I first met Terence and Julie at a blogger event and immediately knew they were awesome! (because you could feel the awesome vibes radiating;). Anyway, parenting blogger Terence (aka AfroDaddy) has some very interesting insights from a Dad’s perspective, which I think are crucial to share. Because if we are to create a society where each parent contributes equally and feels equally valued, well then – we have a lot of work to do. Here’s more from him.
- Who is Terence? Give us a quick rundown.
I’m the dad to two boys, Liam (aka “The Kid”) and Eli (aka “Boy2.0”). They are as exciting, wonderful, lovely, hectic and crazy as brothers born 18 months apart can be.
Liam, my eldest, is adopted and his younger brother Eli isn’t. You’ll have to watch my videos and read the blog to find out how that happened. I’m joined on the journey of parenting by the insanely smart, charming and beautiful Julie. She’s my wife. Lucky lady.
2. Your Twitter comment on this recent post of mine addressed how the patriarchy has affected fatherhood. What are some of the misconceptions or implications that you face every day as a Dad?
I think the effects of our patriarchal society are seen way before the baby arrives. Dads-to-be aren’t celebrated, they aren’t supported, they aren’t told “Hey, you can do this!”. If anything, they are told how much of their freedom and money they are about to lose. So from the very beginning they are treated as second-class in the parenting team. Then, after baby arrives, they are expected to play a supporting role – without any support themselves. Rarely do people check in on dads to see how they are coping with this massive life change that they are going through. We aren’t allowed to be scared, or stressed, or anxious, or have any other emotion that stops us from being cheerleaders.
I’ve had women take my crying baby out of arms without asking – because obviously a dad doesn’t know how to comfort his own child. I’ve never been marketed to as a dad. I’ve never been told that my decisions about my children are as valuable as their mother’s. Again, all of this tells dads one thing: You are not necessary.
And then, when mom stops breastfeeding or has to go back to work or the child is older, we suddenly expect dads to step up and be fully engaged – and then shame them when they struggle to make that adjustment in their brains.
Look, I’m not saying that there aren’t some real dead-beat dads out there. I’d just like us to start asking why these guys exist.
3. What can we do as mothers to share parenting equally with our partners? What attitudes do we need to change?
I think trust is important. You can show your partner that you trust that he can make decisions about his child – especially when you don’t necessarily agree with him. Positive reinforcement is also critical. Really ask yourself when last you told your partner, “You know what, you are a GREAT dad!”.
Here’s something that for me is the real clincher: Ask him how he is feeling about being a dad. You might need to do this a few times before he really starts to tell you what’s going on in his head – remember, men have been trained NOT to share. Is he scared of caring for the kid alone? Does he feel frustrated by the loss of some his freedom? Is he anxious about the future? When does he feel most at ease? These are questions dads never get asked.
4. How do we as a society start to ‘acknowledge the importance of Dads’, as you say?
I think a big part of it starts with dads acknowledging it themselves first. I’ve seen a great surge of dads talking about fatherhood proudly on social media – and that is a wonderful start. Advertising and marketing need to catch up – I’d like to see ads that feature dads in positive roles in their family.
5. What are some of your top tips for trying to share the parenting load (and joy and wonder!) equally with your wife?
Step One is to realise that he does not think in exactly the same way that you do i.e. he’s not a mind reader! It’s a painful process, but it’s worth sitting down and working through all the stuff that has to be done and deciding who will do what. It’s an easy way to avoid assumptions and misunderstandings.
Make sure that you aren’t undermining him too. Criticising him when he doesn’t do something the “right” (read: “your”) way is one way to ensure that he won’t bother the next time. Remember, dads get almost no positive reinforcement.
This may sound counter intuitive, but moms need to make sure they take time for self-care. This achieves three things: It shows your partner that you trust him, it allows him not to feel guilt when he takes time for himself, and, obviously, you feel better too!