When they say parents they really mean mums

- Dave Owens comments on our women-only parenting support services

In the 1990s, our mother and child support services hastened to re-labelled themselves. They had always been support services aimed at mothers, but when feminism outed sexism and pointed out how women were being discriminated against, it quietly highlighted the exclusion of men in our “parent” support services.

A quick re-print of the brochures and these services were calling themselves  “parent” support services.

A good thing? Well … as it turned out … not really.

This shift in the language from "mothers" to "parents" didn’t change what these services actually do, how they do it, or who they do it for. They remain services directed at mothers.

I've had dozens of conversations and meetings with people who run "parenting" support services and (with the exception of Barnardos) I have always been the only man in the meeting. And when I speak to parenting support groups and point out that they are women providing services for women… every head in the room nods in knowing agreement.

NZ's parenting support services are  women providing services to women.

This is not a criticism, it’s an observation. It's a fact.

Thousands of dedicated women work and volunteer in these services. But there is an elephant in the room, and that is …

… that our parenting support services don't engage men. They are clearly missing half of our parents.

Again, not a criticism, but an observation. But it's clearly is a fact.


What is concerning is that our parenting support services are misrepresenting what they do.

This is a criticism.

And the funding bodies that support these services are in collusion. They are paying for just half the job to be done. Or maybe they are putting in half the money that is needed? I'm in no position to know.

My experience is that our parenting support services want to do better. Women want more men to be involved with their children. They know it is better for a child if  their dad takes an active role with them.

And there are some efforts being made … I'm seeing some efforts by parenting support agencies branching out and trying to offer services to dads.

I haven't seen much success, so far. I think this is because there are several factors working against these efforts. These agencies …

  • have their work cut out for them doing what they've always done
  • have female staff who feel safer and more confident working with women
  • have organisational inertia that keeps them fixed where they are, and
  •  don't know what to do with male clients

Everyone  in the parenting industry knows this is true - and most acknowledge this is an issue.

But I don’t see anything like half of their resources going into trying to connect with the other half of our children’s parents.

The next article makes some suggests on how to address this.



Three things
Your baby's brain
Crikey! Your own baby
Why babies cry
The Zombie Zone
Sex, Pregnancy and the Home Invasion
Your own Dad