I like to think that I don’t conform to stereotypical gender roles. At least excessively anyway. When I bought a cupboard from Ikea, I assembled it by myself. When I decided that our spare bedroom needed painting, I took a day off work and got painting. Okay so the cupboard does have a slight jaunty angle and I didn’t paint behind the wardrobes as they were too heavy for me to move. But still, I tried.
However, a recent trip away to Bluestone (Wales’ version of Center Parcs) with my baby girl and her nana has made me question the different gender roles.
As my mum is in her sixties, if there are any ‘man jobs’ to be done, they become my domain. You know, things like carrying all the bags, packing the car, driving, bringing the car round when it rains and being in charge of possessing important items such as keys, phones and money when we go out. Of course I didn’t mind doing any of these things for my mum but by the end of our holiday, I started to think about all the things daddies do that we take for granted.
The final straw was when I went to collect the car from the car park getting ready to leave; a 15 minute walk up a steep hill in the Welsh torrential rain and gales getting dragged around by my umbrella and soaked through. On arrival, I realised I’d left the keys behind so had to trudge back down and repeat the journey. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed and I wished that I could be the one in my pjs in the warm lodge doing important ‘mum jobs’ like giving baby breakfast and generally potching around tidying up. My husband certainly wouldn’t have left the keys behind. And he wouldn’t have even moaned about the rain.
Often as the primary carer, us mums do a hard and busy job. I like to call us VBIMs (Very Busy and Important Mums). But I think sometimes we get so caught up being VBIMs that perhaps we’ve become a little bit guilty of not recognising how much daddies do too:
* Dads are not allowed to say they’re tired – I mean how could they possibly be as tired as us!? How dare they even THINK it!?
* After a day at work, we’re waiting for them by the door with a baby poised and ready to be thrust in their face.
* If they dare to be late home, they face the wrath of a sleep-deprived hormonal mum who’s often been counting the very seconds until they’re due through the door. How very DARE they be four minutes late!?
* During childbirth, dads have to pretend everything is going to be fine when they are as terrified as we are – but they don’t get to have any gas and air.
* In the first few weeks, when mums are rendered almost immovable from the sofa due to a combination of constant feeding and childbirth trauma, they suddenly have two babies to care for; baby and mum. Daddies are subjected to being at our constant beck and call. Mine would have to pass me everything which was out of my reach and even lined up a supply of sandwiches, snacks and drinks on the coffee table so I could survive the hours of sofa confinement.
* After only two weeks’ paternity leave, dads are forced to abandon their baby and wife to go back to work. It was hard enough for me after a year. I couldn’t imagine doing this after just two weeks.
* Then dads are constantly judged for how they’re looking after the baby – by their wives. From how they’ve fastened the nappy and the amount of Sudocrem they’ve applied to how they hold a bottle and the ridiculous way that they dress the baby. On reflection, how do we expect them to put tights on a baby girl when (hopefully) they’ve never had to do it before. And how are they supposed to know the ‘right’ way of doing anything when they only get to spend a couple of hours a day with baby?
* And within the space of moments, dads go from being our number one to becoming almost a bystander as a tiny little pink screaming being commands every fibre of our attention.
So I think we all need to take a minute to forget the VBIM role that we’re doing and appreciate our VBIDs. Thanks for putting up with us and our demanding ways and for being great dads.