Dad is not a second class citizen

“Dad Is Not a Second Class Citizen”

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It’s our pleasure to bring you this guest post from John Adams, author of John is married, has two young daughters and, in this blog post, outlines some of the barriers men face as parents. 

I was completely oblivious to the barriers us men face as parents until I gave up my old job to look after the children. The issue just washed over me.

After 18 months of dealing with a constant stream of passive sexism, I decided to do something about it and last October my blog,, was born. Although I write about all aspects of parenting, the aim was to highlight the impediments I believe us men face as parents.

I am always clear about one thing; there are very few concrete obstacles in our way. The overwhelming majority of the barriers I talk about are subtle. They are found in the language used to describe parenting or the attitudes of the healthcare, education and childcare workforces. The attitudes of some employers, the family courts and paternity leave are probably the only areas where men are blatantly disadvantaged (the shared parental leave system the Government wishes to introduce should make paternity leave less of an issue for men).

If most of the barriers are subtle, you may very well be asking what the problem is? Allow me to give you a few examples.

On a coffee table in our living room are two books I was given for our baby daughter. Both come with instructions as to how “mummy” might want to read the books to their child. There’s no mention of “daddy” whatsoever. On our dining table is a packet of breakfast cereal that states a child might want “a little help from mum” to get the food into a bowl. Call me radical, but I don’t consider feeding and education to be exclusively female responsibilities.

These examples are just a bit irritating and don’t signify the end of the world. The thing is, the examples keep coming. Despite the increasing number of stay at home dads, you still come across the occasional “mother and toddler” group. I’ve twice seen employers illegally trying to recruit “stay at home mums” and just the other day I received an email addressed “Dear Mum” from an online retailer.

This retailer asked me to join its “mum bloggers network.” As if this wasn’t offensive enough, this retailer (I won’t name it) specialises in selling clothes, toys and furniture. I know this might seem a bit radical, but fathers do in fact have an interest in these products and buy them for their children.

Like most men, I’ve also had a few unfortunate experiences with health service providers. The classic, that most men seem to have experienced, is to be completely ignored by the hospital sonographer. When our youngest had her 12 week scan the sonographer didn’t even look at me, let alone say hello or offer me a chair. You’d be surprised how common-an-experience this is.

I’m also a bit miffed about the time I took my youngest for some inoculations and the nurse started physically looking round the room for my wife. That was just bizarre and I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or laugh!

Men are constantly drip-fed the message that parenting and raising children is women’s work. This does nothing to encourage men to show a greater interest in their children’s lives or get more involved as fathers. I was a little older than most when I became a father so I had a bit of age and a reasonable level of confidence. I can see why a young dad or a dad with low self-esteem might believe the hype and think parenting should be left to mum and that’s a real shame.

I’m not, however, going to tell you that men are blameless in all this. It is up to us men to demand equality as parents. We must highlight the obstacles we face as parents because, at the end of the day, there’s very little mum can do that dad can’t.

John profile 2013

Read about John’s first ever visit to a Kiddicare store in our post about the Blogger event at Kiddicare Hayes.

About to embark on an adventure into fatherhood? Everything you need  from carriers to car seats, you’ll find it at baby specialist Kiddicare.


  1. Really interesting post. Although I’m not a stay at home dad, I can certainly relate to a lot of the things that you’ve mentioned. At our first NHS antenatal class, the midwife leading it went round the room and got all the mums-to-be to introduce themselves and their partners. Clearly this was hardly a way to make everyone feel included, especially as almost half of those present were men. I also remember a health visitor being surprised that I was present for one of her visits to see my wife and son. I’d decided to work at home that day and she came out with something like ‘I’m sure that you’ll be looking forward to returning to normality’ (i.e. going to back to the office). Actually, normality since becoming a dad is wanting to spend as much time as possible with our son and seeing him develop. I found it hard going back to work in a lot of ways and really value being able to work from home at this stage.

  2. This is a lovely comment Jonathan, thanks for sharing. We’re happy to say that Dadbloguk will now be blogging for us so look out for more of his posts. Best, Vicky

  3. Great comments Jonathan. Interestingly I’ve never really had any problems with midwifes or health visitors. I’ve always found them to be very inclusive.

    Just last week, however, I went to see my GP. My youngest daughter was with me and she commented that I was clearly “babysitting” for the day. Not the first time I’ve heard that comment either!

    I can totally relate to what you’re saying about returning to normality after being on paternity leave. It was horrible having to return to work after the birth of our eldest (I worked full time at that point). It was really depressing and took some adjustment. I used to love returning home in the evenings.

    John Adams
  4. I as a woman get sick of everything being aimed at MUM’S.. From cleaning products to looking after the children , so this was great to read. I don’t know why people think it’s so odd that dads are hands on?? Their parents , that’s how it should be!.

  5. My husband was so so upset in the maternity ward as men were treated like second class citizens, not allowed to be offered a tea or coffee by the staff, nor a sandwich, they had to sleep on the floor not in the chair (!), not allowed to use the en-suite bathroom at all, couldn’t collect the food for the babies Mother (despite me not being able to walk) and when he took the baby for her health check in hospital, the health care assistant asked “where’s Mum?” (reply: too poorly to move), she said that she wouldn’t be able to do the health check “unless…well I don’t suppose you would know the answers to the questions? I suppose you might if you are her Dad but Dad’s don’t tend to know the answers that’s why we need the Mums.”…..he told her all the information she needed to know and she was surprised! Great blog post for the dads out there!

  6. When parents seperate/divorce, fathers are automatically deemed worthless, violent, abusive and not worthy of seeing their children as far as the Gov is concerned. Mothers get all the support and can pretty much dictate everything about their childrens relationship with their father. (Yes nay sayers, there are a few exceptions but I’m talking about the majority.) If a mother chooses to stop a father seeing his children the police, courts, cafcass and social services will happily assist her in making false allegations etc about the father and to deny his access.
    Because of this (il)legal sexual discrimination against fathers, any organisation that deals with children now automatically deems fathers to be a risk (violence/abuse/kidnapping) until proven otherwise. (Usually “otherwise” means a mum saying it’s ok)
    The Bloggers observations of how fathers are being ommitted from everyday life activities is because the “feminist movements” have bleated on and on about how women are too fragile to deal with the reality of what a child needs (particularly where the mother has done her best to deny these needs)
    Yes, fathers are treated as second class citizens and often like criminals.

  7. Wow – some fascinating comments building up here. I’m afraid my recent experience of maternity ward wasn’t the greatest. I spent the best part of a week on the ward as my wife had possible eclampsia. The staff were brilliant but there was no gents lavatory on the ward. Every time I needed to go I had to leave the ward and to get back in I had to ring a security buzzer.

    Tea and coffee was bought round to the mums but dads had to go to the hospital cafe. The result was that every time the tea trolley came round (my wife isn’t a huge fan of either drink) she got a nudge from me and ordered tea…which I then drank!

    A maternity ward absolutely must focus on the women, totally 100%. My wife was getting very depressed and missing our other daughter; I had to be with her and it is little things like toilets and tea that help dad to get involved. I fear this is a lesson that some hospitals are still to learn.

    John Adams
  8. I can totally relate to most of your experiences, we certainly can feel like second class citizens at times. I highlighted this via a post on my own blog titled Sexism against dads. It also irritates me when we are believed to be incompetent by the opposite sex at carrying out certain parental roles, I am personally not a stay at home dad but when at home I am a full on dad in every sense. There is this perception amongst many that the dad goes to work while the wife stays at home and looks after the children, that is certainly not the case in every household and I applaud the dads that have to stay home to look after their children!

    Jason Nelmes
  9. David I agree with you totally in what you arer saying. I have experienced this type of discrimination for years and the mothers are given too much say and CONTROL over their child in all things relating to them. Fathers are made to feel like criminals and looked at as worthless wasters.
    Both parents are needed and as a father I have been excluded at every opperrtunity by the mother yet I have played and continue to play an important part in her life and will continue to do so.
    We have to jump through hoop for basic entitlements such as access etc on the words of the mother. Relationships break down for whatever reason, fathers may not even have been in a realationship !!!!!! yet have been willing to do their bit and supoport their child in all the ways they should and still we are discriminated against. The legal system is totally top heavy in favour of the mother.
    I wont beat about the bush but its a discrace how fathers are treated.

  10. My boyfriend and I recently had our first baby. I learned that the father had just as an important role to play in the birth as I did. It sounds silly, but without him not leaving my side, providing his hand or knee to squeeze as and when needed and telling me how fantastic I was doing, I wouldn’t have felt so supported and empowered in the most intense experience of my whole life! We also had the odd passive comment as if all dads were good for was changing the odd nappy. Oh my goodness, he did so much for me after the birth. I felt a bit guilty as I felt that I wasn’t doing Anything to help post-birth. But I’ve realised that it’s completely normal for dads to do all they can to make sure mum and baby are resting as much as poss after birth-it’s just not recognised. Can you imagine dads being THAT amazing?! They deserve so much recognition for their role in pregnancy and afterwards. Maybe if dads were shown more appreciation by health care staff then pervading view that ‘it’s all down to the woman’ will diminish and men will start to get the appreciation they deserve. Seeing the man you love who is doing so much for you and your new baby being treated like a tool who is only handy now and then by health care staff is upsetting for a new mum and frankly doesn’t make the post-birth experience any easier! If any new dads experience this type of attitude then take it from me, it’s not right and you’re probably doing absolutely amazing job that your partner will and ought to appreciate forever.

  11. At last! I was starting to think that it was just me who picked up on these things and it was my own problem. It may also be worth noting that these societal traits can also affect relationships between father and mother at a base level. For fathers with low self esteem, to have society constantly lift the mother and belittle the father is quite hard. It gets to the point where the mother gets to veto any and every decision, as the father sits quietly in the corner awaiting his next instruction (should the mother deem him mentally competent to complete such a task). Fathers are then unable to voice their displeasure at anything as the mother knows that they can use the “break up” card and have full support, socially, physically and financially, from the government and society as a whole. How many times has a single mother been asked “what did the father do to cause the end of the relationship?”? I would guess that if that question was to be answered honestly in most cases, it would be “He used the word ‘No’ to me”. Both parents play an important role in a child’s upbringing and the way they are treated needs to reflect this. And if mother’s had as hard a time gaining access to their children after a break up as fathers do, they’d reconsider their efforts towards maintaining a better relationship with the father, which would in turn benefit the children.


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