On Saturday morning, I’d somehow found myself in Tesco doing the shopping. I hate shopping. I had the boy with me though, so of course, it was more eventful than the average shopping experience (partially due to his obsession with grabbing any item that isn’t securely fixed down, but mainly because of his new found love of blowing raspberries at strangers.)
We were chatting away (or I was) when a lady came up to me and said, “It’s great to see a dad being hands on.” I assumed it was a compliment, but there was a bit of a patronising tone in her voice. Unable to both effectively shop and formulate a witty remark simultaneously, I just replied “thanks.”
It’s such a weird phrase “hands on Dad”. In truth, I don’t know if I am hands on. I think I do my part, but what makes you “hands on”? 90% of the time, I’m winging fatherhood and the other 10% I’m following very specific instructions from my wife. Now, I didn’t take offence to the comment as I know some people do, but it really got me thinking about the perception people have of fathers.
Inadvertently or not, this lady had highlighted a stereotype in society that I only realised existed when I had a child. I wrote a piece for BabyCentre about my experiences being an on duty dad and how people reacted to seeing me out with a tiny baby. Today kind of reignited the reality of that dad/child prejudice for me.
Some people see dads as lesser parents than mums, only stepping up when they need to, with that undertone of having to make a real effort to function and parent. Maybe that was the case in times past, but if being “hands on” means I’m pulling my weight and can cope with having my child with me, I’m certainly hands on!
I love spending time with my son, and regardless of his inability to be still in a trolly, having him with me feels totally normal and natural. I’m just his dad. He’s like my little (fractionally feral) wingman.
Next time someone asks me if I’m a hands on dad, I’m just going to simply reply, “no I’m just a dad.”