6 things you really shouldn’t say to a working dad

working dad and child, fatherhood penaltty

Article by Luke Harling, Senior Account Manager, The Audit Lab

Gone are the days where men are the sole breadwinners. Mums are getting back into the workplace and dads everywhere are stepping up to the childcare plate. And about time too, I say.

Just like the working mums out there, working dads (and even all dads) out there struggle to balance work and life. Pulling off raising kids without daily commitment from family or seriously deep pockets for professional childcare requires a hell of a lot, including expert time management, decent work hours, flexitime, a ‘do not disturb’ phone setting, and good luck with the green lights on the way home.

I think all working parents out there deserve respect for juggling things the way they do. Working mums have it tough, and are subject to a lot of criticism and judgement for the decisions they make. And as a working dad, and busy guy for digital marketing agency The Audit Lab, I’d like to draw attention to some of the ways that we are massively underestimated – here’s six things you really shouldn’t say to a working dad.

  1. “Don’t you miss your kids?”

Of course I do – I don’t think I’d be a great dad if I didn’t. But by asking this question, you reinforce the line between my work and my family, implying that I’m choosing one over the other. And that’s just not true. Who wouldn’t want to spend all day every day with their kids? But both me and my partner have to support our family because we need, you know, food and stuff.

  1. “So you’re stuck babysitting tonight?”

I know I’m not alone in hating the term ‘babysitting’ being used for any time someone other than a mum looks after children. I’d actually class this as the worst thing you could say to a dad, working or not, because it’s just not technically possible to babysit your own kids. The time I, as a father, spend with my children does not equate to a professional caregiver or the teen next door. So if you ever think about saying this, just don’t.

  1. “We’re all going out after work, can’t your partner just pick them up?”

Part of having kids is accepting that you’re no longer going to make every night out/party/after hours work event – that’s just part of the package. But what this statement does is encourage parents to shirk their responsibilities to the detriment of their partner, and it also assumes that my partner is able to simply “pick them up”. Wrong on two levels.

  1. “Just get a babysitter!”

Working parents have one of the most hectic schedules ever. Once the working day is done, the commute is finished, food is cooked and baths runned, there’s actually very little time in the evening to spend with family and children. As much as I’d like to have a babysitter on speed dial (this comment also assumes you have ready access to babysitter funds and/or family to step in), at the end of the day, I’d rather spend my time playing with the kids than having one drink after work. No matter how many times I have to sing nursery rhymes on repeat.

  1. “This meeting/project/task is more important than your kid’s nativity/parent’s evening/doctor’s appointment.”

There are very few (if any) professional endeavours that come to mind that could possibly eclipse me being there for the milestones of my kid growing up. Of course, we can’t be there for them all, but this shift we’re seeing towards life in the work-life balance debate is creating a working pattern that’s much more conducive to attending such events. It’s a huge step that’s been needed for a long time.

  1. “Wow! You’re so good at [insert basic parenting task here]!”

Yes, I am a master of nappy changing/matching outfits/braiding hair, thank you for noticing. But I don’t deserve a medal for it. Would you say the same thing to a full time caregiver? Or my kid’s mum, for instance? Focus on complimenting dads for the right things, and you’ll minimise this strange assumption we have that fathers aren’t capable of even the most basic parenting tasks. Let’s raise the bar a little, eh?

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