Is mummy at work today?

A noticeboard with the word 'tough' writ large, above a picture of a turd.

Tough? Not for me it isn’t.

We were in John Lewis in Oxford Street, London, yesterday. We went in about three times during the morning while I was deciding what to buy. Several times staff there addressed mtoto as well as me, which I thought was rather lovely.

I didn’t think anything more of it until I read Aaron Gouveia’s ‘8 Stupid Things You Should Stop Saying to Dads’ article in the Huffington Post, repeated from his lovely Daddy Files blog.

Then I recalled that one of the women we met in John Lewis had asked mtoto “Is mummy at work today?” Although not precisely one of the 8 things that give Aaron the hump as a father, it could have fallen into that category.

Except for one small difference. I love it when other people engage with my and mtoto when we’re out and about and nothing they say has been a turn off so far. It’s simply an opportunity to make small talk or open up a larger conversation.

Mamma’s at work

Mtoto agrees with me, I know. I know because he spent most of yesterday morning, both before and after the question was asked, repeating to anyone who would listen: “Mamma’s at work.”

It’s a particularly lovely stage mtoto is going through. He says something. He finds it to be so. He repeats it. A lot. Eventually something else crosses his mind, he formulates a sentence and uses it. He finds it to be so. And so we go on.

The woman from John Lewis seemed to be implying that mamma was having it tough while papa and mtoto were out enjoying themselves. And to a degree she was right anyway. Most often, I’d much rather be hanging out with mtoto than be in the office.

Fighting the same battle

But back to the 8 stupid things you should stop saying to dads. Most of the comments are things that people say who don’t know better, like “what do you do all day?” or “dad must be babysitting today, huh?” I appreciate that I might not be saying this in a few years time, but for now I’m happy to engage with anyone who starts a conversation, no matter how silly. After all, I’m one of the experts who says something just to open up a conversation, no matter how daft it is. All I have to do is rebut the question or statement and turn it around. And this is what Aaron is saying really too. He’s making the case for retiring phrases that don’t do anyone any good and he’s pointing out where there’s gender inequality from the less common way round.

I don’t have it tough

I’m a white middle class male. I don’t generally suffer discrimination because of who I am. It’s not so bad for me to have someone say something daft to me from time-to-time. It just reminds me how lucky I am not to usually suffer discrimination that puts me at a disadvantage.

And this is the rub of it really. Us fathers aren’t really suffering because of people’s attitudes, it just can be irritating for some of the people some of the time.

I don’t suffer because of my race. Or because of my gender. Or because of my sexuality. Or for any one or more of a plethora of ways that people make life horrible for others just because of who they are. And it reminds me that I want to continue to make the world into a better place for everyone, not just for fathers.