The ‘Hands-On’ Dad

photo 2

This image bears no relation to this post – it’s just funny


I’ve been reading a few of the women’s magazines these holidays.

To catch up on a year of celebrity gossip, I purchased a bulk box of them from Trade Me, and boy have I learned a thing or two about parenting, weight issues and hair.

In almost every issue of the selection from New Idea and Woman’s Day, there features a range of papped images of celebrities out with their children doing daily tasks, like choosing pumpkins in L.A., or out with their mum and dad (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) at Toys-R-Us, or even at a water park with Wolverine … I mean Huge Ackman.

And in most cases, if the dad has his hand on the child somewhere, he is referred to as a ‘hands-on dad’.

These women’s magazines attempt a very basic level of sociological classification: the fathers are given accolade-type descriptions if they show interaction with their children that is similar to the mother’s.  It’s fascinating.

photo 1Here, Josh Duhamel is possibly just carrying young Axl to the car.  But the magazine has decided to classify the scene into the ‘hands-on dad’ category.  Is this really what makes a father a ‘good’ father?  Are the dads just being consigned to the heavy lifting?


photo 3Rove McManus is referred to as ‘doting’.  Pretty sure even Rove would ask how the magazine would know whether he is doting or not.

photo 4And the ultimate hands-on dad, Becks.  This is a double whammy because Becks is good looking and doing the heavy lifting.

I’m realizing that trying to unpack media messages from women’s magazines is pretty futile, but it seems to me that given the sheer amount of times these modern epithets are used, that the magazines are trying to give us a message.

And the message is … the more visible your fathering, the better father you must be.  And to top it off, many of these fathers are the primary breadwinners.  Fathers who do that and also stay hands-on with the kids are the superdads, a construct of the modern era.  They fly off to work earli-in-the-morning and come home in time to tuck the kids in.  Hands on.  On the weekends they become the warrior, coaching sports teams, spending the weekend with the children, at sport, taking them out so mum can have a break, and cooking the dinner.

I’m starting to think the Shirley Conran Superwoman complex has now been transferred to the fathers! The very thing we are saying to women to stop trying to do.

I had a good father.  He was very much his own person and very much needed his own space.  He was very affectionate though, but back then there was no such term as ‘hands-on father’.  Dad was the breadwinner.  After working up to three jobs, he was pretty tired.  There was not much time in the day left to rip around events, and neither, back then, was there the pressure to. Much of the hands-on dad time happened at home, in the back garden.




More earth-shattering observations soon, here at The Sane Companion.

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