Yes, the days of yore when fathers steadfastly ignored their offspring are well and truly over. Which is good. And in his place is hands-on Superdad who loves nothing more than to have fun, fun, fun with his kids. Especially if someone just happens to be videoing his super-duperness so he can upload it to his Daddy Cool blog, seed the clip into Facebook where it goes viral, gets him on Ellen and hooks a book deal.”
Kerry Parnell wrote this in the Sydney Daily Telegraph today. She more or less argues that dads do cool things with/for their kids and write about it or video it in order to gain some form of celebrity status. She also suggests that there is no equivalent in the mommyverse. “Women being good mums just isn’t click-worthy, I suppose, especially as it’s mostly females doing the liking.” I don’t know if there are any stats on these sorts of things, but anecdotally I feel pretty comfortable making the claim that there are far more mommy bloggers out there than daddy bloggers.
Some parent bloggers have set out to write a blog to generate views on pages and make money for their efforts. Some are writers or would-be writers who are trying to get a book deal and others are professional journalists. Some are trying to develop a business that allows them to work from home and spend more time with their kids. Some of them luck out with one particular piece that goes viral and generates lots of traffic for their blog. In my experience, most parent blogs are small with parents using it as an outlet to share their experiences and connect with other parents.
When I consider the dad bloggers I have started reading and engaged with since I started writing I see men who are trying to be engaged parents. I see men who are looking for opportunities to do better and I see men who are sharing what they learn from their experiences. This is true whether they are writing blog posts sponsored by an advertiser or writing about their own experiences with no hopes for compensation.
Johnny T also writes about the cool dad or superdad phenomenon on the Dads Round Table. In his piece Neither Superheros nor Gods he writes about recognizing that dads are just dads, not superheroes. He supports the increasing positive portrayals of fathers in media and online. He also writes that parent bloggers are raising the bar ever higher and by creating a stereotype or image of an engaged dad as a superdad only makes it harder to attain.
Being a cool superdad myself I understand the challenges of living up to my standards… Actually I don’t think I have ever met the standard for “cool” and while I certainly try to be engaged, I am by no means a superdad. Most days I am a work-in-progress at best.
I suspect many of the dads that I have met who are trying to be engaged in their kids’ lives would think of themselves similarly. I have no problem with the viral photos of dads doing their daughters’ hair or catching a baseball barehanded while holding a baby in the other. I think videos of dads singing or dancing with their kids are worthwhile.
Do images of dads braiding their kids' hair represent modern fatherhood or is it just 'superdads' seeking attention?Click To Tweet
Breaking the Cycle
Many of us grew up in single-parent households or in two-parent households with fathers who were not around. Fatherhood and our expectations of fathers have changed and are continuing to evolve. Feminism calls for men to take on a greater role in the household to enable a more equal partnership in heterosexual relationships.
Men who grew up in homes with absent fathers want to do better for their kids. We look for ways to give our kids the support and participation that we did not get as kids and teens. The challenge for us dads is that as expectations and opportunities for involvement change, we have to chart a new course. We cannot all look to our fathers for example on how to be engaged dads. We must instead look to and learn from one another. We learn from our partners and our parents as well.
Role Model Dads
We learn from the pioneers who fight for greater parental leave rights and who push for acceptance of stay-at-home-dads. We learn from those who seek to make workplaces more friendly to dads who take parental leave or choose to schedule their work lives to allow them more time at home with their kids.
It doesn’t matter if the videos and stories online that Kerry Parnell disagrees with are staged or written to make the dads look good. It doesn’t matter if some of the things some dads do make them out to be superdads. These are acts and efforts for the rest of to aspire to. I will never catch a baseball barehanded while holding a kid in my other. Frankly I couldn’t do it without a kid in my arm. The important thing is seeing a dad at a sporting event wearing a baby. I won’t likely take a selfie of my brushing my daughters’ hair – no one wants to see my hairy and somewhat rotund belly while I pin my daughters to the ground in an effort to get them to hold still while I brush the tangles out of their hair. But seeing an image of another dad doing hair helps to normalize it for me and for all those men who don’t yet do their kids’ hair. Singing along to tunes from Frozen while driving isn’t going to be me – actually that one could happen – but it won’t be caught on video. Kids love to sing and dance and while I may no longer be able to break dance, and in spite of the fact that I have trouble remembering song lyrics or singing in tune, it is important to make the effort. Being active with your kids is important. It is especially important for us to do the things we are afraid to fail at doing.
Our kids need to see us making the effort. There aren’t many daddy and baby or daddy and kid activities out there. Most are targeted for mums and kids. When I was on leave following the birth of our oldest daughter I remember being the only dad in reading groups at the library or at the park. The mums and caregivers chatted with one another and none talked to me. My wife made friends in these groups and I didn’t even get names. This was partly my own insecurity about approaching people I didn’t know and that was exacerbated by the fact that I was the only man there.
There are more fathers groups out there now and more opportunities for dads to connect with and learn from one another. We are still in a minority though and it is still challenging to find those opportunities. The viral superdads are role models for the rest of us. If they make it on to Ellen or CNN or CBC radio they reach a wider audience and they help more of us learn to be better men and better dads.
None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Sharing those learnings in any way possible is important. So to all you superdads out there, please keep it up. Keep us entertained and help us learn how to be better ordinary engaged dads.
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