by Bethany Robertson
This Father’s Day weekend, I can’t help but celebrate the shift over the past few years in how dads are portrayed in pop culture.
It was just 2012 when Huggies released an ad showing dads as incompetent caregivers; it was pulled shortly after it was released when dads struck back with a petition charging “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies.”
In contrast, this Father’s Day, Dove’s #realdadmoments campaign is a nice benchmark of how things are changing. I’m an even bigger fan of the Buzzfeed post making the rounds this week – pictures of dads just doing the everyday work of parenthood.
Here at ParentsTogether, from its inception, our goal has been to build an organization that embraces dads as equal partners in parenting.
In part, we’ve wanted to push back against the damaging “doofus dad” myth. But even more importantly, we want to welcome all the fathers who feel minimized and plain left out of the parenting conversation in this country, even though they are taking on increasingly larger roles in childrearing.
There’s something insidious about the way dads have been largely ignored in the parenting landscape. In my family, the first time we bumped into the invisibility of dads was right before our son was born when my partner, Peter, went to check out Amazon.com’s family deals.
“Huh.” Peter said. “This program is called AmazonMoms. Do they really still think moms are the only ones shopping for their kids?”
Amazon was just the beginning. Peter and I ran into the issue again during our first well-baby check-up, when the pediatrician spoke only to me as the mother. We also noticed that our childcare always called me first, even though Peter was listed first on the contact form.
These are small things, but they send a subtle message that’s harmful to both moms and dads. These messages tell dads: “This isn’t your job.” “Moms should just do this.” “She knows how to do it better anyway.”
This is not the reality for most dads I see here at ParentsTogether. What I see is a hunger among fathers for parenting ideas, tips, resources that speak to them as equal partners and support the ways in which they want to engage with their children.
So what does that mean in terms of ParentsTogether’s programs? As one example, we are offering birth groups for moms, and we are also piloting a program designed for couples in which dads are welcome, too, as they navigate the transition to parenthood.
For parents with older children, one of the clearest things we heard from dads early on was that they feel disconnected from their children’s schools and are looking for ways to be a bigger part of their child’s education. As a result, another one of our first pilot programs focuses on fostering parent-to-parent connections at the elementary school level.
These pilot programs (starting in North Carolina) are just the beginning, and we have much to learn about how ParentsTogether can help meet the needs of moms and dads—and how those needs may be the same and different.
But in the mean time, I’m so glad to see at least some signs of change in how our culture treats fathers. As a mom fortunate enough to have a partner who teaches me how to be a better parent every day, it’s about time.
In honor of all the amazing fathers out there–here’s a little treat for all those dads who are waking up early, cutting up the grapes, and breaking old stereotypes when it comes to fatherhood.