We had the pleasure to interview Luke Benedictus – content director and co founder of The Father Hood – on everything dad-related. Luke recently launched a website dedicated to dads and released his new book – The Father Hood: Inspiration For The New Dad Generation. We had a great chat about being a Dad and how that role has changed over time.
Like me, you have two children. How’s it all going and do they make you equally exhilarated and exhausted most of the time?
Fatherhood is life turned up to 11 – both in terms of the highs and the lows. My oldest is two and half while the youngest is 15 months so I’m basically forced to embrace the chaos. The main fatherhood lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Always carry 3x as many tissues as you think you’ll need. 2. Try and keep your sense of humour. 3. Hangovers are never worth it when you have small kids.
Congratulations on the success of your website, the-father-hood.com. Tell us more about it.
All the research shows that dads today are more actively involved in their kids’ lives than ever before. Yet while there’s a mountain of media out there for mums I felt there was hardly any media that caters to modern dads. My background is as a journo – before this I was editor of Men’s Health – and I was conscious there was this gaping hole in the market.
But more importantly I needed a resource to help me out! My wife and I had two kids in the space of 16 months and suddenly I was desperately trying to make sense of this crazy life transition.
I was chatting to two mates – Andrew McUtchen, who was formerly a GQ editor and Jeremy Macvean, who’s heavily involved in Movember. We decided to create a movement to offer advice, support and inspiration to dads.
And what’s the idea behind your new book, The Father Hood: Inspiration For The New Dad Generation?
The book shines a spotlight on the changing nature of fatherhood. Back in the day, a father’s role was limited to being the breadwinner and disciplinarian. But that’s all changed as dads now have the opportunity to be more involved in their kids’ daily lives than ever before. That’s a hugely positive development not just for men but for families as a whole.
We wanted to celebrate that through a series of interviews and essays with some of the most well-known dads in the world – Hugh Jackman, Ben Stiller, Mark Wahlberg, Osher Gunsberg and many more.
But we also wanted to champion the diversity of the new fatherhood. Modern families don’t comply to a narrow template, so this book celebrates all sorts of dads – single dads, step dads, divorced dads, gay dads – fathers from all walks of life, who are doing it their way and doing it well.
Basically, it’s a book that’s packed full of inspiration for guys to grasp the opportunity that fatherhood offers with both hands. Suffice to say it’s the ideal Father’s Day gift. Definitely more interesting than jocks and socks.
What was the most surprising thing you learnt through writing the book?
David Beckham told me this his secret dad hack is making strawberry smoothies for the children. He packs them full of vegies so his kids slurp them up without noticing.
What are some of the biggest challenges dads face and in your opinion, and how should we best overcome them?
Studies reveal that when men become fathers they continue to work exactly the same number of hours as they did before. But at the same time, dads are now shown to spend three times as many hours with their kids as men did back in the late 1960s. So suddenly men are wrestling with that same work / life balancing act that women have been forced to endure for many years.
The challenge for our generation is to figure out a new model of parenting at a time when traditional gender roles are obsolete and where 60% of Australian families now have two working parents. Frankly, there’s no road-map for how to make this work. It’s up to each couple to just keep talking and try to figure out a balance that’s right for their individual families and careers. It’s a tricky challenge but it’s also an incredible opportunity for us to redefine what it means to be a dad.
One of your slogans is “Dad Needs a Rebrand” in which you reference Daddy Pig from the kid’s show Peppa Pig. That really resonated with me. Aren’t these types of shows creating stigma around gender roles from the very beginning of a child’s life?
Recently I interviewed Joe Brumm, who’s the creator of Bluey, the ABC kids’ cartoon that’s conquering the world. I said to him “Joe, cartoon dads tend to be half-wits or buffoons – think Homer Simpson, King Thistle or Daddy Pig. Whereas Bandit, the dad in Bluey, is a competent, hands-on dad. Were you trying to make some sort of veiled political statement with him?”
“Nope,” he said. “The character of Bandit was 100% observational. He’s based on what my brothers are like as dads, on what my mates are like with their kids. Bandit is just a straight-up depiction of the here and now where being a dad just seems like an all-in.”
That says a lot about the state of fatherhood in 2019. The old stereotype of the bumbling dads is still there but men are starting to bring about a positive change.
In the world of HR we see lots of positive steps being taken to redress gender biases, however recently one female HR Director shared with me that the school where her kids go still call her with any questions/issues before they call her husband, their father. This is despite him being listed as the primary carer. How can parents overcome these engrained biases in society?
As dads we have to just keep turning up to be actively involved in the lives of our children. Yes, these biases may be annoying but I’m confident they will eventually start to erode.
You have to remember that fatherhood has changed massively in one generation. In 1982, 43% of British dads had never changed a nappy. By 2002, that figure was down to just 3%. And that’s now almost 20 years ago…
It might seem like things are changing slowly but they’re definitely moving in the right direction and the implications for our relationships and workplaces are profound. There’s a great quote in our book from the fatherhood author and psychologist Steve Biddulph. He said that the rise of the hands-on dad “is a revolution of the deepest kind”.
Thank you for sharing your insights, Luke. To learn more about Luke Benedictus, visit his website the-father-hood.com