I grew up in a household with more women than men. It was three women, my mum, sister, and me, against one, my dad. I now live in a household with more women than men – my two daughters, me, and my husband. Much is said about the influence of mothers on children; I think it’s time we cut the fathers some slack.
My dad is a man of few words, but he was very clear on one thing when we were growing up: his daughters would have a voice. Our opinion was sought on matters big and small, and we knew we always had an attentive ear. He also let us take decisions, make mistakes, and deal with the consequences, all the while firmly giving us the message that he had our backs. Now, as an adult, and as a mum myself, I marvel at the things my dad let us get away with. My girls are only little, but I hope that my mother’s instinct doesn’t get in the way of letting them make mistakes and learn from them.
That brings me to the other important man in my life – my husband: the man who will move heaven and Earth to make sure that his girls get every opportunity to shine, to carve their own path, and that their over-protective mother doesn’t cramp their style. He’d cringe at the label if I called him a feminist – but he smashes gender stereotypes for our daughters (trucks and cars outnumber the dolls in their toy basket) and consistently tells them they can grow up to be anything they want as long as they work hard (my nine-year-old genuinely believes the only thing standing between her and American presidency is her British nationality, and my four-year-old believes “fairy doctor” is a valid vocational choice!). He gets them excited about the future, tells them it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes, and that when they do mess up, as everybody does, he’ll help them to fix things. He is their biggest cheerleader, their most honest critic, and their happy place.
Sadly, a lot of press is given to the men who don’t set such fine examples, and not enough is given to those who do. If I stop to reflect, I realise I am friends with men like my dad and husband, and I work with men like that. It’s time we honoured all those men with a simple thanks for being the way they are, for being themselves.
So, on International Men’s Day, let’s pause to recognise and thank all the wonderful men in our lives, those who raise strong girls, those who help them shine, and those who love, support, and inspire the next generation of Presidents and fairy doctors.