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‘Changing Stations, Damn It’ — 5 Things I Wish For Every Dad

Oct 2, 2018

I’ll never forget the first time I went out for dinner with my husband and my two stepsons. The waitress kept coming over to me and asking me questions on their behalf. Do they want straws? Will they eat with fork and knife or chopsticks? Juice or water? Every time, I looked at her blankly, fumbled, then deferred to my husband who she didn’t acknowledge.

Because the number one thing all parents need is compassion, support and encouragement.

By the end of the meal, he was hot under the collar. And I was embarrassed for the whole situation.

It’s 2018, and gender roles are changing. If we want men to take on 50 per cent of the child-rearing duties, then we need to give them the tools and power to execute.

Here, five things I advocate for every dad or any parent who doesn’t fit the gender-normative “mom” role.


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Respect

I wish dads got the same benefit of the doubt and faith in parenting as their female counterparts. Sure, restaurants are bad for only talking to mom. But much worse was when I went to meet-the-teachers night a couple of years ago with my husband to talk to my steps’ teachers.

Everything they said was directed at me. If they made eye contact with my husband even once, it was brief and fleeting. Looking at me over and over again when they talked about school and homework expectations. I couldn’t help but think: If we don’t respect men in their parenting and assume they’ll be equal partners — they probably won’t be.

Assume dad is all-in all the time, and go from there.


Dad Groups

My mat leave was lovely and I felt supported every step of the way. First, by my husband who worked hard for us during the day, and took over with the baby in the evenings.

But also because of the incredible women surrounding me who also had babies. We vented to one another, we shared our insecurities and fears, we hung out. We talked about how this massive change had affected our marriages. This kind of talk and togetherness is therapeutic. And I wished Jesse had had the same thing.

There’s nothing preventing dads from going to parent-and-tot-style playgroups, I know. But some dad-focused parenting groups would be welcome programming from any city or library. It can be intimidating to be the only one. And so far, the only daddy group I’ve seen strolling through the park is Chris Rock’s dad pack in the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting.


Change Stations

There’s nothing quite like trying to change your baby on the front seat of your car or in the quiet corner of a playground or on a dirty, bathroom floor. Luckily, I haven’t had to do that much.

If we want men to take on 50 per cent of the child-rearing duties, then we need to give them the tools and power to execute.

But for dads, that’s often the reality. My husband says things are getting better. There were hardly any change tables for men when his first two children — now ages 10 and eight — were little. Now with our toddler, Indy, things have improved — but only a little.

If we’re still separating washrooms by gender, we need to be giving men equal access to change tables. Not only for the dads who are out by themselves, and not only for the dads married to another dad, but also so that the default isn’t that mom has to do it. Every. Single. Time.


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Acknowledgment Of Their Own Emotions And Stress

I’m thrilled that, as a society, we’re finally acknowledging all of the emotional labour that typically falls to women. The planning, the organizing, the coordinating. The pressure to keep the ship from sinking and support everyone along the way. The stuff you can’t see but that takes up so much time and energy and effort.

But men are struggling, too. And in ways they’re less likely to talk about. In some cases, they’re still the primary breadwinner, sweating to make sure the family stays financially afloat. In our relationship, my husband makes more and has more earning power — and when we need to adjust or make more money, it falls on him.

The pressure to protect, provide and be stoic through it all can be all too real. I try to remember there’s a lot going on under the usually-cool facade.


The Right To Be Overwhelmed

When I was pregnant with Indy, my husband and I flew to Ontario during the summer. There was a man on the plane with a toddler and a young kid. He was sitting near us, and he was obviously overwhelmed. He was annoyed.

I raised my eyebrows. It’s not that hard, I thought. But it is that hard. And there’s no way I would have been so judgy if it were a harried mom with two squirrely kids.

I know that we tend to give dads gold stars for the regular stuff moms do all the time. And I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about giving dads room to fail.

Because the number one thing all parents need is compassion, support and encouragement.

And changing stations, damn it. Those would really be helpful.

Article Author Julia Lipscombe
Julia Lipscombe

Read more from Julia here.

Julia Lipscombe is an Edmonton-based freelance journalist and former staffer at FLARE magazine, NOW magazine and the Edmonton Journal. Julia is an arts and lifestyle specialist, and these days mostly writes about parenting, music and weddings. Alongside her husband, Jesse Lipscombe, she co-founded and runs the anti-discrimination campaign, #MakeItAwkward, which encourages people to speak up and speak out against racism, homophobia and hate of all kinds. Julia and Jesse are parents to three beautiful boys: Chile, Tripp and Indiana. In her ever-diminishing spare time, Julia likes to swim, bike, run, drink wine, and listen to lots of albums as a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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