and they did eventually sort of get the picture. from the health visitor, dad taking baby in for his weekly checks resulted, first, in questions like “and where is mum?” and eventually with health visitor ringing my mobile and demanding to visit me and baby at our home. my child is older now, and so i’m braver, so i’ve instructed mr lp that the next time he gets an “and where is mum?” he must reply “at home watching football on the telly with a big cold can of lager in her hand”.
We need to hear these stories, because we’re never going to get gender justice until fathers are able to be equally involved in parenting. So please, leave us more stories in comments. (And, as a side note, I find them incredibly useful in teaching. My students are generally very shocked to hear about these sorts of barriers.)