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Today I was confronted with the message that apparently fathers can be parents too.

At first it looked promising: A headline with the word “Celebrating Fathers” and a picture of a couple – father and mother – bonding with their child.

But then I took a closer look.

Under the picture of the family the copy reads: “Did you know that both dad and mum can share an intimate bond with their baby from birth?” 

Since this is an ad for “DADs for life” I am guessing that what they are trying to say is: “Did you know that also the father – not just the mother – can share an intimate bond with a child?”

And sure, I understand the good intentions with this campaign and their ambition to get fathers to be more involved with their children.

But at the same time the message makes me so sad.

Like it would be some huge revelation that fathers can have a connection with their children. That children have a connection to their fathers.

I feel that this attitude of trying to convince men be more present in the parenting of their children by revealing this “big secret” that “oh, surprise (!), we just found out that fathers matter too!” is counter productive.

True, a lot of men are not giving fatherhood the time, energy or prioritisation that it deserves. But I highly doubt that a campaign talking to fathers as if they were children is going to change that.

Just the other day I got a personal experience of this “treat fathers as children” attitude when me and my wife took two of our children to the dentist for the very firs time.

The dentist, a very lovely and competent woman, looked at the four of us and said to the children: “So how does mummy brush your teeth?”

A innocent question at first. But it shows that this expert dentist assumed that it was the mother who helped the children brush their teeth.

Well in our family the father (i.e. me) brushes the teeth of the children just as often as the mother.

What would have happened if the dentist had the habit of asking: “How does your mummy and daddy brush your teeth?”

Would it send the message to the parents, and the children, that both parents were expected to care about the teeth of their children?

The point is not that mothers tend to brush the teeth of the children more than fathers (that might very well be the case). The point is that if we want fathers to take a bigger responsibility in parenthood (and I think we should) – then we should not treat fathers as lesser parents – but instead encourage them to step up by treating them as equal parents.

By treating them as equal parents. Not like lesser parents who are spoken down to.

So instead of a campaign that says “Did you know fathers could share an intimate bond with their baby from birth?” – make a campaign that says: “Celebrating all parents (mothers and fathers) who take the time to create an intimate bond with their baby from birth.”

 

Fredrik Haren

A blog about the magic of fatherhood and paternity leave. Written by Fredrik Haren, professional speaker and author who is now on semi-paternity leave with his three children.

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