Do you have suggestions to help dads more comfortably participate in "mommy and me" events?
Special thanks to Mommy Chic (mommy-chic.blogspot.com) for suggesting this Q&A.
There is a subliminal message that Dads are not quite welcome in parenting land thanks to TV programs that always have the Mums in control, the exclusion of men and Dads from advertisements selling nappies and formula etc, the absence of Dads on baby products down the aisles of Supermarkets. We're made to feel that out role is assigned to a bit player who has no real insight into sleeping techniques, baby products, behavior management, pregnancy issues etc.
We then get an invite to a 'Mum's Group' or event where we feel like a bit of a gate-crasher (because it would be called parents group or Mums and Dads group otherwise, wouldn't it?) and sit awkwardly as most topics are discussed around us instead of with us.
Dads change nappies now, we get up to our children at night, we make their meals, work in the school canteen. We are involved in everything and have insight, ideas and real questions and concerns about raising children. We want to get involved in all aspects of our children's lives but feel we are hitting out heads against a constant societal whispering that says, 'Men don't quite belong here.'
Dad's will feel more comfortable at Mummy events when our opinion is valued and respected - not just at these events - but more generally in what we see is happening in the world around us. Mums and Dad need to start broadly - speak out against stereotypes in advertising, request a more realistic representation of Dads in the media, change the names of events to include both parents.
It is time to start calling them parent and me events. I personally don't care, it is just a mtter of respect.
My suggestion is to talk to the fathers who show up. Many times the moms ignore us or act funny around the fathers. Just talk to the dads and remember that they are there because they are trying to be good dads and to bond with their children.
While some of our experiences are going to naturally be different we have a lot in common. We still need to feed/clothe/entertain/discipline our children. Focus on the commonalities and things should progress from there.
I wouldn't attend an event when its very title assumes I have a vagina. When at a toddler playtime event, I'd prefer not to be ignored by mothers, nor fawned over because I'm more involved than their child's father.
I would have to agree with Drew, Mitch, and Clint. I would be more comfortable if it was called, "Parent and Me," or "Mommy and Me" (Dads are welcome, too). Even if I felt comfortable attending (because I didn't want my child to miss out on something), I would worry about making the moms uncomfortable, especially because of the name of the event.
Or, dads can host "Daddy and Me" events. Would any moms be comfortable in participating in those?
Well, for one thing they are called 'Mommy and Me' events. I'm already uncomfortable with the name. I prefer to do my own thing with my kids for the most part. My daughter and I go on special Daddy/Daughter dates and my son and I will do the same but they will be Daddy/Son outings.
I have a different work schedule which allows me to be home all week with my kids. I take my daughter to school so I'm completely comfortable around the moms. I'd be completely comfortable at Mommy and Me events since I've been blogging for so long and nearly every event I've ever been to is flooded with moms and everything is addressed to the moms, I just went and reviewed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the tickets were for mommy blogger. We had a son three weeks ago and I had forgotten how almost every form in the hospital mentions the mom and very, very few even consider the father. So, I'm used to the language being exclusive to moms but events being inclusive to dads. It is annoying but I can deal.
As dads we have4 the same quest to give the best care that we can as caring parent. Dads should be encouraged that what they contribute to the care is significant although the care the man might give might not be regular.
I think the first thing organizers need to understand is that "Mommy and Me" events are named as such because traditionally it is the mommy who takes the kid(s) to these events and we dads know this. So in my opinion, there is no need to change the name.
I've gone to mommy and me events and I'vew gone to daddy and me events and to be honest I find I spend more time chatting at the mommy events because whenever a daddy goes we're the odd man out.
Going back 3 children to the many mommy and me events that I have gone to, the ones that made me feel the most comfortable were the ones where there was an opportunity to play with my child, and slowly interact with whomever came over to play too. These events also had coffee, or some other form of food which gave me an opportunity to make small talk with the regulars and set the tone for the next event.
I think part of the responsibility to keep the dads engaged falls on the organizer of the event and once the moms see the outnumbered dads, it's up to them to mingle and chat too.
Just my thoughts.
When my wife went back to work and I took over on parental leave, I kept attending our babies group. At first I was the only dad there, but over time more moms went back to work and more dads started showing. At the beginning I was sometimes called "an honourary mommy", but overall it was pretty welcoming. I always found it best to call it a babies group.
The bond over having young children was the biggest part either way, if you were a new mom or a new dad. We quickly learned to share and that we were all sharing similar experiences regardless of gender.
My first suggestion to get dads to more comfortably participate in these events is to stop calling them "Mommy and Me". The name in and of itself tells dads that the event isn't for us.
Secondly, when you have an event like a "Mommy and Me" that you know is going to be heavily, heavily (if not 100%) female group and you want dads to attend, you should be aware that 99% of us aren't going to attend our first event without our wife with us. It's just a nice buffer to show up with your wife, have everyone meet both of you and create a relationship that way. Subsequent events are easier to attend once you have broken the seal with the group of women. This might require having the events outside of working hours, but it vastly improves your odds of gaining male attendance.
As a dad myself I have no hesitation of taking my kid to the park, zoo, museum or any other public place with no set agenda. But when it comes to taking my kid to a preplanned event, specifically designed for parents, that's when I start getting nervous, knowing that it's very likely I'm the only male there.
Change the name to "Mommy & Me (and Daddies too)"
What I have found works for me. First I always go on the same day so now most people there know me. The few that don't see that the others do know me and are thus are fine with my presence. Second play with your kids. That is why your there and it always looks good to the other parents. Third help out, clean, volunteer to bring a snack (Ask around to avoid the minefield of allergies, health nuts, ect). Fourth and I shouldn't have to say it but unless you have facial hair make sure you shave. Bad mornings for moms involve sweatpants, for dads its not shaving. Sweatpants are not threating but unfortunately scraggly facial hair is.