Last week I took a well-earned break with a few of my friends to the Costa del
Cocktail Sol. We had four days / three nights in the sun, no kids to be seen (heaven) and not one person called me “Mummmmmmmyyyy!” Lush I am sure you will agree.
But on the run up to our girls holiday, I was asked repeatedly by friends, family and all manner of strangers just WHO was babysitting the kids whilst I was away on my jollies (this was almost always delivered with an air of “you selfish cow leaving your poor motherless mongrels to fend for themselves” type look).
You know what I’m going to say, I’m not exactly shy about voicing my opinions that real Dad’s DON’T babysit their own children (aaannd breathe..)
In my mind they simply continue parenting, albeit on a solo basis for that time you’re away.
It didn’t stop the comments though.
“Ooh that’s good of him” (as though he’s doing me a favour looking after his own offspring)
or worse from one particular person “God how will he cope?!”
Hold up and rewind three weeks and said Daddy also went away for FIVE nights on a boys’ golf trip.
Not one person asked him who was looking after his kids, not one reference to babysitting was made and not one person asked how I would cope sans Daddy for five nights.
Because it’s presumed that good little mama is at home where she belongs holding all of the shit together. I mean, that’s my place right?! *fumes and mutters incoherently*
I shouldn’t have to add this disclaimer but I will: As I knew he would, Shaun did a sparkling job of “babysitting” (FML) his own offspring and in fact of his step-offspring too. He didn’t ring me in a panic asking what’s for dinner, he didn’t have a meltdown, the house wasn’t in chaos when I returned (it was in fact annoyingly much cleaner than when I’m at home…) and all the children (four at my last count) had a brilliant time.
It was in fact the same story at my friends’ houses where their respective husbands and partners had also survived and thrived without our nagging presence. One of them had even tiled a bathroom.
So why all the casual sexism about Dad’s “babysitting” their own kids, “helping” out or “just about coping without you”?!
Thinking about it… I’m just not sure who is to blame for this casual everyday sexism against fathers.
Maybe the media, making fathers out to be utterly inept in the parenting department? Or making out stay at home dads to be a slightly alternative oddity to be poked at with the Daily Mail stick every now and then?
Maybe men themselves for generally not stepping up to the domestic plate and often allowing women to do everything at home and work?
Or is it in fact us, as I suspect, as mothers who are afraid to relinquish our control over family life? Because let’s face it – we are intelligent enough not to give a flying fig about the Daily Fail’s opinion on anything.
So are we just a bit afraid of what will happen if we do let one of our “perfect life, wife, mother, worker, interior designer, skinny minny, marathon runner, Joules wearing, craft-making, bedroom rocking” balls drop?
something has to change.
I hate the chat about “equality”. For me, it can feel like opening up the conversation broadens the gap between the sexes even more but I’m breaking my own rules and I’m going to broach it here. Obviously, equality between men and women has come a long way since the massive burning of bra’s movement in the 70’s but it’s really taken this little holiday of mine to realise that it’s still got a long way to go.
Whilst I totally appreciate that everyone’s experiences are different, in my life, almost every woman I know does the lions share with the children and the home as well as holding down paid employment (often full time). And spoiler alert – it’s not usually because we love all of the cleaning.
In fact, I often say to my own mother that in many ways the pressure to be “perfect” both domestically and in our careers makes life harder now for women than it ever has been. If you want to delve deep about my feelings on equality and feminism, I would say my reticence to discuss it comes from a deep-rooted discontent because in my mind, it often feels as though ‘equality’ is more of a burden than anything. Instead of being expected to stay at home, keep things clean and raise children I am now expected to have an amazing, fulfilling and validating career AND do all of the above domestic stuff as well. (Not to mention also be skinny *grumbles*). Generally this leaves me feeling over anxious, overwhelmed and with an after-taste of failure. And I’m not alone in this.
I am almost sure that this kind of pressure on women to be, have and achieve everything is fuelling a nation of anxiety-ridden mothers falling into a domino effect of nervous breakdowns. It is not realistic, healthy or possible and yet here we are in 2018, still trying to maintain this level of “everything”.
With my sensible head on I know that if we don’t let go of some of these precariously balanced plates then this drive for equality has failed us – or we have failed it. No woman (or person!) can or should try to be everything to everyone. Yes we probably can do it all (at a detriment to our mental health) but we shouldn’t have to. I hoped equality was about levelling the playing field but often it just feels like it adds to our to-do list and I don’t think that was supposed to be the point of it all was it?
So what do we do about it? I mean, I don’t actually know or have all of the answers obviously but starting by tackling the quiet, ‘often-supposed-to-be-humorous’ everyday sexism seems like a good place to start with our partners and in particular our sons. I think the example we as parents set to our children will be a whole other blog post though.
For now can we all please stop the casual sexism…
Men can multi-task. Stop saying they can’t.
Men can cuddle tiny toots.
Men can dress scraped knees.
Men can pack lunches for hungry tums.
Men can run kids to school.
Men can throw the hoover round.
Men can load the dishwasher.
Men can go grocery shopping.
Men can make shitty crafts from forgotten loo rolls and if they don’t then nobody will die (I know this because I never make any such crafts and people are still alive and kicking).
Obviously, a mothers’ role is always going to be magical and special but you know what? So is a fathers’! And aside from birthing and lactating, there’s really nothing a Daddy can’t do that a Mummy can, is there?!
It’s only a hefty dose of everyday sexism and a pinch of maternal arrogance that is telling us otherwise so call it quits, stop trying to do and be everything, ask for them to pull their weight (or the hoover) and lets level up the playing field a little more at home as well as at work. After all that’s what equality is really about.