Dads Do It Differently!

Dads do it differently. Not better. Not Worse. Just different.

That was one of my main points in my keynote speech “What Dads Really Want…” which I delivered last week in beautiful Penticton, BC.

My room was full of childcare service providers, moms, and actually, a great number of dads! I wanted to challenge them, and now I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to carefully consider and examine your core idea of what a dad is, what a dad does, and what a dad wants.

Dads are not dummies as we are often portrayed in popular culture.

Dads do not babysit their children and neither does a mom.

Dads just want to be treated as a parenting equal – an achievable role to be earned, not just granted.

Dads want just as strong a relationship with their children as mom does, but he may have a different approach to getting there. Mom may need to turn judgment into curiosity and recognize his different style and method will end up at the same destination; a loving bond with his child.

When I started speaking on parenting in the early 2000s, I was still talking about the ‘changing’ role of the father. But now, that role is not changing anymore; it is finished ‘changing’! The 100th monkey/tipping point has arrived and involved fathering is the societal norm now. Just like littering in the 1970s vs. today, an involved father is what we now see.

I know not EVERY dad is on board yet (that is part of our collective mission), but how dads behave, in the day to day lives of their children, has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Fifty years ago, to receive a trophy for “world’s greatest dad”, you were a protector and a provider; your children had food in the bellies, shoes on their feet, and a roof overhead. That is absolute bare minimum today.

Back then, dads tended to be more remote and authoritarian, dad was tougher to get to know.  Sure he would play with you from time to time, but his main role was to keep order in the house and everyone IN LINE. Mom, if faced with too many shenanigans, could always drop the greatest threat known to a child, “Wait till your father gets home!”. Then dad would walk in, home from a tough day, and be thrust into the role of disciplining a terrified child. Today, when kids hear ‘Wait till your father gets home’, they are excited and can’t wait!

Dads today have more passion, patience, and presence than ever before. Their KIDS don’t know anything different, and would shake their heads in disbelief if told that years ago dads were not that involved. You only need to look at a school playground at 8:15, a school field trip, or a soccer field on a Saturday morning – at least, half of the parents present are dads; would you have seen that 30 years ago?

At the end of the day, like the feminist women’s movement of the 60s and 70s, we, as dads, want equality, freedom from stereotypes and gender bias. I am thrilled to be a voice and part of the movement. I am a DADvocate, not a zealot or crusader. What we are after is recognition as equal parents. Not put on pedestal or having parades thrown for us.

In the same way women are after equal pay in the workplace, we are asking for fathers to not be treated like second-class parents or mom’s helper.

With no disrespect to the late great Martin Luther King, who was also fighter for equality on a larger scale,

“I too have a dream.  A dream deeply rooted in today’s families.

I have a dream that one day, all parents will be treated equal. Both in the home and at work. No more “Mr. Moms” or “Mrs. Dad”.

We will no longer need “father friendly” programs as all programming will always consider BOTH parents needs.

I have a dream that one day, moms and dads can sit down together at the table of parenthood and we will live in a society where parents will not be judged by their gender, but rather by the content of their character.

I have a dream today, that although dads do it different, their contribution to the family will one day be seen as just as valuable as moms.”

Are dads equal? How do you see the role of dad today? Is dad an equal in your house? Tell your parenting partner that you want equality – but you have to work for it!!!

Until next time…