Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Fathers' day out

The Farmers’ Market at the Collingwood Children’s Farm is one of those places where you see a lot of fathers out with their kids. On the second Saturday of each month, the Farm sees a phenomenon that is increasing throughout parts of Melbourne: men proudly in charge of their young children while they shop, showing their kids the goats, chickens and pigs, or minding the kids while their partners either shop or rest. The men’s ages vary, and they range from your professional types to your inner-city ‘alternatives’. From little bubs in pouches slung off their young father’s shoulders, to five-year-olds running away from dads with peals of laughter, to the eight-year-old negotiating which drink he can get his dad to buy from the juice stand, there are children of all ages holding, or escaping, the attention of their fathers.

If the debates in the Australian media about how far men are actually prepared to be active as fathers and put in the time caring for their children are any thing to go buy, then the Collingwood Children’ Farm experience is an aberration. The cynics say these are just ‘weekend’ Dads who enjoy the occasional easy leisure activities with their kids while they let Mum sleep-in on the weekend. A common perception is that fathers still don’t put in the hard yards with child-rearing during the week or outside of leisure activities, leaving their partners to organise child care, volunteer for canteen duty at primary school, or read with their kids, on top of running the house. I don’t think that this is the case anymore. The scenes at Collingwood, while replicated replicate throughout Melbourne, are only the public expression of a growing trend of men taking on more and more responsibility for raising their children, and relishing it!

I see it amongst my friends who have children: men who have been active in raising of their children since they were born, who juggle the demands of their jobs with those of their households, and for who being an active father is very much a part of who they are, and how they see themselves as men. Many are making the necessary sacrifices that women have long been forced to cop: taking on part-time jobs, studying part-time, or resisting the pursuit of full-blown career paths, so that they can have the time to spend with their young children, and share the load of caring with the mothers of their children. These men have been the inspiration and role models for my own choices and practices in my parenting – what I want for my son, from my working life, and the choices I’ve made about study and work. I think its time they were acknowledged too.


At February 19, 2007 2:17 pm, Blogger cristy said...

That is really good news Mark. I would agree with you that things do seem to be moving further and further in that direction for a growing section of men. My husband will certainly be a 'father-first' from the beginning, which I think is great for all three of us.

At February 19, 2007 2:43 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Hi cristy, I'm sure P is going to love being a dad, and love spending time with your kid(s).

I don't know if I'd say the gender-parenting change is a tide, but it is surely growing.

BTW, this is one of my earlier blog posts – I was just checking if my switch to 'new' Blogger kept my archives intact, and I messed around with the post's publishing. (it is still correctly date-stamped, though). If either of you are interested in some 'recent' topics on fathers and fathering, take a look here, here, and here. For a start...

Now that I've got labels, I will need to spend some time applying the 'fathers' label to these posts, so that they'll be easier to find! (but where to find the time?)

Hope things are going well with third pea!


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