In 1986, poster company Athena launched the iconic ‘L’Enfant’ poster, a sepia-toned picture of a young man cradling a two week old baby. The image was credited with launching the new man, someone who could show off his muscles while staying in touch with his feminine side. Earlier this year, England Rugby star Ben Cohen recreated the image with one of his twin daughters (pictured right), as part of the Problem Shared campaign run by Colief colic drops, which focused on the role of fathers in bringing up children.
Here we dispel some of the most common myths surrounding Dads (one
or two of which we suspect they started themselves!).
Myth 1: A father’s role is provision
In general men and women, mothers and fathers, tend to think that raising children is women’s work, while providing financially for the family falls on the man’s shoulders. However, recent research has shown that almost half of new dads seriously consider joining more than 200,000 men who have opted to be stay-at-home dads.
Dr Bruce Linton explains, “Men are raised to value work as their main source of worth and self-esteem, but we are at the beginning of an epic shift in cultural norms. Some men are trading career advancement for time with their family because they value the fulfillment they find in fatherhood. More men than ever feel that being a good father is a significant accomplishment in life.
Myth 2: Caring for children comes more naturally to mothers
It’s obvious isn’t it? Mothers carry their babies inside them for nine months, feel every little kick and hiccup, nurturing and nourishing their baby, and enduring labour and childbirth. Of course mothers are more naturally able to care for their child, right?
Well, actually no. When it comes to newborns, mums and dads are as novice as each other. Remember holding your baby for the very first time? You probably felt a little clumsy and awkward, worried you were going to drop him, stressed over whether or not he was feeding properly, and struggled with those first few nappies.
But new mums tend to learn childcare skills very quickly, usually because they are caring for their baby on their own while dads are back at work. Mothers also have a strong support network of family, friends and health professionals, first with the midwife, and then with the health visitor.
Adrienne Burgess, Research Manager at the Fatherhood Institute, explains, “Dads get very little of this. But when men and women are able to spend the same amount of time looking after babies, and are given the same support, they develop childcare skills at exactly the same rate.”
Myth 3: Fathers can be really dumb
Mothers across the world follow a ritual where they meet up for lunch, or coffee, or at toddler group, and wonder why men lose all concept of commonsense the minute they become fathers.
Why can’t they put the baby’s dirty clothes in the laundry basket instead of on the floor next to it? Why can’t they contain their laughter when their child does something naughty (even if it is funny)? And why do they insist on throwing the children in the air, spinning them like aeroplanes, and chasing them around the house, just before bedtime?
The truth is, fathers aren’t dumb, the just like to play dumb! Family sociology professor, Dr. Paul Kooistra, says the definition of being a father has taken on a new meaning as more men now share the role of bringing up baby, and all it entails.
“Almost by necessity there’s become a forced closeness between fathers and their kids,” Kooistra says. “There’s kind of an awkwardness.”
Myth 4: Men don’t want children as much as women do
This is one of those myths that paradoxically came about because it is true – sort of. Throughout their teens and early adulthood, men don’t tend to have such a strong yearning for children as women do, primarily because they are forging careers in order to provide for the family they’ll
And of course, unlike women, men don’t have a time limit on their fertility. Just look at Des O’Connor who became a father at the age of 72.
However, research has shown that when men hit their forties they get a sudden surge in their desire to father children, matching that of women of the same age.
Myth 5: Men can’t multitask
This is probably one of the most hotly debated topics amongst men and women in general, and mums and dads in particular. A recent online discussion, started by a woman asking why men can’t multitask, received many replies, most by indignant men. However, probably the most telling response came from one man who said, “We can, we just like you to think we can’t.”
The truth is, men can multitask just as well as women, they’re just smarter about it! Mothers have almost made multitasking their martyrdom – soothing a crying baby in one arm, while preparing breakfast for a toddler with the other arm, cleaning up and emptying the dishwasher as they go along. And all the while the telephone is attached to her ear while she
tries to sort out the bills, fitting in the hoovering while she’s on hold.
So why would any man chose that sort of multitasking? Best to play dumb (see myth number 3) and pretend they can’t do it. Of course, anyone who has seen the father of their child in the local pub on a Saturday, beer in one hand, packet of crisps in the other, laughing and joking while watching the Premiership on the big screen, all the while discussing the
merits of this footballer against that one, and debating the wisdom of the manager’s formation whilst putting forward their own strategy for the game…need I say more?
Suggesting that father’s can’t multitask is probably the biggest myth of them all but, come on all you dads, you know you started that one!