Parenting is not a competition, so stop trying to win


MEN are bald-face liars if they speak up and declare: I want flexibility in my working hours so I can help raise my young kids.

That's because, in reality, they are sitting in their cars outside the family home waiting for the Groundhog Day horror inside of junior dinner, bath and bedtime to be done and dusted.

It's all BS, this bit about wanting to be involved, we've been warned this week. It's simply a line blokes feel they ought to perpetuate, even if it doesn't square with new stats which claim that only a third of eligible new fathers are actually using the country's paid parental leave scheme.


George is fine, everyone. Really he is.
George is fine, everyone. Really he is. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

This week in an unhelpful missive, writer Kasey Edwards dismissed the notion that dads would genuinely love to spend more time with their families but the time and fiscal pressure of being the main breadwinner prevented this.

"It's time we call the standard retort 'men would love to take on more responsibility at home but their hands are tied' what it is: an excuse," she generalised.

"I used to work with a number of male colleagues with young families who would be the first to put up their hands for interstate travel so they could get a good night's sleep. It was so common it was a running joke in the office."

The reported figures on paid parental leave show that from June 2016 to March 31 this year, 62,560 people applied and got the dad and partner pay (DAPP), slightly up from the same period the year before when 59,216 people accessed the funds.

So it's become mum vs. dad. Parent vs. parent. Again.

But is life really any tougher than when our parents and grandparents had kids?


We don't need to be victims.


 Can we stop with the whole competitive parenting thing and just be good parents?
Can we stop with the whole competitive parenting thing and just be good parents? Polka Dot Images

The difference is that we've wholesale bought into the tiresome and destructive modern myth of the "unfair drudgery" that now defines being a parent.

Only yesterday Hollywood actor George Clooney borrowed that schtick when releasing a statement about his new family. "This morning Amal and George welcomed Ella and Alexander Clooney into their lives. Ella, Alexander and Amal are all healthy, happy and doing fine."

Then the sting in the tail: "George is sedated and should recover in a few days."

Goodness, my sides are splitting from the hilarity. Although subtle, it perpetuates a narrative that serves no one: parenthood is a long and unremitting nightmare, so just suck it up, sunshine.

Ignoring the fact that there would be women out there committing the same "crime" of dodging parent duty, Edwards added: "Men are not agitating for workplace change because, for many, the status quo works just fine for them."

Oh really. That, to borrow a phrase, is BS.


We stick the boot in the opposite sex or the working mothers or the stay-at-home mothers.
We stick the boot in the opposite sex or the working mothers or the stay-at-home mothers.

Caring for our families is a vocation. Parenthood is the greatest gift we can give to our kids so why are we determined to vilify it?

Even in this current week of terror attacks and the eye watering vulnerability of family life, the omnipresent acceptable way to discuss parenthood is to denigrate it. Complaining is now so depressingly mainstream that it has drowned out our previous favourite pastime: mum-shaming.

Here's a snapshot of parenting 2017 style, gleaned from a casual look at mummy blogs and Facebook pages.

Working mums have a tortuous modern life in which they juggle slippery balls of guilt, career pressure, financial pain and Botox appointments.

It's so hard, they say.

Stay-at-home mothers meanwhile tune out the whines of needy kids by bashing a keyboard and faceboasting their shock at the physical and mental impact of being a parent.

It's hard, so hard, they say.

Fathers shackled to their mega-salary careers and "freedom" arrive home one day to find the toddler is a teenager.

Beer, dinner, TV and lights out on the sofa for regretful Mr Dad because it's all too hard for words.

We tell ourselves that it's part of the package, to struggle through reward-free years of watching our faces, backsides and bank balances sag.


Matthew Ennis Photography

It's also the alluring one-upmanship of grind and sacrifice. How quickly we lose sight of that feeling from which grew the overwhelming need to be a parent and how quickly we lose sight of the fact that we once loved someone enough to make a child with them.

We stick the boot in the opposite sex or the working mothers or the stay-at-home mothers.

The mothers who send brownies in their kids' school lunch boxes or the mothers who breastfeed in public.

The fathers who spend too much time on the couch.

We avoid like gastro any opportunity to celebrate each other for our differences, which are neither the exclusive domain of men or women. Instead we are stressing out over silly parenting fads.

I have a friend whose wife walked out on the family when her youngest of five children was a preschooler. But the usual narrative is that it's a man that does this.

This father has not only risen to the challenge but he has raised five amazing young people with a firm hand and a loving heart.

Sure he has made mistakes but it might interest Edwards to know that he has been there for every snotty sneeze and toxic vomit.

And he's a man, cast from that cloth of apparent Neanderthals bent on shirking their parental responsibilities.

Three of the kids are now at university, one doing her HSC and the other one starts high school soon.

I don't want to feel inadequate at the most important job in my life but competitive parent whingeing will keep me there if I indulge in it.

If you can't celebrate the fact that others, be they men or women, choose different paths in life, bite your tongue.

As a colleague noted this week, parenthood for this generation is the new version of "I walked 12 miles to school barefoot and every day in the snow uphill both ways".

We need to stop making parenthood sound like the worst thing in the world. That's the very least we owe our beautiful children.

News Corp Australia

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