Why Are Dad Books So Bad?
Most operate from the baseline assumption that I am a complete moron
News & Reviews Magazine
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The piece you’re reading now is by Jonathan (Jonno) Seidler. Jonno is an author, creative director and culture critic. His work has been published frequently in The Guardian, The Australian, Monocle and GQ. Jonathan recently wrote, produced and performed an Australian-first live show based on his debut memoir It’s A Shame About Ray for Sydney Writers Festival. He is a columnist at Esquire, where he writes weekly about men, mental health and masculinity. His first work of fiction, Marketplace, will be released next year via Pan Macmillan.
I recently became a father and I am still in that warm, fuzzy period where we describe our child’s age in months despite them being over a year old. This honeymoon phase, when your kids give you feedback but don’t yet talk back, look cute in absolutely everything, and elicit squeals of delight from complete strangers, will soon come to an end. My girl is on the verge of becoming a toddler, which I am assured is the moment in which she becomes a complete disaster, like everyone else’s children. She will throw things, she will have tantrums, she will be totally unable to control her emotions. She will, in essence, become me after approximately 3.2 standard drinks. This period of tranquility is but a mirage.
It is impossible for me to know any of these things and yet I know all of these things. The main reason for this is parenting books, a loose term I apply to books overwhelmingly designed for- and targeted to- mothers, and occasionally retro-fitted to fathers. When we found out we were pregnant, the first thing people dumped on us--outside of praise and unnecessary birth plan advice—were bucketfuls of said tomes. At one point they filled so much space on our shelf we had to clear space by getting rid of some Don Delillos that I’d actually want to read again.
My partner consulted maybe one of these books the entire time she was pregnant. I read the majority of them, including the ‘Dad Books’ which operated from the baseline assumption that I was a complete moron, utterly unprepared and with the emotional intelligence of an unripe mango. Books in pink that screamed ‘so you’re going to be a Mum’ looked at practical things, like changing bodies, sex lives, miscarriage, things to buy for the baby, stages of labour, and the first 3 months after birth. By contrast, Dad Books either reduced fatherhood to activities I would no longer be able to partake in (go to the pub, punch darts, get laid, have a life) or glossed over all the messy stuff and skipped straight to the child being 4 years old and walking themselves into Church every Sunday.