Imagine. Dads looking after their kids on their own. Hilarious
The lazy notion that fathers are inept is being challenged by daddy bloggers
Father and son: the challenge is to reach the Homer dads out there and remind them their children won’t be young forever
Fathers are idiots, right? When we’re not passing out drunkenly on the couch like Homer Simpson, oblivious to our kids juggling burning scissors, we’re flipping molten pancakes directly into our faces like Peppa Pig’s dad.
This notion that men are not very good at looking after their children is not new, but it is constantly being reinforced by big brands and advertisers. Kellogg’s still prints boxes in Ireland suggesting that the complex task of feeding children breakfast cereal is a mother’s job (although it does say it in a gentler, more family-friendly fashion).
Huggies wasn’t so gentle a couple of years back when it ran a television ad in the US with the following voice-over: “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days.”
Imagine. Dads looking after their children. On their own. Hilarious.
Furious online campaign
A lot of men didn’t think the Huggies promo was particularly funny, and, following a furious online campaign, the brand saw sense and pulled the ad, replacing it with one with a soporific voice-over that in order to “prove Huggies diapers can handle anything, we asked real dads to put them to the test – with their own babies, at nap time, after a very full feeding”.
The social media storm that broke over Huggies was a game-changer, as dads started to harness the web in a way mothers had been doing for a decade. In Ireland, forums such as eumom.ie, roller coaster.ie and magicmum.ie have drawn in tens of thousands of users over the past decade. These sites offer invaluable support to pregnant women and new mothers, and they are creaking at the seams with information on every act of parenting, starting before conception.
There is very little out there for men. Boards.ie has a small forum for fathers, while roller coaster.ie has given over a small section to the lads, while dad.ie is there too, but hardly buzzing with life.
It is different on the other side of the Atlantic. Dads are still buffoons, but in the online sphere things have evolved a little bit. The Dad 2.0 conference takes place in New Orleans later this week, and will bring together hundreds of daddy bloggers, along with marketers and big-name brands from across the US and Canada and blogging “to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood”.
The conference is being run by XY Media, a company that helps big brands to appeal to fathers. It is a forum that would have given Don Draper and the slick Madison Avenue ad men of the 1960s – those who first dressed men up as useless parents – heart failure (if their hearts had not long since failed due to all the smoking and boozing).
Blogger and author Kenny Bodanis is one of the speakers at the conference. He has recently published a book with the arresting title Men Get Pregnant Too (Despite Never Pushing Watermelon Through A Pigeon Hole), and he says father’s are in a “no-win situation” when it comes to parenting.
Those who work full time are “accused of not being emotionally invested in the day-to-day development of their children”, while stay-at-home dads “fight the assumption they are at home because they were fired or uninterested or unable to earn a wage. This is a stigma stay-at-home moms don’t have to face on this scale. A dad in a playground with his child at 10am is still regarded warily.”
He describes the negative perception of fathers as “fodder for mom-centric advertising and dad-buffoons in sitcoms”.
He says a key reason there are fewer community-driven online resources for fathers – even in the US – is down to simple maths.
“Stay-at-home and hands-on fathers are still a very small minority – hands-on and stay-at-home moms far outnumber us. Not only that, I think the personality profile of a mom looking to blog or participate in an online parenting forum is much more general. In my opinion, simply having a child is enough to interest moms in participating in online parenting activity.”
That is not the case for most men, he suggests.“There is a healthy blogosphere and online fatherhood community but, how do you reach that guy who drops his shoes at the door on Friday and golfs on Saturday and Sunday, and has no idea the rest of us exist and that the conversation about more involved fatherhood is being had? I think that’s the real challenge, and solving that problem would really benefit a lot of relationships between not only fathers and their children, but husbands and wives as well.”
Well, a good way to start would be to shake the golf- playing dad while reminding him in no uncertain terms that the greens and the bunkers and the club-house filled with unfortunately dressed men will be there forever but his young children won’t.
And if he doesn’t listen to that, well then he deserves all the Homer caricatures that come his way.