Involved dads, positive role models, or a threat?

My work means that I talk to men about their experiences of fatherhood and parenting, on almost a daily basis. I hear about their worries and hopes, as well as their experiences along the way. Lots of dads talk about wanting to be actively involved in bringing up their children, but there are also numerous instances of men reporting where they feel they are prevented from doing just this.


This was one recent experience reported to me, from a dad taking his children to school:

“I always take my three children on the school run, the eldest two are in primary school and my youngest is in pre-school.

The routine we have is to drop off the two eldest in the school playground, and wait at the gate with my youngest until the bell goes and their teachers collect them. This way, I know they are now safely in the hands of a responsible adult. At this point my youngest would make his final waves goodbye to his brother and sister, and we would walk down to pre-school.

Normally there is myself and maybe one or two other mums waiting for our children to go in, but this morning there was just me and my son.

Today I was made to feel dirty and uncomfortable, having dropped the two eldest at the playground, I was approached by one of the ladies on playground duty and asked to move on. I asked why and I was told I was not allowed to wait there. It was done quite aggressively and when I said I was unhappy with being told this, and that I would speak to the head teacher about it, I was told ‘You go do that then.’

Feeling very uncomfortable by what had occurred I moved away, and started walking to the pre-school, but decided I really wasn’t happy with what had just happened. So I went to speak to the head teacher. As usual, the head was only too happy to talk to me and to give her full credit, she could not have been more apologetic and reassuring that I was welcome to wait until the bell went and she would speak to the lady in question.

Great – I felt that this had been resolved. Unfortunately, what happened next, saddened me further.

On returning to school to collect my children at the end of the day, I was approached by the lady who had asked me to move that morning. Perhaps she felt awkward, but the way the way she approached me was again quite aggressive and confrontational. Her apology went like this:

'I am sorry you misunderstood me this morning. The head has told me that it was my fault that you misunderstood me, so I have to apologise. But you have to understand that I have a girl at the school and my first priority is for the safety of the children, so I’m sure you can understand where I'm coming from. So are we OK?'

To be honest I was lost for words. I was surrounded by other parents, confronted by this woman and told she was being made to apologise but I must understand she was doing right thing. Quite frankly, I wanted to say 'no – we are not OK!', but instead I chose not to continue the discussion.”

I am saddened by this dad’s story but not surprised – as I said, I have regularly come across similar stories.

Indeed, several years ago, I used to run Father & Baby Massage Classes. I was an accredited and insured practitioner – these were a great opportunity for dads to learn how to massage their babies, enjoy some time with them, and meet other new dads for some peer support. Mums tended to come along too, but sit in a café to enjoy a drink and a chat with other mums while their partners and babies were in class.

One day, I was contacted by a local NHS Trust professional to say that there was a concern about these classes. That it might be ‘safer’ if the mums were also able to be present in the class. That a ‘group’ of concerned parties had discussed it, and it would be better if it was chaperoned to see what ‘these men’ were doing.

I was shocked, the inferences were clear. I immediately complained, and was given a brief apology. But the facts remain the same, a group of FATHERS wanting to bond with their OWN babies, was being seen as sinister.

It's now five years later, but this is the same issue which this father reports happening to him at the playground. 

This woman was simply implying that the sheer fact that he's a man means he's perceived as a threat to children. Because we're men, if we're involved with our children (and by default, are therefore also around children), we are a danger.

How can we be equal parents, when we are not seen equally?

How can fathers to be more involved and ‘hands-on’ as parents, when our motives are always in question?

There is so much talk about the benefit of positive male role models, yet society seems intent on preventing our children from having these, at the most important stage of their development, those first seven to eight years. Have you ever noticed how few male teachers there are at primary schools or children’s centres? There certainly seems to be a strong perception for men to overcome and challenge, in order to work with this age group.

What are your experiences? Have your motives ever been challenged when undertaking a parenting role? How do we support dads to be dads?

Dean Beaumont is the Family Editor at as well as the founder of DaddyNatal and DaddyNatal Online.

He is also the author of The Expectant Dads Handbook and The His and Hers Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.

Hide comments (3)


  • Guest
    stephenwellz Friday, 06 October 2017

    How true.

    sadly the article is very true. I have experienced this a lot .

    Reply Cancel
  • Guest
    Alexandre Vasconcelos Friday, 04 January 2019

    Can relate

    It's a sad reality. I have a 10 year old step daughter and a 3 year old daughter. My wife had to go out of country to take care of her ID in her home country and took my 3 year old with her. Due to school, my 10 year old step daughter had to stay with me for the week (which I got holidays from work to ensure I was always home in case of any eventuality). Since my step daughter's biological father decided to completely ignore her existence, she turned to me for affection and support even before my 3 year old was born and I felt really happy and proud to reach the point where she started calling me Daddy by her own will and I treat her as my own as I always did and will do (only reason I mentioned her as being my step daughter here was merely to be clear because I always refer to her as my oldest daughter). During the week when my wife went abroad, I took the opportunity to bond even more with my 10 year old and one of the activities we chose to go for together was the swimming pool as she loves to swim. Now, its understandable that I have black hair and my 10 year old is kinda blondish and this might confuse the ignorant however, when I got to the swimming pool, I could actually feel the judging eyes of others observing me. Even my 10 year old noticed and mentioned to me "Daddy, why are people looking at us like that?" to which I simply replied, "Honey, just ignore, we are here to have fun together so let's enjoy this the best we can" as I smiled to reassure her. It only got a bit better when I stepped into the jacuzzi next to the kids pool and my daughter simply screamed from the other side of the pool "Daddy, look at me standing on my head!". It was almost automatic the turning of heads at me to see it I responded naturally to the "Daddy" title. I just responded "be safe honey, don't hurt yourself". It mellowed down a bit but I could feel there was still some doubt in the air. Dads do go through these episodes once and a while but it's the way we chose to deal with said episodes that makes the difference. Quite hard not to feel frustration and anger towards it however, the way I am, if anyone approached me that day and questioned my motives, I would've snapped so hard I'd ensure the person in question would never even look in my direction ever again as I would if the playground example on the article would've happened to me. Dads we need to stand our ground against stereotyping. I love being a dad and my children love me to bits. Anything else from the outside, for me, stays on the outside. As I normally say, if I want someone's opinion, I'll ask for it.

  • Guest
    Mills Friday, 04 January 2019


    I’ve worked in childcare for 7 year now. 99.9% of parents love seeing their children bonding with a male, especially for those children where Dad is absent for whatever reason.

    That being said there are the those parents who for whatever prejudice of their own that instantly assume you’re a threat to their children. I’ve had parents come into settings where I’m temping and say “Oh, my ***** doesn’t like men, could they be put in a different room today?” Like bitch please you’re the one with the problem, I’m just say here doing arts and crafts!

    I’ve had plenty of nasty allegations and accusations but thankfully thus far truth has always won over.

    Sadly though these experiences loom like a shadow over everything I do. You have to be so careful when working with young children and sometimes it feels like you must be doubly careful simply for being a bloke.

    Thankfully I can ‘be the bigger man’ and carry on doing my job regardless!

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