Does ‘Mumsnet’ encourage stereotyping of Dads? 2

father and child

Dad: an important role model

A recent trawl of the internet found me browsing ‘Mumsnet’ – the well-known and seemingly well loved website dedicated to motherhood. I happened to come across a thread on the discussion boards titled, “What other ‘Dad’ things do I need to learn?”. As I’m waiting to become an adoptive father I was rather intrigued.

What I found didn’t offend nor could I claim it to be insensitive or sexist, but it was certainly interesting. It left me posing the question to myself, “Does lighthearted banter hide the true feelings of individuals?”

The initiator of the post led an interesting discussion based on a traumatic experience she had recently been through. The poster began the dialogue with the following seven points:

1. Assemble flat pack furniture
2. Taught ds to ride a bike without stabilisers
3. Taking the bins out
4. Taken ds to the football
5. Playing football in the park
6. Assembling Starwars Lego (partially)
7. Mending the broken Wii (sic)

If we break this down and look at it carefully, all but two of the points indicate time being spent bonding with the child. Time spent caring, time spent passing on skills, time spent nurturing – yet it seems that further posters seemed to take delight in minimising the importance of these activities.

“A bit of rough and tumble. Throw ds over your shoulder, spin him round, tickle him, and drop him on the sofa” (sic) was a typical response which is likely to be accurate yet misses how essential this simple yet effective interaction is.

A couple of summers ago I was lucky enough to go on a camping trip with one of my closest friends and his two young sons. A lads weekend away. I spent the full weekend in the midst of this ‘rough and tumble’ not only joining in but admiring from afar when only Dad’s wrestling skills were good enough.

On a packed camp site the vast majority of children were interacting well with the male role models in their life: badminton, football, raft building and playing with the dog. In thinking back on my own childhood which was shared with my close friend we talked about how much our Dads had done for us without our acknowledgement or understanding. This was well hidden amongst the laughs at how daft and embarrassing our Dads actually were. How many times they had driven many miles to ensure we played in a meaningless game of football, or how many times they’d bowled spinning cricket balls which we had to defend with skill and accuracy rather than simply hoofing it away.

From reading the responses on ‘Mumsnet’, these activities are not valued as much as they perhaps should be. I take the view that Dads tend to be “damned if they do and damned if they don’t”. A quick perusal of the responses to the lighthearted thread can confirm this.

I was left pondering the thought of whether ‘Mumsnet’ should have perhaps regulated the responses – I know their answer before I ask the question. The website has clearly done an awful lot of good work in the time it has been active and I, for one, would not criticise the need for individuals to either vent the spleen or simply have a natter. Yet I would ask the question as to whether stereotyping of men and fathers continues within our society.

So as a response, I am now going to take a break and in doing so I will lie on the sofa with the remote control in hand perusing the Wickes catalogue which I will leave by the toilet for later reference. I might later throw my step children around the living room before emptying the contents of a tin of lager and breaking wind!

Photo by chefranden

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