'Crappy daddy' is the new yummy mummy – and I'm proud to call myself one

Matt Coyne
Matt Coyne with his son Charlie - Facebook

You don't hear the term 'yummy mummy' much these days. I always thought it was a bit of a weird label anyway – an expression based on the idea that being a mum and desirable at the same time was unusual enough to require a name. What? A woman has given birth and somehow remained attractive? Wow. This must be a whole new species, distinct from regular mums who, as soon as they eject a baby, transform instantaneously into grotesque beasts.

The pressure doesn't exist for dads: so long as we're holding the baby the right way up and it's still breathing – everyone will think 'there's a pretty good dad'

Thankfully, the concept of the yummy mummy was all but destroyed by the rise of the slummy mummies – A movement spearheaded by popular bloggers like The Unmumsy Mum, who have done a great job of dismantling the ideal of the perfect, not-a-hair-out-of-place mummy.  It was always a harmful stereotype: how many beautiful, imperfect mums have felt inadequate because they don't have snapback bodies, or failed to turn up to the local baby group each week looking effortlessly breezy and in full hair and makeup? How many felt like they were getting this parenting thing wrong because they didn't have time to be bloody yummy ... they were too busy being mummy.

The backlash of the slummy mummy reveled in the real truth of bringing up kids. Namely, that being a good parent is like having sex: if you look good doing it, you're probably doing it wrong.

So, when it comes to the 'yummy mummy', good riddance to a stupid, lazy, insidious stereotype.

Of course, dads don't have to suffer the same sort of rubbish. Nobody could care less what a man looks like whilst he's parenting. The pressure and the ideal of yumminess doesn't exist for us: we can turn up to the same baby-groups with sweetcorn in our beards, wearing a bin liner, and – so long as we're holding the baby the right way up and it's still breathing – everyone will nod and smile and think 'there's a pretty good dad'. Essentially, all we have to do is ... turn up.

And that brings us to a different stereotype. One that does exist for dads and one that's becoming increasingly prevalent. I'm talking about the rise of the 'crappy daddy'.

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For the record, a crappy daddy is not the same as a 'deadbeat dad', who disappeared off up the road at the whiff of the first nappy, without leaving a forwarding address. They're not deadbeats or uncaring. In fact, they are far from it. They are just a bit out of their depth, unsure and confused and maybe even a bit scared.

Bumbling, inept, and well intentioned, crappy daddies are commonplace characters in popular culture. Fred Flinstone, Homer Simpson, Peppa Pig's father: all mean well, all are the but of easy gags about the sheer uselessness of men in the home. And this trend has eeked into online culture: the internet is awash with hashtags of #dadfails and #daddydisasters. 

Is crappy daddy the new yummy mummy – a reductive, unhelpful stereotype that deserves the full-force of a blogger-led backlash?

It's something I've thought a lot about, as a blogger and author who writes about fatherhood. Maybe it's time to take a stand, to say no more. Maybe I'm the hero that Gotham needs!   

After all, I hate this crappy daddy stereotype. Or at least I would hate this crappy daddy stereotype... if it didn't sum up, with 100pc accuracy, my parenting ability.

When, my little boy Charlie was about four months old, I remember one night trying to dress him for bed. After ten minutes of struggling I shouted to my partner Lyns for help. And, as she peered round the nursery door, I complained that the new sleepsuits/growbag things she’d bought were faulty and would need to be returned. 

It took Lyns about a second to work out that I’d spent the previous ten minutes trying to dress Charlie in a pillow-case. "You’re a moron," she said, not for the first time. Charlie raised one eyebrow in agreement.

This incident is a fairly typical example of my own crapness as a new dad. The problem is that it's also a pretty good representation of almost all the dads I know. 

Don't get me wrong, there are dads out there who excel at the practicalities of parenting. And there are, of course, the pain-in-the-arse fathers, who take the whole thing really seriously and are organised and well researched, and they are just as annoying as 'perfect' mums are. They are dads who know how to swaddle and boil quinoa, and they get their child to sleep by playing acoustic guitar. If they hear a baby cry in the next village, they spontaneously lactate.

But from what I've seen, most dads aren't like that. We deserve the crappy daddy title.

That said, don't judge us too harshly, because we're trying, and because I'm pretty sure there are good reasons why we're a bit crap ...

1. Because we can be 

In comparison to mums, society doesn't place the same pressure on dads to be the perfect parent. The base of expectation for dads really is a lot lower – hence those nods and smiles when we make it to playgroup. Men get credit for just generally being around and quietly high-five themselves for being the kind of guy who changes a nappy.

Yes, it’s 2017, yes, it’s ridiculous, yes, it’s true.

2. Maternal instincts

We don't have em'. Scientists agree that maternal instincts are a real thing (it's something to do with hormones called oxytocin and dopamine) and they're very definitely related to the female of almost all animal species. Both parents might have the instinct to nurture and take care of their baby but, on the whole, a mum's instincts are keener. 

Basically, biologically we're a bit crap

3. Dads are still encouraged to feel like outsiders.

Think about almost every support network available to new parents and you will see what I mean ... Mumsnet, netmums, madeformums; forums that discuss parenting issues but encourage (if by name alone) the idea that nappy changing and weaning, and all that, is mum stuff.

These support networks are crucial, of course – and mums deserve them. They still take the lioness's share of the hard bits, not least pregnancy and giving birth. But you can see how dads feel a bit like outsiders from the off, which possibly contributes to their general crapness.

4. Dads are new to all this  

Women, in the west at least, have long been responsible for child-rearing. So, for millennia, knowledge and wisdom about all this stuff has been passed down the female line; men just don't yet have the generational experience of hands-on daddying to draw upon.

It's useful to remember that previous generations of men didn't set foot in the delivery room. The closest my own dad ever got to changing a nappy was shouting at my mum when he could smell something bad.

So, there are my excuses. And maybe that's all they are. Excuses. But, here's the thing: yes we're crap but we're getting better. We are an improvement on the absent daddies of previous generations. And maybe, just maybe, crappy daddies are the forerunners to the awesome fathers of the future.  

So, we are frontiersmen. Yes, OK, crap frontiersmen – but frontiersmen nonetheless.

And so I'm proud to be a crappy daddy, proud to be a forerunner to something better.  And proud to be doing my best even when my best falls well short.  

If I do nothing else right as a parent, I will at least raise my own little boy to be better at all this stuff than I am. Maybe, when it comes down to it, that's the best way to place the stereotype of the 'crappy dad' alongside the 'yummy mum' and consign it to the rank nappy bin of history.

Where it belongs.

Matt COyne book

Dummy: The comedy and chaos of real-life parenting by Matt Coyne is out in hardback published by Headline on 20th April. 

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