Making mum friends - why the exclusivity?
I have to admit I get on my high horse about this more than I should. This is quite a controversial topic and I should state that I am feminist, in the way of believing men and women should be equal. I don't mean any offence in what I'm about to say... I don't think it's offensive anyway. I know that as a stay at home dad I'm part of a minority group and society reflects that... but should it?
I started writing this as my friend was tagged in a company's post about babies where they were talking about 'Making Mum Friends'. Do I need to make more mum friends? I understand that 9 times out of 10 it's the mother on maternity leave therefore it's usually the mother stuck alone in the house, lonely and in need of 'mum friends'. Where does that leave me though, a dad?
A quick google search of 'parent and toddler groups' results in 4 out of 5 results from netmums. The first hit in fact says:
"Parent and toddler groups in your area. Baby and toddler groups are a great place to meet mums with children your child's age, and your child can make new friends too. The groups are usually run by volunteers and provide a great play opportunity for you child and a chance for mums to make new friends too."
Promising start; parent and toddler groups! Good! Let's go! 'A great place to meet mums'... '...a chance for mums to make new friends too'. Oh ok. I suppose given the source netmums this is understandable.
The other result in the first 5 is the local directory search which provides a list of parent and toddler groups. No exclusivity here. Happy days. Just a picture of 3 women having a good laugh with their babies. Well maybe no men were at the group that day. Maybe there never are any there. For some reason a picture of a dad in there would make me feel a lot more comfortable about trying to enter this parent and toddler world.
Just out of curiosity I check the other local directory, result number 6. "Thebestof.co.uk" - Local information (general) - Mother and Toddler groups in Bury. Oh ok we're back on this..
On further investigation, reading posts about dads at parent and toddler groups it becomes apparent that men are usually warmly welcomed at parent and baby/toddler groups. However, for the question to be asked, there must be an issue. As a stay at home dad I'm in the same boat as all the mums that the parent and toddler groups are aimed at, so why does so much of the wording allude to a selective club.
The parent and toddler groups are inclusive of both but perhaps someone should tell this to the advertisers of the groups. It certainly doesn't give that impression.
I actually got in to quite an argument with a family friend about the online culture of this. I spent so much time when Isla was poorly in hospital being Dr Google. I know you're not supposed to, but I actually solved a lot of issues doing this. In my search for remedies and cures I found it to be so female focused.
I got so much good advice from netmums, circleofmums, mamanatural, motherandbaby, wellnessmama and so on. Should I be going on these sites? I'm not a mum. Similarly, even high profile sites like Bounty aim themselves almost exclusively to women. It seems only women are eligible to win baby related prizes. Yes, I'm being pedantic but look at it another way. You googled something and really need an answer. The only result, the only answer, is on a page called 'only for vile freaks.org'. Do you go on?
I had a little Facebook outburst rant about the sexist nature of these websites, perhaps only sexist in name, but even so. Most comments were supportive and could see my point. However, one of my friends argued that this was the case because it's the women in relationships that care, have breasts and feed their babies and only women usually bother searching for advice on how to soothe a screaming child. Women have spent years building up these networks of support and helping each other while supposedly there's only a minority of men who are fathers who spend more than 10 minutes with their babies.. I can see her point. But if that's the world we live in then women best get back to their knitting, having dinner on the table, and doing all the washing, ironing and other housework.
In an ideal feminist society men and women should be equal, not using the past as an excuse for rights and responsibilities. Another friend stuck up for me in this debate (a woman) stating, if it was the case that women deserved these exclusive groups of support because they'd built networks through the years, then men deserve all the best paid jobs and roles as they've spent years networking through old boys clubs. It's true that business is still top heavy with men but things are slowly beginning to change. Male support groups are growing in stature, The Dad's Network for example. Coincidentally The Dad's Network, has nearly as many female commenters as male, which leads me back to the question... why the exclusivity? If men and women are allowed on The Dad's Network, then why is it called The Dad's Network and not just The Parent's Network?
The lay of the land is changing and men are becoming more involved in their children's upbringing than ever before. It's still a minority and there's still a lot of men that give dads a bad name. Dead beat dads and more single mums looking after their children alone. So yes I can go to father and baby groups, but why would I want to cut out all the knowledge and advice from some of the experts, mums. Maybe I just need to go make some 'mum friends', have a cup of tea and not let it worry me.
(I will share some of the challenges I've faced as the primary care giver and being a dad in another post... it's a whole 'nother (even auto correct changed that to Mother, damn you Siri) story!)