The bravery of being a stay-at-home dad

I’ve regularly been called brave for being home with our child while my wife works. But is it really any braver for a father to be at home with his kids than it is for a mother?


It started early, before I even became a dad.

Saying my goodbyes at our final antenatal group session, the woman heading it up told me:

“What you’re going to be doing is so important. SO important.”

What? Becoming a father? Being a more attentive husband? Nope. Becoming a stay-at-home dad. SO important.

For various logistical and financial reasons, the plan was I’d likely be home for first couple of months, and then full time when my wife returned to work after 6 months.

I knew being a stay-at-home dad was far from the norm, but it didn’t seem that weird. So weird that people would say stuff like that. I grew up watching Mr. Mom, but that was over 30 years ago. It can’t so odd now, right?

Friends seemed to think it was cool. Turned out some of them had even done the same thing. I hadn’t paid attention, because, y’know, I didn’t think it was weird.

My parents seemed ok with it, but to be honest I didn’t see much of them at the time (we were living in New Zealand, they were not).

My MIL seemed ok too, but did relay to me that she had friends who didn’t understand why I (a man) was doing it (looking after his kid). But they were old, so I ignored them as young(er) people tend to do.

My aforementioned antenatal group was interesting. Before we became parents, my desire to be a stay-at-home dad was quite a point of difference with the Kiwi dads – many of them defined their impending fatherhood by how much time they were going to spend at work.

But afterwards? Barely mentioned. Some even told me privately how jealous they were. The mothers weren’t bothered either. I’d go to our regular weekly meet ups – usually the only dad in the room – and they’d happily chat cracked nipples and postpartum vaginas while breastfeeding their babies in front of me. I’d even be part of the conversation – well, as much as I could.

So far, so normal. But then it did get a bit weird.

The brave stay-at-home dad

Like our antenatal leader, people outside our immediate parenting bubble kept congratulating me. Praising me. Calling me brave.

And when I say people, I just mean random people when I was out & about the baby. Eg. one time in a bank, a female teller started gushing over us (after we moved on from her “Mums day off is it?” question), because I was home with the baby.

Similar story at a pedestrian crossing of all places, when a woman opened a conversation with another variation of the dad & baby assumption  (“Babysitting today?), and after I corrected her she was also full of praise – and awe – of my stay-at-home dadness.

But it wasn’t only about being home. Just being an engaged father was enough. One time in a supermarket, I made up a bottle of formula for my daughter and fed her, like you do when babies are due a feed. A passerby (also a woman) saw this and felt compelled to tell me “What a great dad you are!”

All this positive female attention was nice. But, c’mon. How crazy is it that I – a dad – am congratulated for feeding my daughter a bottle of formula? When have you ever heard of a mother being publicly praised for being such a great mum – for feeding their bay a bottle of formula?

Lol, right?

The brave parent (unless you’re a mother)

At-home mothers are not praised or congratulated for what they do. It’s expected, even derided. But when a man engages in it – wow, what a man to face all the challenges that parenting brings.

It seems parenting has a lowly status when undertaken by women.

It’s true that dads are still vastly outnumbered in weekday parenting scenarios, and sometimes treated with suspicion and isolation. So do people simply think men are brave for entering this female dominated environment of toddler groups, playgrounds, and coffee groups?

Or, is it considered ‘brave’ for a man to sacrifice his career for the sake of his wife and child. Again – have you ever heard of a mother being celebrated for staying home to be with their children? Doubtful. A man? I’m certain.

Or are expectations so low for dads, that simply showing up makes us good parents; being engaged makes great parents; and giving up work & dealing with all those women makes us brave parents?

If you want to call men who stay home with the kids brave, I can’t stop you. Or telling them how great it is what they’re doing. But you know what? We’re no more heroic than mothers in the same position.

If you feel stay-at-home dads are brave and heroic, and want to praise them for it – then I suggest you also find a mother to say that too as well. Because they deserve your praise just as much as dads, for exactly the same reasons.

Stay-at-home dads aren’t heroes – we’re just parents struggling to raise our kids the same as everyone else.


Superheroes are for Girls (and Boys)

When my daughter was about 2-years-old, on a trip to the local soft play centre a rather confused looking older boy asked me “Is she a boy or a girl?” about my daughter.

Resisting the urge to point out he’d already answered his question I simply replied “She’s a girl.”

“Why is she wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt then?” he retorted. Continue reading Superheroes are for Girls (and Boys)

Being a parent doesn’t make someone more qualified to lead the UK

Firstly let me be clear – I don’t want either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom to be the next Prime Minister of the UK. However, that decision is in the hands of the 150,000 Conservative Party members across the country.

But it will be one of them, and as always seems to come up when discussing women in power – motherhood has become a talking point. One candidate is a parent, one is not – and the mother has clumsily indicated that being a parent gives her a greater stake in the future of the country, and therefore makes her a better candidate for Prime Minister.

Leadsom (the mother) is furiously backtracking from her comments, and there is speculation whether this is conspiracy (to appeal to traditional Conservatives) or cock-up (she fluffed her interview where she said these things).

I do not think being a parent makes someone more qualified for a role than someone who isn’t. But I do wonder if Leadsom was trying to indicate something a bit more nuanced.

I am absolutely not the person I was before I became a parent. It has changed my perspective on the future, and how I see the world around me.

Being a dad – especially of a daughter – introduced a new way of looking at the world that has informed my vision of it ever since.  It has made me far more than the person I was before.I would not be writing this blog if I hadn’t been a parent.

However, that is not to say that someone who ISN’T a parent could write more passionately, intelligently, and perceptively than me about the themes and ideas I write about on this blog. In fact, I know that’s the case.

So being a father – or a mother – will likely inform anyone’s perspective on life from then on. But being one – or not – does not make anyone more or less qualified to be – for instance – our Prime Minister.

But I do strongly believe is that our next Prime Minister will lead a party that will do very little to help the women in our country – whether they are mothers or not.


A Dad Looking After His Kids Isn’t Being a Mother. He’s a Parent.

Dads, here’s formula for how to make a post go on viral on social media…

Write a lengthy exposition on how difficult it is being a parent, but then add a bit of dad magic – write about how you didn’t realise how hard ‘mothering’ your kids is; apologise to all the mums for how tough their life is; apologise to all the mums again for how easy dads have it; plus try and look handsome yet tired in accompanying photo of you and your kid/kids.

Seriously, try it. Get it in front of the right eyes, and boom – a viral post that will get picked up by the Daily Mail, etc. in no time.

The most recent one of these has labelled himself DadMum, and his post falls back on a parenting myth/cliche that really needs to be consigned to the wastebasket of outdated ideas: The notion that a dad taking care of his kids makes him a mum.

There’s nothing wrong with being a mum. I’m married to one. She’s awesome. But as things stand at the moment, I’m at home with the kid while she’s working. I’m not ‘being the mum’ and she’s not ‘the dad’ for working. We’re parents – she’s a working one, I’m at home.

I’m going to venture that the majority of people who share these Dad-Apologist posts & memes are not fellow dads, but mothers. A scan of the thousands of comments on them tends to confirm this.

It’s tough being a mother. There is a whole genre of parenting posts by mothers about how tough it is being a mother. I’ve always seen it as an extension of the networks of fellow mothers they may have IRL. In tough times, it’s always good to know you’re not alone.

As a stay-at-home dad, you may think that these dad posts are the types I would share. Except, they’re not aimed at me – they’re for mothers too. These are dads playing ‘mother’, because they don’t see the term fatherhood as related to the sustained barely organised chaos of being a parent. They’re not alone – the term ‘mothering’ is still interchangeable with ‘parenting’ for much of society.

Sharing content on social media is a curious, post-millennial phenomena. Facebook, Twitter, et al are micro blogs – similar to what you’re reading this on now. But by sharing, an individual is publishing. Sometime people share things that have wound them up (the Mail Online business model). More often than not however, it’s a sign of approval.

With these parenting role reversal posts, it’s also a way of saying ‘look how cool this dad is – he gets it’. It helps if the guy is good looking too – a DILF if you will. But he’s a fantasy. He is not a Dad turned mother. He’s still a father. And this father really doesn’t get it at all.

Dad-Apologist posts reconfirm the view that the dirty, messy, grumpy, sleep deprived, stressful aspects of parenting are women’s work. Yet the ability to support your family financially by having a career, and the enjoying fun times with your kids, is ‘being a dad’. That ‘the struggle’ is a woman’s burden alone.

By all means, lets celebrate and support fellow parents who are battling through tough times, but let’s stop labelling dads who care for their kids as mothers. We’re not. We’re still dads, whatever we may post online to the contrary.

Some Dads DO Babysit. It’s All That’s Expected of Us

This time last year, there were a flurry of stories about my daughter and I published around the world. A US writer spotted an angle for a “sweet article about (my) daughter’s outfits”, and that got noticed by the likes of The Independent & Metro in UK, Buzzfeed and ABC News in US, and then various outlets across the globe. Radio and TV appearances followed. Perhaps you are reading this because you started following my blog after coming across one of those.

The premise was basically I was an at-home parent letting my (then) 3-year-old daughter choose what she wears every morning. And the outfits were kinda cool and not traditionally ‘girly’.

When I asked, the writers of those articles told me the same thing – what made this story ‘a story’ was the fact that I was a dad of a daughter.

While it was nice to bask in the mostly supportive comments (US conservatives aside – yikes), the fact people were reacting strongly to it highlighted an issue we have with parenting.

Is dad all there is?

Continue reading Some Dads DO Babysit. It’s All That’s Expected of Us