Like I suspect many millions of people in this country, if I was asked which of my roles in life I am most proud of it would be the fact that I’m a father.
Whether I’m a good dad or not isn’t for me to say but I guess, again like many others, all I can say is I think I’ve tried my best and I do, and always will, love my children to bits.
Being a father, however, sometimes doesn’t feel quite as defined a role as being a mum. The fact that a minority – and if you read some media you will forget that it’s only a minority – of dads abandon their children without emotional or financial support means we are often not treated with the same respect as mums and I do find that a little sad.
I remember when my children were little noticing just how society viewed the role of mum and dad differently. Perhaps it was the weekends spent in Mothercare (note the name) or perhaps it was the fact (and this one always annoyed me) that when I spent time alone with my children people would often say “are you babysitting” as if they couldn’t possibly assume it was something I would want to do by choice.
And then of course there’s the whole “mother and toddlers” thing. I remember once when I was off from work being encouraged to take my then two year old daughter to a local ‘mothers and toddlers’ group having been assured that there were lots of other men there. There wasn’t. The oldest other male in the room was about three years of age and some of the mothers looked at me with everything ranging from curiosity to outright suspicion.
I also recall how excited I was when I knew I was going to be a dad for the first time and the crushing disappointment of realising that nobody had written any books or produced magazines for would-be dads while the shelves were creaking at the titles for mums, potential or otherwise. I remember pointing this out to a female friend who said (I think jokingly) “well you’ve done the main job now – the rest is all about your bank balance”.
I’m sure things are different today – my two are scarily 18 and 20 years of age now – but I still support any idea to try to help dads understand the important role they have to play in bringing up children. And that is why I salute Bath and north east Somerset Council’s recent initiative called Celebrating Fatherhood which is a series of events to encourage dads to get the most out of their relationship with their children and maybe to help foster some of the relationships with other fathers that mums have always done with each other so brilliantly in similar circumstances.
On my drive to work recently I heard the reports about why some people believe the riots took place last summer and it was mentioned on several occasions that the lack of male role models may have had an impact on that scenario. I’m not 100 per cent sure about that, but I do know that the best male role model any child can have is a loving father and so let me use this column to say a hearty well done to dads everywhere who, like me, bumble along but if we’re led by our heart, hopefully get there in the end.
Yes mums are wonderful. But hey, we dads have our moments too.
*This article originally appeared in the Bath Chronicle on March 29.