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Does anyone else find the idea of a 'dads only' toddler group irritating?

(64 Posts)
DaisySteiner Wed 29-Dec-10 17:19:29

Have been visiting my parents and in an idle moment was leafing through a local newsletter-thingy when I noticed that their local church organises a 'Dads and Kids' group on a Saturday once a month. Apparently it's a chance for 'dads to get together and for mums to have a break' hmm. There's a 'parents and toddlers' group during the week but no corresponding group for mums only.

Now, I can understand that it is difficult to get to know other parents if you work during the week, but what about mums? Presumably we're all at home doing the childcare? angry I'm also ticked off by the idea of this being an opportunity to 'give mum a break' while according to the literature they chill out, read the papers and eat bacon rolls envy

I'm struggling to articulate what irritates me so much about this, so I'm quite open to being told that I'm unreasonable and touchy (dh certainly thinks so!) It may be the church aspect that is riling me as I'm generally of the opinion that they are full of semi-repressed misogyny (apologies to any Christian feminists).

PrincessBoo Wed 29-Dec-10 17:25:06

I know where you're coming from. There's a specific worker for Fathers in our area and he runs a once a month Saturday am Dad's group at one of the Surestart children's centres - my husband has been on occasion. I do find it galling that they get coffee and bacon sandwiches while when I take my son to groups there they cater only for the children - and also take a dim view of Mum's chatting with each other and not spending 100% of the time helicoptering round their offspring.

I think that trying to engage fathers is not wrong per se - but it's the approach that is all important.

SantaIsMyLoveSlave Wed 29-Dec-10 17:27:08

I sort of find it irritating in principle, but I also know that fathers (WOHF or SAHF) do tend to find themselves "frozen out" if they take their children to conventional toddler groups, so I can see why they feel the need and find it very hard to be irritated or object in practice.

I do find the "chance for mums to have a break" thing irritating both in principle and in practice, if that's any help? It makes a huge assumption that the mother will be doing all the childcare bar this couple of hours once a week, and that's likely to actually alienate any SAHFs.

CuppaTeaJanice Wed 29-Dec-10 17:35:37

It's the bacon that's the problem really. Ours also offers a free trip to a childrens farm in the summer if the dads attend a given number of weeks. Also the fact that they are usually run at weekends. I'm sure there are lots of mums who work full time and would love to go to a toddler group at weekends, but they are all 'dad' groups at this time.

Midweek groups usually just offer a few scraps of chopped up banana, after the kids have had their fill. If there was bacon on offer, I'd be there every week!!!

sixpercenttruejedi Wed 29-Dec-10 17:40:25

Many mothers find themselves frozen out at play groups, but they are just expected to get on with it. sans bacon sandwich.
I think it's the idea that men need special encouragement and rewards to participate instead of just being expected to get on with it regardless, which is the attitude towards mothers, which grates.
I felt frozen out of the groups I went to, there was no feminist awareness amongst the mums and I felt very isolated. I gritted my teeth and went anyway because it was benefitting DD. I think dads should be expected to do what benefits their kids, without being pandered to.

sixpercenttruejedi Wed 29-Dec-10 17:41:28

Janice - x-post. yep, it's the bacon that's the problem, I agree grin

panettoinydog Wed 29-Dec-10 17:42:52

I'm not keen on the idea.

Just run a club on saturydas for any parent to take their children while the other gets a break.

Might be a group of mums who have pushed to set this up though

fluffles Wed 29-Dec-10 17:46:53

our local sure start does a dads toddler group and i think it is a good thing in general as they are doing it to get dads more involved with their small children and giving those who would be reluctant some peer support.

our society is set up to enable fathers to be very uninvolved in the early years so i see this as a good thing to counter some of that.

but i'm a bit squeamish at how the one you talk about is advertised as 'give mum a break' - there's no need for that at all, why not be upfront and say it's about dads and tots hanging out together?

for the record, i'm involved with girlguiding and not against single-sex environments in general... some are mysoginistic (some golf clubs for e.g) but some are for a good reason and i think the peer support of this one counts as a good reason.

StuffingGoldBrass Wed 29-Dec-10 17:49:49

I know what you mean OP but at the same time, encouraging dads to do stuff with their DC is a good thing and a lot of dads are reluctant to go to toddler groups as they think they will be the only bloke there (and some may even have tried, and found themselves treated as some sort of sexual predator or an inadequate man).

radioblahblah Wed 29-Dec-10 17:54:43

yep, i agree about the bacon!

its kind feeding into that thing that any male that demonstrates an interest in parenting must be treated as a hero and lavished with praise and bacon sarnies

let them eat a plain biccies i say

other than that i think the idea of fathers getting together is fine and probably a good thing.

notcitrus Wed 29-Dec-10 17:54:51

I'm yet to see a dad without mum at any baby group or toddler group I've been to (we're talking over 100 mums) - there was one dad who came to a class we went to.

So it would be a bit pointless to have a 'mum only' group round here, and if a Dads group gets some dads to do more with their kids than they would feel acceptable otherwise, I'm all for it.

Though with the high proportion of Muslim, Jewish and veggie parents here the bacon sarnies probably wouldn't help.

FakePlasticTrees Wed 29-Dec-10 17:58:33

There's a Dad & Co group at our church once a month, with bacon sarnies - currently wondering if it's ours you're talking about!

I think it was started as there's lots of groups in the week that aren't religous based that are mainly attended by mums (although get a lot of nannies and childminders going too), but not much in the church for dads other than relgious focused groups. This is an 'open to all, no mention of the bible' type affair. The week ones aren't not for dads specifically, but there just doesn't seem to be many stay at home dads, so practically they weren't being served.

Mind you, I hadn't thought about the mums at work all week wanting something to do on the weekend. Might suggest having something for working mums on the weekends too....

Bluegrass Wed 29-Dec-10 17:58:41

The world is full of "mother" and baby groups. My local shopping centre runs mother and baby breakfast mornings. The most well known "parenting" website in the country is "mums" net.

This feels like a small reminder to dads that they are allowed to be part of the whole crazy parenting thing too, and might even benefit from somewhere to talk to other dad's about their own issues and fears. More power to them, although perhaps the alternative would be to prevent any parenting group from being allowed to label itself as a "mothers" group as that is too exclusive?

pozzled Wed 29-Dec-10 18:04:19

I think it depends whether the groups are 'Dads only' or trying to encourage dads. My local library has a saturday morning rhyme time session, it's aimed mostly at dads but mums (grans/aunts or whatever) are also more than welcome.

I do agree with the points about bacon sarnies and 'giving mums a break'.

JustKeepSnowing Wed 29-Dec-10 18:05:06

I kind of see what you're getting at but at the same i benefit from 2 lovely quiet Saturday mornings a month when DH takes the boys to Dad's Group

It takes some guts to start going to any group (whether a Mum or Dad) but i think most mums have it a bit easier they meet other mums at AN classes, etc. so you go to a group with people you already know.

I'm very impressed with my DH 'braving' the group to begin with and for sticking with it. He's the only Dad i know that goes.

Plus it's a different environment for the boys, DS1 (4) particularly loves all that 'male time'.
So they have bacon sarnies? i don't mind, i get to have a long bath in peace and the house to myself, both rarities.

TonyThePrawn Wed 29-Dec-10 18:06:03

I think anything to encourage dads to remember that they're parents too and that they should get involved has got to be a good thing. I've seen dads get the real evil-eye when they have come into toddler groups.

But if it's really the bacon sarnies that bother you why don't you suggest it for the groups you go to?

SantaIsMyLoveSlave Wed 29-Dec-10 18:09:03

But treating any male that demonstrates an interest in parenting or childcare as a hero to be lavished with praise and bacon sarnies is at least a corrective to the more usual attitude that "it's just not right, is it?", or that they are (variously) secret paedophiles or sexually predatory on the SAHMs.

We should have a society in which neither attitude is projected, obviously.

Tootlesmummy Wed 29-Dec-10 18:09:20

I personally think it's a good thing. There are too many dads who wouldn't be comfortable to go to a toddler group and be faced with being the only guy there (that's men for you!). If this helps to get dads at play groups with their children then I think it's no bad thing.

As others have said if it's the bacon thing that bothers you all, do your own at your groups.

MsHighwater Wed 29-Dec-10 18:18:00

DH took DD to our regular toddler's group a couple of times when I had to go into work that day. He got on OK but I know it was a bit of an effort for him being not only the the only dad there but also a good deal older than the mums. But DH is a very friendly, gregarious person who gets on with people in general very easily. I'm not and I know that, if the boot were on the other foot, I would have found it very difficult and perhaps impossible to have done it. I know that the group we attended would have gone out of their way to make any dad feel welcome but it was still almost exclusively mums who attended with their kids.

It would be interesting to find out how the group is regarded by those who attend and how well-attended it is. The "give mums a break" thing does jar a bit, I agree, but in principle surely it's a good thing to cater for fathers who might want to bond with their kids and get peer support from other dads?

Oh, and the group we went to had the best home baking I've ever encountered so no bacon butties required

TheFallenMadonna Wed 29-Dec-10 18:54:51

I don't have a problem with any exclusive activity where the default arrangement for that activity tends to be quite different. Does that make sense? So, round here, a Dads and children group would work, as would a young parents group (we have the latter, but not the former). A middle aged women and children group would be unnecessary, because that is the default setting. Were I however to have brought up my children where I went to ante natal classes, I might well have considered an "older mums" group, because at 30 I was a good decade older than most of the other women in my group.

MiniMarmite Wed 29-Dec-10 19:01:54

I do see what you mean and in most comparable circumstances I react quite angrily (e.g. male only golf clubs etc) but I have to confess that I hadn't really thought about it like that - our local Sure Start centre runs a similar Saturday morning playgroup and, I have to say, in desperation to have a quiet morning to myself I have been urging DH to go along with DS1 for some weeks!

I imagine that it might be a good opportunity for some fathers who might feel intimidated by going to something dominated by Mums.

Definitely annoying about the bacon sarnies though1!

DaisySteiner Wed 29-Dec-10 19:09:19

OK, I take the point that it's a good thing to encourage dads to get involved with their kids and as my dh has never needed encouragement to spend time with them, it hadn't really occurred to me that others did need the lure of bacon rolls to do so grin. There were also a number of dads who regularly attended toddler groups, so I hadn't considered that as a big issue either.

Having said that, the description on the website really doesn't give the impression that it's about encouraging dads to spend time with their kids, it seems to be about 'chilling out' and having a laugh with other dads. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I would guess that men who need a push to spend time with their kids probably don't need much encouragement to spend time chilling out. To answer somebody's query - it's very clear that this is for dads only, and I do think it's a shame that they don't do anything for mums who work during the week, I would have liked to have had a w/e group to go to when I worked FT.

Re suggesting bacon sarnies at toddler groups local to me - I doubt the fees charged would cover it, I'm guessing the church is subsidising this one heavily. Fair enough, but I bet they're not on offer at week-day groups. Another poster summed up my irritation with "any male that demonstrates an interest in parenting must be treated as a hero and lavished with praise".

But it seems I probably am just being grumpy and irritable (not unusual after 72 hours at my parents'!)

Pancakeflipper Wed 29-Dec-10 19:14:59

I bloody love our Dad's and Tots group. I get a lie in. I wish it was more than once a month. Ours is not run by the church but a gang of mummies. And they get bacon butties and endless coffee whilst the kids get a drink and copious amounts of toast.

I also used to run a toddler group - thankless bloody task that was. Easy to find fault not so forward in actually helping.

Pancakeflipper Wed 29-Dec-10 19:18:21

Forgot to say the Dad's one costs £3. Whereas the weekly toddler group is £1.00. Doesn't do bacon sarnies but has healthy snacks for tots and homemade cakes for parents/carers and we had lots of dads and they were great at tidy-up time.

UnquietDad Wed 29-Dec-10 22:25:45

Surely anything that makes dads comfortable in this kind of setting has to be seen as welcome.

I know a group locally which does this - the bacon sandwiches were - shock horror - the dads' own idea. There isn't a diligent woman being servile behind the counter with tea and sandwiches, you know - everyone used to muck in, from what I remember (although it's been a good few years since I had anything resembling a toddler). It's not about "lavishing with praise" and I find it amusing that the offensive bacon sandwiches automatically produce the huffy response that they are seen as a "reward".

This kind of knee-jerk resentfulness is very unhelpful. Instead of derisively pooh-poohing initiatives to get dads involved, mums should perhaps be asking why it it that someone obviously saw the need for this sort of group - driven, I don't doubt, by experiences I and may other dads have had of being the "lone male" at the parent-and-toddler groups ("Mum and toddler" in all but name - and sometimes even in name).

As it happens I was lucky when I went to toddler groups with DD, as I knew two women there who were already DW's friends, and this somewhat lessened my potential for being a weirdo, inadequate or sexual predator. But I know full well this is not a lot of dads' experience. (Anyone remember the episode of "Cold Feet" with Adam going to the toddler group? It's often a bit like that at first...)

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