Friday, October 8, 2010

Dads and domestic labour

Yesterday the winner of the Most Mentally Sexy Dad comp, which I helped judge, was announced on Radio National’s Life Matters program.

I think it’s great when something started as a bit of a lark among friends finds, quite by accident, that it has tapped in to the cultural zeitgeist — and that is definitely true of this comp.

It has offered a really positive way in to discussing what can otherwise be such a banal, bogged-down issue for couples — i.e. who does what around the house.

Here is a bunch of couples changing the blueprint for what constitutes a contemporary family life; men who are fully up to negotiating with their partners how things are going to run in terms of work, housework and childcare.

In fact, I think the Most Mentally Sexy Dad competition might be one of the more powerful campaigns we’ve seen in calling on men to move beyond the lip service that gets paid to respect and equality towards acting like they mean it. Not for some abstract ideal, but because it is meaningful to the women and children they love, and gives their relationship a better chance of long-lasting passion.

What was so touching about most of the entrants was their basic awareness that to show true love and commitment to their partners meant sharing the load. In fact, they took this for granted.

These men aren’t just “babysitting” the kids or “helping out” around the home, but fully engaging in the realities of keeping the family juggernaut afloat, emotionally and practically, so that everyone has more time for their own interests and for each other.

Hopefully it won’t have to be such a conscious shift for the next generation, and there won’t be a need for such a competition, great as it’s been.

I also have an article on this subject — the division of domestic labour — in the latest issue of Kill Your Darlings.

The editors have ensured me my next copy will arrive in a plain brown paper bag after the previous one gave my son terrible nightmares. The poor darling thought I was reading a manual on how to kill off him and his sister!

It took me days to convince him that he could trust me enough to tell him what his bad dreams were about. Oh dear…