I'm the father of a three year old son who attends a workplace nursery in the UK. I'm together with his mum and admit can be a lazy so-and-so (in life in general, I make efforts not to be) but certainly don't consider anything beneath me, or "for mums". Part of that is that I drop off and collect my son from nursery, as well as things like changing nappies, doing bed time, medicine, cuddles, and so on. So far so unremarkable, it's not the 1950s.

Some of the staff at nursery, though, consistently treat me like I'm incompetent, or an idiot who doesn't understand how one human being looks after another, or say things like "Look, [son]! Daddy's come to take you to mummy". I'm told everything slowly and multiple times. If both of us (mum and dad) go there for a meeting, I'll barely get a glance. They'll also simply not listen to things I tell them to the extent that I ask my wife to tell them something so that they'll remember. It's not something that tends to happen in the rest of my life.

For a while I thought a mixture of "I'm just being touchy" or "Maybe they're right", but it's starting to get ridiculous and I can't really sustain that any more. It's really wearing me down, making me feel useless. I worry that if it goes on then they'll start thinking I'm neglecting him. I wonder if it's the way I dress, or my attitude, or something I once said.

So here's my question, is there a way that I can kind of politely and subtly change this? Is there some attitude or strategy to kind of indicate to them that I might not be a complete waste of space when it comes to either being a parent or worth communicating with? Something I can do to seem worth it? (Assuming that's the case and they're not just right).

  • 1
    Do you get the same condescension from the nursery supervisor (whatever the job title for that may be), or just his particular caretakers?
    – Acire
    Aug 25 '16 at 21:55
  • Do you ever see other dads pick up of drop off their children?
    – hkBst
    Sep 10 '16 at 10:54

It's unfortunate that this is happening to you, but (unfortunately) not uncommon. I similarly dropped my children off at daycares (and still do for one), and at first I think there was some of this as well, though not to this degree.

What I can suggest is being over-involved. When I dropped the kids off, I specifically stayed for a bit in the classroom and chatted with the teachers, and interacted with my child playing with the other children (within reasonable limits). I made it clear to them that I was an active, involved dad by being so very visibly in front of them.

I also was the one who asked questions about the day, in detail, every day. My wife tended to just pick the kids up and go; when I picked up, I asked how they did, got the teachers to go into some detail even just finding out little fun things they did. I made smalltalk with the teachers, as well, finding out how they were doing and eventually finding out details of their lives (and sharing details of mine).

I think that's really the only way to overcome stereotypes that people have - and that's what this is - by putting the reality in their face. Not aggressively or provocatively, but highly visibly and clearly. Show your mad dad skills. If there's a dirty nappy at pick-up, go change it yourself - don't ask them to, and don't let them if they offer to. Ask where the changing table is and get at it. Be the person who shows up to chaperone field trips. Keep showing that you're the competent, involved dad, and not one of those who sticks his nose up at nappies, and you'll get through to them.

  • Totally agree re this. Aug 31 '16 at 21:59

I think this is just everyday sexism, it gets better, in the sense that it is less often the case at school.

Discrimination is based on lack of knowledge / experience, perhaps over time, as the staff see you more and get to know you better, they'll realise their sexist attitude is wrong and just based on dogma, rather than experience, then they'll will treat you and other dads as they treat mums.

Sexism is, sadly, something everyone experiences in different ways and to varying degrees.

Perhaps, if, over time, there is no improvement, you could, when your kids leave, write a constructive note informing them of their persistent sexism and how you felt it to be unhelpful.

  • 2
    I disagree with the last sentence. Deal with it while you're there, or leave it be. Waiting until you leave is passive-aggressive and not very helpful, any more than telling your kid when he's eighteen that he wasn't very well behaved as a toddler.
    – Joe
    Aug 31 '16 at 18:24
  • Good point Joe, I agree in principle. However, I was thinking that if a member of staff is not, over time, going to temper their prejudice, that is probably a bad sign. As such, perhaps they might respond negatively to the feedback, and subsequently your child might receive less good care. Aug 31 '16 at 21:59
  • 1
    If you think talking to them at the time is risky or counterproductive, don't do it. But don't write the letter afterwards either.
    – Joe
    Sep 1 '16 at 14:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.