We need to allow parents to feel okay about being mediocre. Picture: iStock
We need to allow parents to feel okay about being mediocre. Picture: iStock

Dad shaming: The latest attempt to humiliate men

YOU would think that a sun dappled park on a crisp blue sky morning would offer a sanctuary of serenity.

Children giggling, dogs walking, birds singing _ all is seemingly good in the world.

Think again. This was the scene of my husband's dad shaming incident last week.

Hours earlier, one of our two-year-old twin sons had spin bowled a toy train across the living room with such force and accuracy it cracked a hole in the centre of our giant smart TV.

My maternal pride at raising a future star of the Australian cricket team was quickly doused by my husband's heartbroken horror.

The television was only three months old, was by far our biggest ever household splurge and its entire purpose was to serve my husband through the footy season, especially as his beloved Brisbane Lions are doing so well.

My husband was silent as he watched lines rapidly spread out of the crack until the only clear picture left on the screen was a few square centimetres in the top left corner.

I did what every modern mother should: went to work and left him to it.

So there he was, at our local park, scrolling on his phone for second hand televisions on Gumtree, while the kids played in the park.

He didn't see our mini Nathan Lyons strike again, this time trying to mount a stranger's bike, which he accidentally knocked to the ground.

Note to dads: don’t be on your phone at the park lest you face judgment from others. Picture: iStock
Note to dads: don’t be on your phone at the park lest you face judgment from others. Picture: iStock

My husband raced over, picked up the (undamaged) bike up and told our son not to touch it, but that wasn't enough for the cycle's owner - a middle-aged male in lycra.

Enraged, the man shouted at my husband: "how about you get off your phone and try parenting your kids properly".

Sadly, I wasn't there to interject with my own comments along the lines of how about you stop subjecting us to your pathetic midlife crisis, your downright unsafe behaviour on our roads and the public sight of your drooping, aged buttocks smothered in thin, damp material.

No, my real issue here is with this demand that we must meet a constant standard of perfect parenting - every day, everywhere.

Why is that strangers - and it's always strangers - feel they can publicly interfere and criticise a person's attempt to raise children?

And why is it that women have earned the well-deserved right to mother in public without judgment, but fathers are still subjected to condemnation?

Just as dads should not be praised for 'babysitting' their kids, they also should not be humiliated for making mistakes.

Dad shaming is very much a real issue. Picture: iStock
Dad shaming is very much a real issue. Picture: iStock

Dad shaming is very much a real issue.

The New York Times last month reported on a children's health poll by the University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital that revealed that 52 per cent of fathers of children up to the age of 13 frequently feel scrutinised and their parenting judged by outsiders and family members.

Among the main issues of dad ridicule were playing too roughly with their children and feeding them junk food.

I spent a good chunk of my childhood locked in the car squabbling with my siblings while a parent ran into the shops.

We roamed the neighbourhood streets unaccompanied by adults, returning home only when the street lights came on.

How is that in the space of a generation we have lost this freedom and now expect unachievable ideals of parenting surveillance and excellence?

How can you teach your children social skills, self-reliance and self-responsibility if you are monitoring their every move?

It's an unreasonable expectation to have your children - and society - believe that a parent can be everything.

How can you teach your children social skills, self-reliance and self-responsibility if you are monitoring their every move? Picture: iStock
How can you teach your children social skills, self-reliance and self-responsibility if you are monitoring their every move? Picture: iStock

If perfect parents truly existed the human race would cease to continue as children would never want to leave home and start their own family to right the wrongs of their less-than-perfect parents.

We need to reclaim the space between negligent and helicopter parenting - a space where parental flaws are embraced.

As the philosopher Alain de Botton writes in The Course of Love: "We seem unwilling to allow for the possibility that the glory of our species may lie not only in the launch of satellites, the founding of companies and the manufacture of miraculously thin semiconductors, but also in an ability - even if it is widely distributed among billions - to spoon yoghurt into small mouths, find missing socks, clean toilets, deal with tantrums and wipe congealed things off tables.

Here, too, there are trials worthy not of condemnation or sarcastic ridicule but of a degree of glamour, so that they may be endured with greater sympathy and fortitude."

So the next time you encounter a below average parent, give praise not criticism.

We're doing our mediocre best.



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