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.
Or 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.