There are many things in this world that frustrate me as a disabled person, but I have to say some of the most frustrating things have nothing to do with my disability and more because I am a stay at home dad.
This pathway, or lifestyle choice has been partially chosen due to my disability getting worse but it was always the plan of ours that my wife would return to work full-time. After all she has spent a decade earning 2 degrees to do her job. Out of all the jobs I have done I expected being a daddy would be the hardest but most fulfilling one I’ve had. So far it isn’t failing to live up to my expectations with one small exception, breaking into the mummy world, mum’s mornings, mumsnet, mummy social and any other number of “mummy” experiences. I get frustrated at the amount of times I see posters with these on, or events run for stay at home mums, or mums that make and so on, I really do get the need for bonding and ensuring that new mums have support but dads do too, and there is no rule book that I’ve seen that says that support has to be mutually exclusive.
Don’t get me wrong I speak to, and have, I think, made friends with a number of the parents in the playground. I am lucky that some went to school with me and some know my nieces so I’ve had insider trading if you like into this murky world. I’m yet to be fully invited or initiated or whatever rites of passage I need to undertake to be officially accepted in to the playground world of mums. Why I here you cry would I want in……. Well quite simply it’s because I don’t want my LG to miss out on play dates, having friends over and in the future after school groups, sports, playing, sleepovers etc.
I get that after giving birth hormones are all over the place and there are mummy groups, I also understand why a daddy isn’t welcomed with open arms at these. I mean I openly admit I have no interest in debating the breast/bottle and I have no experience in being able to encourage other mums in the latest techniques. Nor can I sit and discuss degree tears or pelvic floor exercises (I have a niece and sister who are midwives so I understand the terms and I do have qualifications in fitness and exercise so I could teach pelvic floor techniques so I could do both) it is a world where a man is not welcome and I understand this. Unfortunately it is also where new friendships are formed. I missed out on baby massage when my LG was young, I missed out on many other classes and although most have been rebranded parent and toddler the world of acceptance is a funny one and these remain predominantly female. The friendships from these groups mean that the playground dynamics are already set and trying to infiltrate them are harder than being an MI6 agent. Mum’s go out regularly together and as a dad these invites do not extend to me. There are other dads in the playground but by the dynamics we say Hi but little more.
In a world where we are fighting for equal pay and equal rights it remains curious that we have not made significant changes in the playground and the world of equality here is certainly reversed, it is very much a mummy dominated place even though more and more dads, grandparents and childminders become ever present. We sometimes focus on the repression all the time that we miss other things go staring us in the face.
The friendship and bonds for many have already been made at playgroups or older siblings and it makes new member entry limited. It cuts down the number of play dates I have been invited on I am sure. People don’t want a strange man entering their homes, similarly you wouldn’t trust the care of your child into that of a strange man, but the friends made over years of groups is different for them and the world of mums. They don’t worry about others looking after their children Maybe having a LG I too subconsciously have been more aware of this. I mean our friends have left sons with me, I’ve looked after my nieces, I’m confident I can look after other people’s children. However my LG’s friends only see me for a few minutes each day, how do they judge if I am capable of looking after their child. All I know is that as the main carer for our LG I want her to grow up experiencing as many things as possible, I want her to be strong, independent and focused, I want her to be caring and understanding and to live her life and love with all her heart. Even though I know this can lead to hurt.
I worry however that the inequality at the school gates will hold her back. It isn’t however being disabled that is what holds her back, it is being male. I’ll talk to most people I have a laugh with many parents I just feel I missed out on the opportunity to bond with other parents so that they can entrust their children into my care.
I have watched a good friend filming the Unison women’s conference this past week and have been amazed at how far we are yet to come but also how many amazing people there are out there fighting to make a difference, to improve the world we share. I can’t however help but think they are preaching to the converted and the message needs to go further afield. We need to start looking at everyone as individuals capable of achieving anything. World Book Day is coming up and my little girl want to be Peter Pan, well is going to be Peter Pan and already she’s been told he’s a boy, and she should be Tinkerbell. I’ve told her I’m happy she’s Peter Pan, but worryingly these inequalities, these gender stereotypes are being introduced at a very young age and it is not made any easier if you do not fit the norm to a society established decades ago.