The cutest video making the rounds on Fakebook this week is the Daddy Daughter Hair Factory. Set up by Phil Morgese and his daughter Emma, they organise hair workshops for fathers and daughters across the US and Netherlands.
In the video, Phil explains that the workshops are as much about learning a new skill – doing plaits and ponytails – as they are about bonding and providing good male role models.
“Gender roles — that’s just gonna have to go. Fatherhood’s evolving,” he says. “It’s more than just about bringing home the bacon.”
The mummy micro-managers
Increasingly, women are bringing home the bacon. This is the situation in nearly half of UK households, a trend that is expected to grow.
For mothers, this is a huge pressure, particularly in a society that has not kept up with these changes. For more on this, read my blog on the mental load.
But I do sometimes wonder if working mums are deliberately making their lives more difficult. Whether they are making a rod for their own backs.
If they are reluctant to let their husbands take on more responsibility when it comes to parenting and household jobs, because they don’t think their partners can handle it.
The book ‘When daddy did the washing’ is all about dad making a complete meal of it
In doing so, is it sometimes easier for dads to shrug their shoulders and just let us get on with it? Get on with all the juggling and wearing ourselves thin, safe in the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t accept their help if it was offered?
I have so many anecdotal stories. Stories that usually involve micromanaging, criticism and frustration on both sides.
There’s my friend who became a reluctant breadwinner when her husband was suddenly made redundant. She’d get home from work and be greeted by chaos and piles of dirty laundry… but the children were happy and cared for.
There’s the doctor who works long shifts but can’t (or won’t) step back and let her husband make even the smallest of decisions. He has to consult her on everything and is under constant scrutiny.
It’s every time we say a dad is “babysitting” his children. Or when we joke about daddy daycare.
I remember telling a friend that my ex was a stay-at-home parent and she laughed and called him a “manny”.
One of the books on my daughters’ book shelf – ‘When daddy did the washing’ – is all about dad making a complete meal of it while his wife is out doing “important things”.
He puts a red sock in with a white wash, dying everything pink in the process. The story has a happy ending as mummy loves her new pink skirt! But the underlying message is that daddy just doesn’t have a clue!
Learning to step back
It isn’t easy when you’re a high-achieving working mother, used to juggling a million different things, to step back and allow your children’s father to parent… and to do it in a way that may not meet your exacting standards.
This goes for grandparents as well. We might not want our kids getting all those treats, to be napping in the afternoon or watching too much TV, but we have to remember that they are doing us a favour!
More importantly, that our children are benefiting from time spent in their company. After all, nobody cares for your children as lovingly as devoted family members.
There is so much to be gained when we relinquish control. More time for ourselves, less stress and a lightness that comes with letting go.
Empowering fathers to father their children is good for men’s self esteem, offers better male role models for our children and brings that elusive and all-important balance to modern family life.
This has never been so important. The Modern Families Index (MFI) 2018 warns that the stress and strains of juggling work and home are causing more arguments (28%) between spouses.
A third of parents surveyed said they felt burnt out all or most of the time.
Flexible working and parental leave encourages dads to be more involved. MFI argues the creation of a properly-paid, standalone period of extended paternity leave is needed.
“Tackling gendered assumptions about who works and who cares is crucial to broadening parental choice,” it concludes.