Parenting and Empathic Fathers

So, Who is Doing the Washing Up then?

Everyone talks about equality: the media, charities up and down the country and politicians anyway. It’s always a good subject to celebrate the achievements of our modern times. And yes, women often confirm how their status in society has improved – not only compared with the last 500 years, just take the last 50 years.

It is true: women (with our without children) have the same rights and responsibilities as men (at least that’s what the law says) – but a quick look into reality tells a different story. I’m not talking about all these big companies, where the men-women-ratio in the senior management is 9:1or that women are generally getting paid less than men for doing the same job. No, I mean the normal, mainstream family: Dad works full time, Mum works part time (or she is full time at home), 2 kids, 1 dog and a house with a mortgage for the coming 25 years (which actually feels like 100 years).

And now, let’s imagine a really lovely picture: Dad works but he is also a very committed, gentle, loving, patient, understanding and empathic guy who too raises the children – equally to the job his partner does. But – and here comes my evil question: Who is doing the washing up? No, don’t tell me it’s your dish washer! That’s not my point. I really question how equal our society is when it comes to the household chores. Yes, you could say now ‘hey, where is the big deal  here?’

I see it like this: I would say my Dad did a pretty good job as a parent. Apart from not talking about his emotions and feelings, he tried really hard. He was born by the end of the war, had a difficult childhood (as many post-war children had) and still gave his best when raising me. I’m convinced he believes in gender equality and women’s rights. But – here comes the big BUT again – he lets my mother doing most of the chores. I think he feels responsible for putting the bin out, that’s it. Why? Because that’s what he had observed when he was little. Mummy was doing everything, while Daddy worked. 50 years ago. And the bad news: it’s going on and on. I observed it many times when working with families and research confirms it.

Nowadays boys (and girls) still see the same thing at home. That includes my childhood too. And if people say to me, it’s no big deal then I say household chores are a pretty heavy job. I was a stay-at-home dad for nearly two years (I’m still most of the time at home). And yes, I had and I have days where I didn’t manage the washing up, because I chose to play with my kids or I couldn’t be bothered to do it.

And what’s the good news? We can change it. For example I have close friends, all dads, who do a stunning job: they work and do their share at home as well. Often a little talk can ease the problem too. E.g. my wife and I have a simple rule. Whoever has the time and motivation will do it. We don’t blame each other for not doing it. We both know when the dirty dishes pile up or the bathroom sink gets scruffy that we have a choice: do it or leave it – but be happy with your decision. At the same time “teach” your children that boys can clean up their mess too, whether it’s the loo or their plate. Or involve them in cleaning. Yesterday my boys and I had our weekly cleaning party. We took turns in vacuuming and tidying the house. After the job was done, we sat on the sofa and read a book. So, it turned out to be fun, just don’t see it as horrible task.
Anyway, I believe we (men, dads, uncles, grandads) should get more pro-active at this matter. Let’s bring some genuine equality into our homes and show that fathers of the new generation are just awesome. So gents, it’s about time to pull up our sleeves and to get busy there.

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