Dads are walking the tightrope just as much as mums
THE hardest parenting job is not that of a strung-out mum counting the hours until she can switch off, collapse and sleep.
No, it is being a dad navigating the social and political minefield of modern Australia, thanks to the confusion and hypocrisy we as a society use to suffocate this most precious of roles.
Toxic male or wuss male? Work obsessed or not earning enough so the family can't go overseas like everyone else?
Climbing the career greasy pole or a stay-at-home dad ironing uniforms in the lounge room while navigating all teen minutiae and household drama?
What do we expect of fathers in this era? The modern dad feels beleaguered and bewildered - especially as he is often under fire with casual attacks over his earnings, his privilege, his status as a "mediocre male", all played out to the background music of daily reminders to take responsibility for his family.
With Father's Day this weekend, can you see the unrealistic and unfair push-pull at play here?
And if you did a quick poll of your dad friends don't you think they all want the same thing as a "gift" on Sunday?
To be appreciated and to have the rest of us understand that while modern feminism may have blown the doors off the house of motherhood and given women freedom to have it all, it has put men in the stocks.
Damned if they do and damned if they don't.
Much noise is made of so-called toxic masculinity, the onus on young men to apologise for being male because the inherent patriarchy makes life easier for them. But if we don't support our boys then they become the fathers we complain about.
Deadbeat dad anyone?
As for supermum, she doesn't have the monopoly on anxiety and self-doubt. Parenting is a blessing but can also make a man sick, lonely and crazy busy. We've moved on from the days where husband pulled up on the drive, yanked off his tie and cracked open a cold one to sup in peace while real life escalated around him.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing but the majority of dads want to be involved. They want to do pick-ups and they recognise which way is up with a nappy. We should be grateful for the generational change.
Sure parents need a break from parenting, particularly those who are the primary carers.
But that is no longer the exclusive domain of women. There are plenty of stay-at-home dads, just as there are single mums and single dads.
A modern father knows his faults and wants to be better, sometimes a better one than his own. And many women and children still believe that the dad's primary role is to be a provider. I know two dads who say bringing home a wage justifies their existence - in their wife's eyes.
Gender should play no part in who wears that breadwinner badge of honour. Fathers are just as precious as mothers and they should be treated as such.
When a woman criticises or pushes her partner to do jobs around the house or provide more parenting skills, she is a nag. But if a man does the same he is often labelled an abuser. Where is the balance in that?
Meanwhile our boys, Dads 4.0, show they can be scared of people judging them if they admit they need guidance in navigating life, especially their emotions and thoughts.
No man wants to cast a shadow as an arrogant, stern or violent father.
But point scoring seems to be a poisonous recipe for familial disaster. No one wins. And children suffer for it because they get the best of neither parent. I have a friend who confesses she felt like an alien among a group of wives she spent time with recently when her family went away with a group of other families.
The wives were chatting one night about how they make sure they extract equal time and measure for everything their husbands did outside the home.
If he had an afternoon off, they were entitled to one.
If he went on a night or weekend out with the boys they were entitled, and if he spent money on himself, so should they. And they collected every single time. Without fail.
"I was just sitting there wondering what planet I was on," my friend said. "And then one of the women turned to me and asked what I was planning to do in lieu of my husband's recent surfing trip with a group of friends to Fiji.
"I said I hadn't thought about asking for anything, because I took pleasure in the fact that he was doing something he loved and that was enough for me.
"The response was gobsmacking - I was labelled a doormat and weak.
"To this day I still don't get it. My family was my number one priority, and any time I could spend with them was gold to me."
So enjoy your Father's Day and remember a few appreciative words carry more mileage than a new pair of socks.