Writer and ‘Out of Depth Dad’, Chris McGuire, joins Brush-Baby in a celebration of fathers everywhere.
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” - L.P. Hartley
People trot out quotes all over the place these days, don’t they?
You can hardly get through the day without someone throwing a meaningless bit of Shakespeare or an out of context line from Churchill in your direction. The thing is, for me, this one rings true.
You don’t have to know who L.P. Hartley was (he’s not the man from the Yellow Pages advert – ask your mum) to understand that what he meant. Any father, currently bringing up young children, would ‘get it’.
You see, right now, there’s a whole generation of dads bringing up children without an instruction manual. Yes, I’m aware that there’s never been an instruction manual for parenting. What I’m saying is that we are at a point in history where things are really changing. What it means to be a dad has evolved. The ways in which things were done in the past, even by our own fathers, are increasingly foreign to us modern day dads.
Ours is a new age of fatherhood.
As a dad, I’m hugely aware of this change. When the first of our children arrived, we decided that it made sense for my partner (the higher earner) to continue in her job and for me to take on the role of a stay-at-home-dad.
Over the years that followed I’ve ridden the rollercoaster of ups and downs, triumphs and frustrations that only life as a hands-on-parent can provide.
‘Fatherhood’, the role taken by dads in our society, is evolving at an amazing rate. Gone are the days when a dad’s role was limited to putting food on the table, providing discipline and reading the occasional bedtime story.
Today, many dads are so much more than ‘secondary’ parents. They are stepping up, alongside mums, to take on a much bigger share of the childcare burden.
“About bloody time!”, I hear your cry.
I agree. This level of involvement is long overdue. Mums have been doing amazing work for generations. That’s not up for debate. But, surely, a movement by men to embrace a far more practical interpretation of what fatherhood should be in the 21st Century is to be celebrated? It’s a ‘good news’ story and, frankly, there are precious few of them at the moment.
I was thrilled when Brush-Baby, the young children’s oral health brand, told me of their plans to celebrate this new age of fatherhood. They explained how they felt that this newly focused ‘dad role’ wasn’t being given the limelight it deserved. I had to agree.
Brush-Baby felt that Father’s Day was the perfect time to raise awareness of this cultural change. They wanted to bypass the Father’s Day clichés (novelty socks or ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs) and thank the dads who were ‘stepping up’ into their new role.
In recent years, many factors have come together to change how families function. Mothers have joined fathers in workplaces outside of the home. This essential step towards gender equality has brought home the reality that childcare isn’t simply the mother’s ‘problem’.
Men have learned that they must roll up their sleeves and get on with it. A dad changing a baby’s nappy is no longer the punchline to a joke – thank God.
This general trend towards a new emphasis in fatherhood, shying away from traditional gender roles, found a catalyst in Covid 19. A gradual change in perspective combined with unprecedented lockdown measures created the perfect storm. Suddenly, with so many of us working from home (homes that contained children 24/7) it was all hands to the pump. Many dads were no longer out at work all day, they were at home and forced to multitask. Let’s not romanticise this. It was a situation that parents found far from ideal. I know I did. Trying to balance work and its interminable Zoom calls, home-schooling and childcare meant that my partner and I had to ‘tag-team’ – sharing out our parenting responsibilities to make it work.
Huge numbers of dads ‘stepped up’. Suddenly, being responsible for daytime childcare, was no longer the preserve of a few ‘right on’ dads, it was normal and was it was necessary. Dads spent more time with their kids. They did the home-schooling. They cooked. They cleaned. They read stories. They wiped bottoms. Dads fitted childcare around their jobs in a way few had ever thought possible.
It’s amazing what you can do when you have no other choice.
Brush-Baby applauds these men and is committed to making sure that the positive steps taken during the pandemic aren’t lost. So many dads have seen that flexible working, which has allowed them to spend more time in close proximity with their children, has real benefits. Together we must ensure that moves towards these non-traditional working patterns continue.
Highlighting this positive change is so important. That’s why Brush-Baby is setting us all a challenge this Father’s Day. Rather than worrying about humourous ties or pointless gadgets, they’re asking us all to take a moment to tell a father that he’s doing a great job.
So many men are making it up as they go along, without a role model to emulate. They are explorers in a new land of fatherhood, one that is quite different from that foreign territory inhabited by generations of dads before them.
At Brush-Baby, we’re thrilled that this is the first of many insights into fatherhood that, dad-of-two, Chris McGuire will be providing over the coming months. Watch this space for Chris’ often hilarious diary extracts, as Brush-Baby celebrates a new age of fatherhood.