Rethinking fatherhood and the language of parenting in men

We need to normalise active parenting

Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants.

Socrates, circa 470 BC

As we grow older, we see the world differently…

We find it hard to keep up with the constant change, but we’re also happier to sit back and be content, leading to us becoming more conservative (small c). Like Socrates, what was once a place of youthful opportunity and boundaries to be pushed, grows into a place of anger and disruption. The gross access to the internet means we are exposed to what we feel is free and neutral information, but we know it is highly selective and editorialised — just like newspapers have always been. There is a lot of bad news right now, but bad news sells more than good news so this will never change.

So let’s look at some of the silent positives that were big news when they were disasters a few years ago:

  • Global poverty is down by more than a billion people since 1990, reducing by 47m every year (source)
  • The hole in the Ozone is healing and set to close up by mid-century (source)
  • Energy is more renewable than ever, we are relying less on fossil fuels and there are more Electric Vehicles on the road (source)
  • And plenty more

It is undeniable that there are awful things happening right now, which are impacting all of us and we need to sort them out, but we also need to give ourselves permission to balance our reaction to it and be understanding to the context of what is reported and how it is reported.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of areas that need a rethink. One close to me is fatherhood.

There has never been a bigger generational difference on the expectations of fathers. The difference in how my dad approached being a father versus how his dad approached fatherhood was minimal. But me versus him? That’s massive. This can be from how we share the bread-winning, our emotional sensitivity and availability, sharing the jobs around the house or involvement in our child’s education and so on.

It goes without saying that this is a good and necessary evolution and there are parents who have always been this involved, but it is undeniable the norm has shifted. The challenge for this generation of fathers therefore is that their model of what it is to be a dad isn’t what they experienced, and so it needs conscious shift and evolution, which is hard. The rethink, then, needs to be thorough, starting with birth:

  • Equal paternity and maternity packages
  • Pre-birth coaching on what it is to be a father, the practical and emotional challenges
  • Mental health follow-up for men post-birth
  • Men’s public toilets needs changing rooms (if there are no neutral ones)

However, the biggest rethink has a less measurable application, where we normalise active parenting and the language of parenting in men.

This can be normalising the freedom to talk about anxieties and struggles or finding third spaces that are specifically dad friendly or finding role models that aren’t the Instagram inauthentic so-called ‘influencers’ or celeb parents that have help in the house to take the hard responsibilities away. The world is in a tough place, and it always is. The point here isn’t to distract from the massive ills we are seeing, which need our attention and action. This is about highlighting something many feel and experience daily, and where (in)action will have huge implications for future generations.

Featured image: Tatiana Syrikova / Pexels

Andrew Spurrier-Dawes, Head of Digital and Precision, EMEA, Wavemaker

ASD joined Wavemaker in August 2021 as Head of Precision for EMEA to build the digital excellence in the region. As part of Wavemaker’s Consulting Hub and based in London, he covers all aspects of digital for the teams, with a focus on data, measurement, tech, ecom, biddable, content and our internal products, with a view from the strategy to the execution. Previously, he was at MediaCom as the global digital lead for Mars and GSK, as well as the UK lead for the UK MCM business flagship accounts such as Sky and Tesco

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