Getting serious about Daddy Daycare

24 February 2012

Jeremy Davies writes: It’s heartening to see that Daddy Daycare, Channel 4’s so-bad-I-don’t-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry documentary series in which  fathers take on temporary work placements in nurseries, is eliciting lots of negative comment from TV reviewers and the Twitterati alike.

What’s so maddening about the programme is its implication that dads generally are doing this little caring for their children, leaving mums holding the baby to this extent. The producers have found dads with dinosaur attitudes (with partners who seem equally trapped in the dark ages) and that’s what we’re told is ‘the norm’.

There’s no denying that the stereotype of the hapless dad has real currency. But where’s the balance? Research evidence tells us these are far-from-typical families, that dads are doing more and more at home – but also that there are significant barriers to sharing of the home (women’s traditional realm) as well as the workplace (men’s).

If we re-focus the lens and take a glance at what underlies the behaviours we’re invited to scoff at, there’s some really meaty stuff to think about.

How do we bring up our boys and girls, and shape their expectations of earning and caring? What’s ‘natural’ in parenting, and what’s learned? How far have we really gone down the road to gender equality, when women get 52 weeks’ leave after the baby arrives, and men just two; when gendered workplace discrimination (in terms of pay, but also availability of flexible working) is endemic; and when politicians and the media routinely refer to education and childcare as ‘women’s issues’?

Let’s hope that where Daddy Daycare has so spectacularly failed, other, more credible TV exposes will tread more thoughtfully.

For more commentary about this and other representations of fatherhood, check out my blog, Homer Simpson Must Die.




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