The Self Fulfilling Prophecy Of The Useless Father

The Self Fulfilling Prophecy Of The Useless Father


Is your newsfeed constantly flooded with “jokes” about how fathers need to be micromanaged to care for their own children? Or how men generally incapable of parenting, housework and keeping themselves alive? That men are irresponsible and essentially additional children?



The problem is the myth that men can’t manage making up bottles, or putting kids to sleep, or even dressing them, tells men; “Hey, you’re off the hook! Nobody expects you to be able to do these things, so don’t even bother. You won’t get it right anyway.”


Men are repeatedly told they’re not smart enough, intuitive enough, nurturing enough or tough enough to possibly parent as well as a mother. Motherhood is put on an impossible pedestal.

And how is that working out for us?


So often women are expected to do the majority of parenting and unpaid labour in the home (ie, housework) because apparently we’re the only ones who are actually able to get the job done. Women are just inherently better at it, right? Which means men can just check-out of parenting any time they want knowing we’ll happily pick up their slack.


They’re not even expected to manage taking care of themselves like the grown-ass adults they are.

9aa15c1c353d961f01f205b41a89ba8eOr allowed to make choices on their own.


Or even be trusted to buy potatoes.


Often in advertising men are portrayed as incompetent and baby products marketed as “Dad proof” – as though that is a lowest level a product needs to cater to.

And when a father minimally participate in parenting we practically through him a parade. Even further perpetuating the myth that men shouldn’t be expected to be capable of performing even the most basic tasks… If a dad baking a cake using a packet mix makes him a hero isn’t that  insulting to men? Do we really think SO LITTLE of fathers that this is a BIG DEAL?


Being an involved father should not be considered exceptional. It should be a minimum requirement of parenting. And when a woman has a partner who actually parents his own children she is not “lucky”…


What I want to know is – how are men painted as bumbling fools who can’t even dress a baby without explicit instructions and yet they represent approximately 70% of Parliamentary positions and 80% of Ministers? How can men be incapable of managing even simple bedtime routines and yet 87% of CEOs in Australia are men? Something doesn’t add up here.


If men are supposed to be these useless idiots who deserve a cookie and a pat on the head just for turning up how on earth are they running the country?

Doesn’t that seem like we’re all being conned?


The thing is men are JUST as capable as women and women are JUST as capable as men. It’s not that we have different skill sets, it’s not nature, it’s this bullshit we’re fed from birth so when we grow up we play out this same self perpetuating myth – that men are useless fathers, and women have to do it all for them – or at least watch them very closely so they don’t stuff up.

This isn’t just incredibly insulting to men and it’s disadvantaging women.

When men are going off to work earning 18.8% more than women, we’re at home being told – “No, YOU are doing the MOST IMPORTANT job of all. You are raising children. You are taking care of the house. Men couldn’t possibly do as good a job as you!”

Women in Australian on average do nearly twice as much housework as men and “as UN Women point out, more time spent at home means less time to develop skills and experience that will land women a decent, steady job in the paid workforce.”

Another sobering statistic is Australian women retire with 42% less superannuation than men.

… is it getting a little less funny yet?

So, how can we fix this?

Firstly, Dads, pull your shit together. Nobody would be making these jokes if you guys weren’t actually doing these things (#notallmen). Lean in and parent. Don’t wait to be asked or told how to do it. Just use some common sense and work it out. Google if you have to – we all do it too! Remember; nobody really knows what they’re doing anyway. “Mother knows best” is lie. Mothers don’t know, we’re making this up as we go along too.

Mums, trust him. If this is a man you chose to have babies with (and he’s not actually a danger to children) there was probably a reason you thought he would make a good dad? Right? Focus on that and walk out the door. Remember the first few times you were alone with your babies? I know I was freaking-the-fuck-out too. But what everyone says to new mums? “Trust your instincts. You’ve got this. You’ll be fine. ” Would a massively long to-do and to-don’t list with explicit instructions on how to change a nappy been helpful to your confidence? No. Probably not.

And parents – buy your son’s dolls and let them play pretend kitchens. Teach them to do housework. Set them up so it’s not a huge learning curve when they get into the real world, because it’s not cute that men need to be “taken care of” by a woman. It’s really not.

Let’s all work together to make these “jokes” confusing and weird, because there’s no truth to them what so ever.


Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.


  1. My friend is studying just this, at uni. She said men have the capacity to have paternal instincts as strong as maternal ones. And can care for children just as well. But they need time, paternal leave from work, and time alone with baby without mum. They have to learn it but only because of society really. In other cultures it’s possible for men to know as much as women know from day one. It’s about necessity, desire to parent and cultural norms, not biological parenting roles.

  2. Nodding the whole way through. Yes, yes, yes!!! Change needs to come from both genders and we e got to stop treating important issues like this as “jokes”. There is absolutely nothing funny about it. x

  3. All very good points. Weirdly (or not so weirdly) my husband is much more committed to the house cleaning than me. He cooks dinner, he does equal parenting in a very capable way. But the man-flu thing is a tough one, surely it’s real? Last year he called his sore throat a ‘super-bug’?

  4. Oh man, I’ve got so much to say on this subject. I’ve experienced the dud dad, and now I’m lucky enough to live with the super dad. It upsets me when dads get a bad rap, cos I know they can be bloody brilliant, no questions asked. I HATE the cliched shit-dad jokes, because it’s just a lazy joke. Constance Hall posted about her husband being useless yesterday and it wound me up. If he’s useless, don’t breed with him in the first place (I should’ve taken this advice first time round). If he’s not useless, then value him as an equal and a partner. I’m not making much sense. You said it much better than me!

  5. All so true Rach! I think the advertising industry is the worst culprit. The stereotypical incompetence of dads in ads makes my blood boil.

  6. So with you here…and then he goes and gives them ice cream for breakfast dessert. But then he had them all day, so I could have a bit of a break. We all do it differently; man or woman. Great post.

  7. I can’t believe people still make those jokes – I guess maybe there are still some men who don’t do their fair share, whether because they’ve never tried to learn, or whether they haven’t been allowed to. I am married to one of those ‘super dads’, who in many ways is much more experienced than me (certainly in terms of cooking – he did catering for a while – and physical care – he’s a nurse, a lot better with sick kids, etc). While I am really appreciative of all that he does (he is the main one at home), I am still stunned at what a big deal everyone makes of it. If it was me making the cake, I don’t think I would get the same reception – certainly not after 11 years of doing it. But every time there is this reaction of complete amazement that a man – A MAN! – could be the one who has come up with the meal, or created the costume for dress-up day, or coordinated activities. It’s quite astounding that there is still this reaction. It doesn’t happen when I am the cook (and it should – because I don’t cook much, so it’s a big deal when I do!)

  8. This is pretty bang on! I do, on occasion feel like I have an extra child, but that’s not because ‘men never grow up’ or he’s special needs because he’s male, it’s because he really doesn’t find certain things important, he works long hours and putting his clothes in the laundry instead of the bathroom floor after a 10, 12, sometimes 15 hour day is secondary to helping out with bed time, eating dinner (finally) and actually spending time with his family. When I went back to work after my first maternity leave, he reduced his hours and stayed home 3 days a week and did a fine job, yes he dressed our boy differently than I would, he didn’t always have all the answers and had to work it out, but they managed. Does it really matter he’d put odd socks on? Nope, he always had my dinner waiting for me when I got home and our boy was happy and healthy, nothing much less than I do now at home with both children!

  9. BOOM. Mic drop. Yes. All of it. (I am capable of longer sentences, I swear.) x

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