Happy International Men's day!
This International Men's day I think it's important to acknowledge the struggles men are having, in terms of mental health which in large is due to toxic masculinity preventing us expressing ourselves. Whether that be our feelings or just having the confidence to truly be who we want to be, and the more we acknowledge it the more we can break the stigma associated with it and evolve as modern men.
Although we still have areas to improve, I think it's equally important to use this day to celebrate the things men get right!
When it comes to parenting, men don't always come in for a lot of praise, if you're looking to get a laugh, it's always been a much safer bet to moan about how terrible a guy is at parenting than sing his praises.
"My husband can't change a nappy to save his life" or "He could sleep through an earthquake, I do most of the night feeds" is much more likely to win you friends than "He's taken to parenting like a duck to water, I couldn't have done it without him"
On average men spend about half the quality parenting time, face-to-face with their children, than mothers do, but far more than men in the past did: their child-caring time has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59 minutes per day.
But speaking as a male myself, and one half of parenting podcast and blog Lads to Dads I can tell you that the traditional view of the reluctant, hands off dad, who comes in from work when the kids are asleep and avoids nappy changes at all costs, is firmly in the past.
We get emails and messages regularly from dads who share their stories on parenthood but who are also looking to find advice on how they can play a bigger role when it comes to parenting, and how they can make a positive impact on their child's life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely turned things on its head, and often both parents are now working from home. So if you, like me, never dreamed of doing the job of a parent, a teacher, a nursery worker, a cook, and an expert on all things Mr. tumble related, whilst also juggling a dodgy zoom call connection to your colleagues and boss, and just imagined a straight forward run at parenting, I'm afraid you're out of luck.
This "new normal" has had a major impact on parenting and the role men play. Just like COVID-19 has had a role in speeding up the digital revolution, forcing us to use more technology and carry out more online shopping. It has also created an opportunity for men to have a much more hands-on-role when it comes to parenting.
But the truth is, parenting can be hard for both sexes and some things we're rubbish at, and some things we excel in, at this point I'd like to point out it's not always easy for mums either; having to live up to the expectations placed on them as mothers. Where dads are often expected to struggle, mums are often unfairly expected to excel, which brings its own pressures.
As it is international men's day today, what better time to celebrate the things men do well, and the positive impact they have on their children perhaps without even realising.
1. We teach our children to value themselves.
Dawn French was once quoted as saying "it was my father who taught me to value myself." we may do this without realizing, whether it's a doting dad telling his daughter how beautiful or clever she is, and being embarrassingly protective when boys become interested, or perhaps sitting in the shed for hours on end building things together. All these little things go towards raising a woman who is happy with her appearance, has the confidence to challenge the status quo and knows her own worth.
The same goes for the dad, who takes a keen interest in his son's hobbies whether that be standing at the side of a cold football pitch every Sunday morning, or helping him pull off his first plie for ballet class and watching Billy Elliot on repeat. The fact that you are there with him all the way adds value to his interests and in turn teaches him to value himself and his individuality.
2. We teach humility.
One thing dads do well is laugh at themselves and take criticism on the chin.
The Dad joke is something that all dads are burdened with at the hospital, upon receipt of their newborn baby, nobody knows how it happens but it does, and we just go with it, Dad dancing we go with it, embarrassing new "Dad wardrobe" we go with it. We are the kings of awkwardness and we have mastered the art of laughing at ourselves and taking criticism on the chin.
This gives our children a great blueprint on how to brush off criticism and not take life too seriously.
3. We teach our children to be brave.
We are usually the ones on spider/moth/wasp catching duty, something goes bump in the night, it's us going downstairs to check it out, climbing a tree to get a stray football, making a complaint when we get bad service, or doing the dirty jobs no one wants to do, like taking the bins out.
None of these things sound especially brave, after all we aren't battling bears or running into burning buildings, but what we are doing on a smaller scale is teaching our children that bravery isn't the absence of fear but rather feeling fear and still finding a way through it, nobody wants to do those jobs, or find themselves in those situations but we are often the one it falls to and we take on the responsibility and do it anyway.
This gives children the confidence to face their fears and they often learn that the feeling of fear is often much more scary than the task in front of them.
So let’s use this International men’s day to acknowledge the great job men do as fathers, whether they realise it or not, just for today lap up the praise guys, and tomorrow we can go back to being in trouble for missing a night feed or leaving our socks on the floor.