I would say that my experience in dealing with healthcare professionals as a Dad isn’t a great one. Right from the antenatal stage, midwives & health visitors barely acknowledged my presence. I was never asked how I was feeling. I was looked at like I was an alien if I had an input or opinion. Or worse still, I was treated as some kind of possessive husband, who was just at the appointments so I could be in control. Mrs B was even asked at one stage if I was controlling or aggressive towards her. They never seemed to consider that I was there because I was interested in the well-being of my wife & child. Even now that my children are older, people still seem to find it odd that I attend appointments. At the last health visitor appointment I attended, the health visitor remarked “oh is mummy working today?” when she saw my hairy face approach her door. I asked if she would ask Mrs B the same question if she attended without me? I was met with silence.
I count myself very fortunate that Mrs B & I can look after the boys between us, without the need for a regular childminder. I work 2 days out of 8 & Mrs B does 3 out of 7. This means that the boys usually have at least 1 parent at home at all times. This arrangement is the best for our family and it means that I attend as many appointments with the boys as Mrs B does. I love being able to spend so much time with them.
So back to my question… “do Dads get a raw deal?”
I would have previously answered this question with a big massive YES, without even thinking about it. This is due to my experience with healthcare professionals and due to reading stories online and in the media about how “Dad can’t do it as good as Mummy” or “Mummy does everything” etc. Now… I know that in some families Mum may do everything, but is it the case in most families? I would say no.
Recently I have been thinking about this question and wondering do I just automatically assume Dads get a raw deal just because of my experience. Have I become so obsessed with my experience that I haven’t noticed what is happening around me? Am I just one of those people who says, “I was never made to feel welcome as an involved dad, so that means every dad must have had the same feeling?” Oprah might say that I’m projecting my feelings onto the entire population of Dads. To some extent I probably am.
I have always looked at the whole pregnancy, labour (without the pain or the actual popping the baby out part) and bringing up the child thing as a joint venture. I felt that as a Dad or Dad-to-be that it was my duty to be as involved as Mum, which I still do. But then I would get annoyed if I felt like I wasn’t being acknowledged or appreciated. I think I got a bit jealous of all the attention that midwives & health visitors paid Mrs B, which made me feel unimportant. I am not a person who cares what people think of me, but I do like a bit of praise every now and again! But since starting my blog, I have been reflecting over the boys’ early days and have got a new perception of the events. The main role of a midwife & health visitor is to ensure that mum and baby are doing well after the traumatic nature of childbirth. Dads are not usually considered because we are not the ones who have pushed a melon out of our nether regions. All my attention was focused on the well-being of baby & Mrs B, so why should I want or need a midwife to focus on me?
I believe that there are areas this whole process that can be improved on, in relation to dads. Their well-being should be considered at some stage along the way, because a Dad who has got good support and coping skills is more useful to a newborn & new Mum. But at the end of the day, baby and Mum should be the centre of attention.
Is it fair to expect a midwife to worry about the well-being of Dad as well as Mum and baby? I would say the job of a midwife is already tough enough & adding a needy Dad on top may be too much. They need to ensure they are fully focused on baby & Mum.
Dads should be supported but where should the support come from?
I believe that Dads have a unique set of support needs compared to Mums. Health trusts need to look at this and start employing family support workers, who consider the needs of the whole family. Their main focus being the well-being of the family, regardless of how it is made up. Family support should be available to every family. It shouldn’t be a postcode lottery and only offered to those who in the most deprived areas, which is the case a present.
I also think that fellow Dads can play a key role in supporting other Dads, as I would be more likely to accept support from someone who has been in the same position as I was in. I started this blog to help other Dads and share my experience with them. I am not suggesting that we all should be blogging or offering advice or support online, but what I think we all should start doing is talking to the Dads we know, asking them how they are doing and supporting them. There are many dads out there, who are fully involved with their children but occasionally need a bit of support. This could be as simple as being able to talk to another Dad. Social media is a wonderful tool, that can help Dads connect with other Dads.
I don’t feel the answer to the question is a simple yes or no. I think what I have learnt is that I was possibly expecting too much from the midwife or health visitor. Maybe I needed to ask for more support from friends or family. I do think that some healthcare professionals need to act less shocked when a dad attends an appointment & shouldn’t make them feel like they don’t belong there. My wife and I see each other as equal parents, so I shouldn’t be looked at like a weirdo when I attend appointments with the boys instead of Mrs B.
Just because in my parents or grandparents time, Mum dealt with the children while Dad went to work, doesn’t mean that is the way it should be. Every family will choose what works best for them, so we just need to accept it and not criticise them. Just because it’s different from the way we do things, or the way that society says it should be done, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Media, TV and movies seem to portray Dads as the incompetent idiots, who everyone has a laugh at (I’m looking at you Homer Simpson & Daddy Pig!) Mums, however, are seen to be the fixer of the mistakes that Dads make. Of course, Mrs B has had to fix messes that I have made, but there have also been times where the roles have been reversed. I’m happy to be seen as a fun Dad but I am more than that. I am a Dad who cooks, cares, comforts, praises, says I love you and disciplines… when necessary, I even do laundry 😱
Maybe if the picture painted of dads could be changed to reflect them as an equal parent, then the question “Do Dads get a raw deal?” wouldn’t need to be asked.
Bearded with boys