The beautiful game of fatherhood

As lockdowns place an increasing childcare burden on women, Emma Davies writes about the lack of role models for aspiring stay-at-home dads

My Mr B is the football-loving geezer that you see at Stamford Bridge, chanting for his beloved Chelsea with a pint in hand or shouting at FIFA on the PS4 in-between irl games. He’s the joker, the lad, the football one.

Our chosen spot for life as adults is the big skied, sandy beached and sultry beauty of Norfolk. In our three-bed rental, the box room is the cave of football dreams, dedicated solely to Chelsea football club with football cushions, signed pictures and flags for the mighty blues. Last month, Mr B proudly exclaimed that he couldn’t wait for this room to be the baby room when the time arose.

Our prep for starting a family together (other than the obvious), consisted of tactically assessing our lives. Although it shouldn’t be a puzzle who exactly stays at home, when you lack that immediate support network it’s critical to know how you are going to manage and optimise the team. Mr B would be quite naturally a strong candidate to be a stay-at-home dad, married with the beautiful fact that he wants to be one. But the odds (and society) are stacked against him. In addition to this, we both come from single parent, fierce-female-led households, we constantly question if it is possible to learn the language of Dad when all you can speak is Mum.

Only one in seven fathers are main childcarers, so it’s not something we see around us. For those that we know, the stay-at-home dads aren’t often there by choice: the financials have swung the wrong way for them and they are “doing their time”. With the gender pay gap still being a hot topic it is still more common for the father to be the breadwinner, even if he would prefer a meeting of snotty noses, wailing and lullabies. It seems there is a battle to keep your sense of identity when you are a football-loving geezer who wants to desperately be a stay-at-home dad too. He’s worried where he will slot into society when there are no obvious signs of acceptance or encouragement.

The penalties seem endless, a lack of baby changing available for men, parent and toddler groups dominated by the mum crew, and dad and baby clubs outside of the capital are predictably elusive. Mr B doesn’t see himself readily portrayed in ads, social media, on TV or across the board of big baby shops. Babies are styled as being carried by mothers, fed by mothers, cared for my mothers.

But still, it stares us in the face: with no one to model our lives on, we don’t have the extra time to watch how the world changes and adapts, we are the ones doing it now. Is it time for society to change the goal posts? Instead of being backed into a corner where the stay-at-home dad must have drawn the short straw, Mr B’s goal is to break the mould of what we know and what society is used to, to become the proud, excited and supported stay-at-home dad that we need to see on and off the pitch.

Emma and Mr B

Pass the Mic is a series where we hand the Mother Pukka platform over to other voices to share their perspective. Each piece is edited as lightly as possible and contributors are paid the going editorial rate.

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