Inspiration for this post came from a Twitter conversation started by @DadandTwo about the level of dad involvement in playgroups and it did really hit home with regards to playgroups.
Working Monday to Friday means that most of my playgroup interaction comes at a weekend with Rhythm Time. This is a weekly group where you sign up in advance for the term and as such you have stability and as such, it is easier to talk to people, mainly because you know you’ll be spending the next 10 Saturday mornings together! There are a good mix of parents who come, but still probably a 70:30 split between mums and dads. This is a bit strange as given that it is a Saturday class, both mum and dad must work Monday to Friday and so you would have thought that dad would want to spend time with their child at a class… – I realise that is a huge stereotype and assumption!
Compare this to a weekday class that I sometimes attend – I am the only dad on 90% of the time. I remember on Tuesday drop-in class, I was the only dad out of 40 children/parents and yes, it was daunting at times.
At the time of writing, I am 31, white man – in British society, I have never been in the minority. Yet for the first time in my life, I was – in a church hall in Leeds!! It wasn’t pleasant at all. I felt like I was a foreigner, an alien, even though I was a dad having a day off and going out and about with my little girl.
This cannot be right.
As a society, we must do more to promote dads interacting and going out and about with their children. The wonderful thing about social media is that you see examples of such dads doing this and it is brilliant. However, they are shining lights in a sea of darkness.
But what can be done?
The shared maternity leave is a good start, but given what Mum has to go through throughout pregnancy, it can only go so far. We have to go further, we have to change the culture of society and challenge the preconceptions of parenting. If we can change the culture around smoking, we can do anything. A promotional campaign encouraging dads to get involved with children would be a good start, to challenge existing behaviours.
However, it must go further… Big business targets their products for mums and not dads – how is that encouraging dads to get involved? When was the last time you saw dad and child on a baby product? I realise that companies are looking after their own business and market research plays a huge part in all this, but it is a sign of the society and culture that we live in.
However, dads must take responsibility themselves. You only get one chance at bringing out a particular child and you must grab it with both hands. The formative years are so important. Yes, working full time is difficult and tiring but going out and about with your child is uplifting and energising. You will both benefit from it and the memories will last so much longer than most other things you would have done instead.
You might ask “What are you doing to change this?”. My situation is slightly different to the norm, but I work Monday to Friday 9-5 with little scope for flexitime etc. I am on a decent wage and financially it doesn’t make sense for me to drop my hours (for many there is the issue of the glass ceiling…)
As a result, I have 2 days off a week and my annual leave. On my weekends, myself and Heidi are inseparable going here and there and everywhere, as well as attending the aforementioned Rhythm Time on a Saturday, so she gets her social interaction with children her own age.
On days where I have annual leave during the week, we do the same. We go out to places and drop-in playgroups and it is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Life is difficult. But I would do whatever it takes for Heidi to have a good day and as she enjoys playgroups, I can put up with feeling out of place for a couple of hours…
As a footer, if you’re wanting a survival guide to playgroups, this link is so much better than what I could write: