When centre-right French opposition MP Valerie Pecresse waded into the parental leave debate in France she courted a storm of controversy for her position on men and nappy changing. She reckons men shouldn't have to partake in such "menial" tasks and thinks their time is better spent offering their wisdom on more "complicated problems" when their children are older.
Her comments have been labelled as old fashioned and backward. I didn't get that fired up reading the article. There are many cultures around the world where the idea of men changing nappies would be strange. There would be plenty of Aussie blokes who wouldn't have a bar of messy nappies too. But it isn't my reality. Imagine if I said to my wife: "Yeah, nah. I don't change nappies luv. That's clearly your job. I'll handle the tough stuff when the sprogs get to college." I can imagine it. I can also imagine her unprintable reaction and the unseemly stink of a bucket of messy nappies tipped over my head.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy apparently loathed nappy changing too. His wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was quoted as saying last month: "He is a Latin man, so he does not do these kind of things."
I decided to get out my abacus and estimate how many nappies I've negotiated in my three and a half years as a parent so far. Let's say four a day for the nearly two years Miss K wore nappies. Add the nappies I've changed for the last seven weeks since Miss A was born, and you're looking at nearly 3000. How about we multiply it by the number of dads who showed up to my dads' coffee group yesterday - six. That makes about 18,000 nappies between us give or take. When our wives are home from work they do their share too. We're home with the littlies so we do most of it, but we all get great support from our significant others when they return from the field. It's called shared parenting, where it's no longer left to just one parent, and it's becoming more and more commonplace in Australia and New Zealand.
Of course I can think of plenty of things that would be exponentially more enjoyable than changing a nappy after a back-poo explosion. But if you think about it, what can be more rewarding than meeting the needs of your children?
Some parents work bloody hard, long hours to support their families, and are simply not able to take on very much of the hands-on stuff. That's fine. I used to look forward to giving Miss K her bath, when I worked. We all do what we can. If you can help, you should. It's not okay to cop out simply because you don't want to, or because it's unpleasant.
More and more there's no longer men's work and women's work when it comes to caring for babies and children. To quote a very wise parenting educator friend of mine:
"There's just parenting."
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