This is a first for Hapless Dad. We've toyed with celebrity guest bloggers before. Well, once until I ran out of celebrities I knew. But we've never had blog content suggested by someone else. Well here it is, a milestone in the HD world. A blog post inspired by one of my ever plateauxing band of followers on twitter.
Thank you @OverHonestMumma for the inspiration.
So, the daddy wars! My first challenge when writing this post was to find out what in the name of arse 'the daddy wars' are. After literally minutes of top level research on a range of unsubstantiated web sites I have the answer. I'll put this as simply as I can as I know the readers of HD are simple minded folk. At least I hope so, otherwise there will be lots of very disappointed people reading this blog.
Imagine, if you will, a stay at home dad. Thrown into the situation by redundancy. Or the fact that his partner earns substantially more than him. Or the fact that he has some kind of weird perversion for new mums and wants a good reason to hang out in playgroups. A perfectly common situation in today's modern parenting world. There are many thousands of stay at home dads who perform all domestic and child related tasks with great success. Does he want to be there? No, of course he doesn't. I went to a playgroup once. I'm not sure who felt more uncomfortable, me, the mums or the toddlers. However circumstances dictate that, instead of flying to Monaco on a private jet full of glamour models, he must clean up a range of bodily excretions, wash pants and make dinner.
Now, take this on a stage further. Imagine a stay at home dad who is not reluctant. Imagine a stay at home dad who handles the kids and the domestic chores out of choice. Unusual? yes. Impossible? no. Some dads do actually like their children. They actually welcome the chance to be involved in their early upbringing. A chance to cement that special bond between father and child.......... and to perv on mums at playgroups.
Here is where things get a little scary. Imagine a stay at home dad who competes and argues with his spouse about who gets time with the children. Imagine a stay at home dad who, despite his higher income, demands his right to stay at home leaving his wife to put food on the table. Imagine a stay at home dad who actively voices negative opinions towards dads who go out to work. Imagine a stay at home dad who indulges in school car park politics like he was born for it. Crucially he does not do any of this for the chance to perv on new mums. This my friends is 'the daddy wars'. It is the hot topic on American parenting websites, blogs and in the press. The male equivalent of the battle raging between working women and stay at home mums for the moral high ground.
The question posed was do the daddy wars exist? Or is this just another fairy tale dreamed up by circulation hungry newspaper editors? Like the Loch Ness monster or water retention?
Well, in the six years I've been a parent I've never experienced such a phenomenon. I have friends who are stay at home dads for reasons beyond their control. They battle on courageously and alone. They don't want to access the support network enjoyed by mums, because that would be weird.
I did once meet a guy who came close. In my one solitary excursion to a playgroup there was another man there. He hadn't bought a book like I had. He was, what can only be described as, 'chatting' to the mums. He was interacting with children that weren't actually his. He even came over to introduce himself to me in some sort of attempt to make me feel included. I definitely did not want to be included. I questioned my wife about this later. Apparently this chap was a stay at home dad who attended all local parent, toddler functions. The mums were friendly and inclusive towards him although they secretly thought he was there to perv.
What I have noticed however, is a definite difference of attitude between men of different classes and social groups. I am from a very working class background but I now live in a very affluent, middle class area. When I attend functions with my kids in my posh town the dads are very hands on and, dare I say it, jolly. They shop at Boden and they behave in a very interactive way on bouncy castles. They buy flats in certain streets to get into the right school catchment. They claim to have taught their three year old Sudoku.
Back in my home town things are very different. I went to a kids party there recently. It was held in a pub, of course. The kids ran riot with a myriad of mums, grans and aunts in tow. Meanwhile men of all generations stood clinging to the bar in an all round defensive position. A look of sheer terror on their faces. The most common phrase uttered was "this is a fucking nightmare". When viewed from a distance it was reminiscent of a group of sailors clinging to a life raft in shark infested waters.
A broad generalisation? Of course. But it is my experience in the area I live. I'm sure things are very different in that posh London like.
So, from what I've seen 'the daddy wars' is a myth. Certainly in the provincial towns and cities beyond the Bermuda triangle type effects of the M25. However, we all know that what happens over the pond will happen here eventually. It'll start in the posher bits of London and work its way out, like some sort of infection riddled crop circle.
I have to assume that in a generation's time my son will be actively and vocally belittling dads who go out to work. Either that or feeling intense guilt at leaving the house every morning to head off to the factory.