Since she was a baby, our daughter has made me a better man

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad  and Pampers for this promotion.

When my wife became pregnant, we were overjoyed. We had decided the time was right to have a child, and it happened relatively quickly which was wonderful. We knew of many people who had struggled.

As my wife’s pregnancy developed, we both agreed it felt like we were going to have a boy. We were absolutely convinced about this. This must be the parental instinct we thought, that we were so in tune with our unborn child, we knew they were a boy.

So we were both really surprised when we found out we were having a girl. We weren’t disappointed, but it just wasn’t what we were expecting.

Without really thinking about it, I reflect I had always imagined I would have a boy. It wasn’t that I wanted a boy, just that it was the default of how I saw myself being a dad. Sharing the childish things I loved – mainly Star Wars and superheroes.

So my thoughts turned to what it was going to be like raising a girl. She wouldn’t like the things I imagined sharing with my child, but that was ok. Instead of Star Wars and superheroes, it was going to be princesses and Barbie dolls. Yes, I am very ashamed to admit that I was totally immersed in the traditional gender stereotype assumptions about girls.

My wife didn’t want to tell people we were having a girl, as she imagined we would be getting a torrent of pink and frilly things as gifts. She didn’t want that. I didn’t see the problem. Yes, me – Man vs. Pink – didn’t see the problem with the ‘Pink is for Girls’ trope.

However, when it came to me buying clothes for our unborn baby – I just couldn’t resist the geek stuff. The kinds of clothes I was buying for her, were of things I was into. I thought “There’s plenty of time for her to get into Princesses. In the meantime, I’ll have a little fun.”

So, I sought out items like these Star Trek baby grows.

Star Trek babygrows

(Just to clarify, these baby grows were different sizes – Ensign 6 months, Officer 12 months, Captain at 18 months. Of course.)

After she was born, I kept up with the geeky stuff. This was what I liked, and I was just an excited dad.

In fact, I was such an excited dad that when she was about 5 months old, my wife and I came to a decision. When she returned to work, I would stop working and become a stay-at-home dad. And I have been one ever since.

So every day, I would be in charge of our baby – and what she wore.

And so it went on, and I soon began to realise that I didn’t want this to end. And why should it? Who’s to say girls CAN’T like this stuff. Well, people that make and sell this stuff for one. I grew increasingly frustrated about this. Started following campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys, and reading Peggy Orenstein’s seminal work on this Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I had things I wanted to say about it. And so a blog was born.

By the time she was 3-years-old, after years of reading about girl empowerment, I figured I should stop choosing what she wore. So I let her choose, assuming the geeky stuff would stop. Boy was I wrong. I got so excited that she was still wanting to wear the geeky stuff I’d been dressing her in, that I started sharing on Instagram (which was noticed by Buzzfeed, and our daughter went viral).

Today, age 5, while there are some princesses and Barbie dolls in the house, the love or Star Wars and superheroes remains.

Without my daughter, my idea of what girls can be would likely have remained very limited. This wasn’t overt sexism on my part – though clearly sexist. More, it was ignorance. Who’s to say that my idea that girls won’t like Star Wars wouldn’t have been extrapolated to thinking girls don’t like science, or engineering?

Being the father of our daughter has opened my mind and expanded my understanding of the world. She inspired me to start this blog. To put the thought into the minds of other parents that perhaps their assumptions about girls are incorrect. It’s become a big part of my parenting, and I think it’s telling that while many dad bloggers focus on male/dad stereotypes, my focus is on how negative gender stereotypes affects girls.

To my daughter: Over the course of the past five years, being your dad has been a humbling honour, even more so that I have been privileged to share this time together at home. Wanting the best for you has challenged my previous assumptions about what it is to be a girl, and has fundamentally changed me as a man. As you have started school, and I am now actively looking to return to the workforce, my sense is that this very special time is coming to a natural end. But our time together has changed me forever.

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FYI: This is a post I was commissioned to write but I just wanted to thank Life of Dad and Pampers for the writing prompt, as this is something I likely wouldn’t have written were it not for the spark their Father’s Day #ThanksBaby campaign ignited in my mind.

And Pampers have made this pretty sweet video honouring dads. Which is fair enough, as I changed way more nappies than my wife did.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad  and Pampers for this promotion.

4 thoughts on “Since she was a baby, our daughter has made me a better man”

  1. I have two girls, eldest starts school in September. I have to say your post really resonated with me.

    We’ve not made any particular effort regards to clothing, toys, even bedroom decor. The eldest picks and chooses whatever she pleases, and we just dress the youngest (10 months) in whatever we think is cute.

  2. I adore this post, simply because parenting – or how we see ourselves as parents – is so important. Whether it’s a nurtured expectation of tradition for stereotypes, or our own insecurities, we can feel afraid to step outside of what’s fashionable in the parenting fad!

    I was convinced my second would be a girl. In the same way I was hugely surprised when my son popped out instead. Character is far more important than gender, I’m sure your daughter will have that in abundance!

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