This is a mum’s world

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been out with Evelyn alone and I’ve somehow invited dad stereotype comments such as “where’s mummy today then?”, “are you babysitting today?” and “you’ve been allowed out alone with her have you?”.

I’ve grown tired of asking them if they think I can pass her off as my own, or straight up implying I’ve kidnapped her before I walk away making guesses at her name so she reacts to me. It’s as if people think the Y-chromosome lacks the genetic code responsible for the ability to change a nappy without ending up peed on and wearing baby-crap.

The dad stereotype – gender roles

It’s usually the older generation, and it’s almost always women. Don’t get me wrong, I know they mean no harm. It’s light-hearted but it’s reminiscent of a time where mum/dad roles were clearly defined and separate with no overlap. It’s not the majority of the time either, rather about half of the time, but even that is too much.

We aren't ALL like this. Honest! (Source below)
We aren’t ALL like this. Honest! (Source)

I don’t say this from a purely defensive point of view though. The dad stereotype is as damaging to mums as it is annoying to dads. It lends itself to the attitude that dads can be forgiven for not being “hands on” in the early days because they just don’t have it in them, and I take exception to that. Fair enough, I may not have been able to breast-feed Evelyn without her spending half the night coughing up hairballs, but I’m capable of (almost) anything else mum is – with the exception of that mum-comfort, that much I happily concede.

Jingles like “That’s why mums go to Iceland” and shop names like “Mothercare” propagate this stereotype. As do the baby sections of most shops, with their perfect unrealistic pictures of mums and babies cuddling. Mum looking like she’d had more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep and baby looking like she hasn’t spent the best part of 26 hours screaming – hardly realistic!

I reluctantly admit that my subconscious does a subtle double-take when I see a picture of a dad and baby somewhere, but should it be like that? I’m instantly irked at the fact I thought it looked strange, but that’s market conditioning for you!

Baby-change facilities: No Entry!

I’ve seen this all too many times. Whether or not Kathryn was with me when I was out and about with Evelyn, I wanted to be the one to change her half the time. It’s only fair, right? Well it seems most establishments scattered across England don’t agree. They didn’t seem to foresee dads wanting to change their child’s nappy – and they’ve clumsily situated the baby-change facilities inside the ladies toilets.

baby change
Baby change signs – always the mum!

Now, it may have taken 3 ASBOs and a restraining order or two, but I’ve learnt my lesson about entering that magical carpeted royal chamber that is the ladies toilets. There are some gents toilets around that have the facility, but why oh why do they put the pull-down table next to the urinal. No thanks mate, I do not want your splashbacks reminding my daughter of her christening thank you very much.

I was forced to improvise most of the time and used the boot of my car. Evelyn didn’t care, but I did!

I have to say at this point that John Lewis is the créme de la créme where baby-changing facilities are concerned. I’ve walked half way across a city centre before just to change Evelyn there!


“Family changing rooms” – just no dads please

My final gripe on the topic of changing facilities (sorry, I know I’m just flat out moaning now) is when I took Evelyn for her swimming lesson on my own. Kathryn and I normally take her but she was ill this time, so I decided to brave it alone – how hard could it be? I could get Evelyn changed in the family changing room and then get changed myself in the men’s changing room with Evelyn warm and clothed, easy!

We got dressed for swimming beforehand and just put another layer of clothes on over it. Everyone does that, right? Anyway, we had a great lesson. Evelyn was finally taking to it and I got that smug/proud feeling I get when things go to plan and make me look like superdad. There were other kids there, some crying so much that I’m sure the water level raised a few inches, but all went swimmingly (sorry…) for Evelyn and me.

That was until we got out of the pool. I took Evelyn to the family changing room (note – this was NOT for getting dressed yourself. This was for getting your child dry and dressed). I opened the door slowly as to not knock some poor kid out, and I was talking to Evelyn as the same time. The door suddenly stiffened, then I felt the type of force on the door that could only be exerted by a semi-naked woman panicking. Seriously, this should be one of Newton’s laws in itself as there was some serious horse power in this.

“You will just have to wait”

I heard a very stern “Excuse me, can you give us a chance to get dressed here?!”. I stood there, Evelyn and I both in our swimming gear but wrapped in towels over it, the winter breeze flowing over us both from the open main entrance nearby. “I need to dry my daughter, it’s freezing out here” I said, as calmly as I could. “Well you’ll just have to wait, I’M not dressed yet”.

That was it, she’d pissed me off. “It’s not a room for you to get dressed though is it?”. No answer. Now usually I’m the argumentative type, but I had Evelyn to think of here and I had to get her sorted. The male changing rooms were ridiculously small, 4 people maximum and just straight open space, there were 3 men in there but they each had a child with them (older, not from the swimming lessons but able to dry and dress themselves) and there was no area to put Evelyn down to clothe her.

I used the disabled toilets, which happened to have a pull down table for changing a nappy. I was livid, Evelyn was cold and I felt ridiculous standing there in my towel in a toilet area!

Official advice – “Skin on skin with dads is creepy”

You read that right. Take a second to read it again, a couple of times if you need to. Ridiculous, right? What if I told you that this was a quote from a midwife giving an antenatal class? Ha, imagine how funny that would be.

Well, it was a quote from a midwife giving an antenatal class.

This was our second or third class. We looked forward to the class because we would talk for hours afterwards about our plans and how excited we were about the baby. The midwife spent a good 20 minutes squeezing apples through tights, and pushing dolls’ heads through a mock vagina knitted by some old woman. Once done with this display which frankly screamed “YOU SEE WHAT WE GO THROUGH? DO YOU?”, she moved on to the topic of what to do the minute the baby arrives. She spoke about breastfeeding, skin-on-skin with mum, and the placenta delivery.

I was excited to ask about skin-on-skin with dad at this point, but I didn’t have to because she shot me down with one sentence which seemed completely out of place. “Some dads like the idea of skin-on-skin, but it’s creepy” she said. She visibly shuddered and made a noise which I can only type out as “euuurgh”. Nice.

Me, being the argumentative type I mentioned earlier, said “I’m definitely doing that though”. Either she wasn’t expecting any dads to want to do it, or she wasn’t expecting anyone to speak against her. She paused just long enough for me to know that she’s realised what I’d said, then she moved on with the class.

Did it put me off? Absolutely not – skin-on-skin was something I’d looked forward to throughout the pregnancy. In fact, here’s a picture of us right after I’d taken her off my chest and wrapped her up for warmth:

One of those moments I'll never forget
One of those moments I’ll never forget

The realisation

It was then that I realised that I couldn’t do things like swimming or long shopping trips outside close proximity to a John Lewis without Kathryn with me. Most places are very maternal-centric and I can’t be wasting time arguing my point to people who are not inclined to listen or reason. It’s changing, slower than I’d like, but it’s changing.

Since then I’ve stumbled across – they have a great page where you can view a list of dad-friendly changing facilities in your area. You can contribute to it too, and I suggest you do if you know of any that aren’t on there! I wish I’d known of this sooner.

Still, the issue remains that we shouldn’t need to compile a list of places where a dad can comfortably and lawfully change his child’s nappy, should we?

Have you had a similar situation happen? What are your thoughts on the topic? Leave a comment below…

11 thoughts on “This is a mum’s world

    1. Wow that was a great read – thanks John! I’m impressed at how they renewed their invitation with the addition of meeting Gary!

  1. Excellent article. Even as a mum I’ve noticed the stereotyping. Sometimes you find baby changing in the disabled toilets which is helpful but still there’s a lack of equality especially in attitude. Although I once went somewhere the only changing facilities were in the men’s. Good thing hubby was there!

    1. Thank you Nic! It’s hard not to notice I think, but I do think it’s getting better in places.

      That’s really odd that you went somewhere the only had the facilities in the men’s toilets! Refreshingly odd though. I can’t praise John Lewis enough for their facilities – amazing poo parlour!

  2. I’d probably have flipped my biscuits on the midwife myself. My wife has done the brunt of the dirty work, with the “code brown” alerts and all. but I got skin time with my babies for sure. how ridiculous to think thats weird. in fact, heres a shot of me and my baby shortly after she was born, about 7 years ago. dude, i was tired from the birth! it was a lot of work to hold my wife’s legs up! (im just teasing ladies, don’t be too saucy) also, the whole “making dads look like worthless turds” thing. Its really irritating. I know we are an ocean away, and I know nothing really about your culture over there, but here it seems every tv show, and every billboard wants to press the idea that we are a bunch of homer simpsons. Like i said, my wife does a lot of the dirty work, but I take at least one of my kids everywhere with me and I have since they were babies. It really strikes a nerve with me. the question we get a lot, even when we’re together, is “are all these kids yours?!” and “where does the red hair come from?” so tiring. i feel your pain buddy.

  3. It’s amazing how insidious these assumptions about dads can be. I’d never even noticed the baby changing sign had a woman in it … it’s going to bother me too! I have been frustrated too because my husband and I are 50/50 with public nappy changes but I’ve often had to do more than my share because of the lack of changing facilities that men can use. Those women who were changing were very selfish. Hopefully with more modern dads like you speaking out against parenting gender stereotypes, things will get better.

  4. I hate gender stereotypes in general, but especially when it comes to allowing men to be dads to their children.
    I love this post and think it’s amazing you shared it. Too often these types of situations go unnoticed and unaddressed and it’s high time people stopped being so small minded and let dads parent their children, just as we let mums get on with it!
    P.S. Our first born loved skin to skin with daddy, and at times it was the only thing that got her to settle. I thank God every day for having a man who is willing to stand by me and be a hands-on parent! Just ignore the petty people who try to undermine your ability to be a parent!

  5. It’s awful. I can’t bear to hear people say the dad is babysitting! And really bad with tbr changing facilities too. I’d do it on the cafe tables just to make your point! Unless childcare is supported as an equal role then there will be we be equality!

  6. Noooo as if a MIDWIFE said that!? That’s abominable! Our experience was thankfully more positive with my midwife inviting MrG to whip his top off when Moose was firstborn to get some skin to skin time too.

    There is not much that will pickle my tits more than someone referring to MrG looking after OUR children as babysitting. He does usually help himself to pizza (& my alcohol) and watch inappropriate tv when Moose is asleep much like our babysitter but that’s by the by.

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