Gender politics is a trending topic these days. From #MeToo to the Pay Gap we are (rightly, in my opinion) focusing our attention on greater equality and the barriers that women are breaking down every day. But the other part of that equation is the greater role that men are playing in family life.
When my uncle was born in 1947, my Grandfather was at work. His boss called him in: “Sparling,” he said, “I just received a call from the hospital. You’re a father - congratulations. Take the rest of the day off. Make sure you’re back in on time tomorrow.”
It was 4pm. My grandfather took the extra hour of paid work and went to meet his son for the first time. 9am sharp the next day he was at his desk, leaving my uncle to be raised mainly by his grandmother (my nanna also had a job to hold down, and there was no such thing as shared parental leave in those days.)
Cut to today. Dads have more opportunity than ever to be part of the A team in raising their children, and the first step is antenatal class. But here’s the truth lads, not many men find antenatal classes comfortable.
There’s a lot of...biology that gets discussed. Sometimes there are diagrams. So it’s easy to understand why many men aren’t going to feel at home in an antenatal class.
But here's the really important thing. As a partner, more important than the things you are or aren’t comfortable about, is how you engage with the class once you’re there. If you commit to the content and use it to make sure you focus on how you can be useful as you work towards (and beyond) birth - then everyone else will get more from it as well.
Today, my male friends all seem to be playing an instrumental part in the parenting process alongside mum. They are renegotiating their working hours, taking months of shared parental leave, and playing a role in educating, feeding and comforting their children almost as much as mum. And mums, of course, are in a stronger position to choose what form their new life takes - whether that’s returning to work, becoming a full time mum, or even launching their own businesses.
Everyone is different. Their children are different, their careers are different and personal circumstances change over time. The mortgage still has to be paid, and we all need food on the table. There isn’t really a single right answer, and that's why having the opportunity to share more of the load is so important.
I am grateful that today, dads have a better chance than ever to play a significant role in every step of their children’s lives. That’s a privilege and not a chore - so when you get the chance at that first antenatal class, hold your breath, smile and take notes, it's your first step towards fatherhood.
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