Not the Only Dad at the Vaccination Clinic

Major strides have been made in the last couple of decades toward greater gender equality. Far more women are taking on roles that had traditionally been occupied by men. We’re also seeing a growing number of full-time stay-at-home dads, even if the (unfair) underlying stigma persists. Sadly, men and women may be only moving toward greater equality in theory and not yet in practice. We still have a very long way to go.

This observation became abundantly clear to me when we went to the local public library for Story Time. The weekly gathering is officially geared toward babies and their caregivers. It’s meant to be all inclusive, encouraging the attendance of moms, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, brothers and sisters. Yet, more often than not, I’d be practically the only dad there. What is supposed to be a “family” program has been largely a “mommy and me” program.

Some have said that this perpetuates the so-called “Cult of Mom.”

Maybe it does.

And indeed, you don’t have to look much further than the similar programs offered by libraries, community centers and even shopping malls to see this. A local mall has a weekly program called Zumba for Moms & Babies, a class that is “designed for moms and babies.” It’s not until you get to the very end of the program description that you find “dads are welcome too.” Fathers, in this context, are an afterthought… like they’re throwing us a pity bone.

Yeah, thanks for that.

Curiously, there was one place where the severity of this phenomenon was far less amplified. You can likely ascertain from the title of this post that I’m talking about the immunization clinic (or vaccination clinic, if you prefer). I’m not going to get into the whole debate with the anti-vaxxers movement, as that is easily fodder for several more blog posts on its own, but it was interesting to see the different mix of people at the local clinic here in Burnaby.

At Story Time, I was practically the only dad. At the immunization clinic, I was hardly the only dad. In fact, while there were a couple moms there on their own with their little ones, most of the other children and babies were accompanied by both parents. There’s no official literature that talks about “mommy and me” or anything of that sort; the language is far more neutral, generally referring to “parents and guardians” in most instances.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the pamphlets or posters in this case. That said, I’m also not at all sure why getting shots to immunize against hepatitis is all that different from all the other “family” programs and events. Is it that dads feel something medically-related is more important? If that’s the case, why weren’t there more dads at the baby first aid and CPR class I attended earlier this year?

Is it possible that dads feel like attending Story Time is emasculating, while surviving a needle demonstrates how strong and tough you are? I can’t say. The point of today’s post isn’t to wave the “Yay! Dads!” flag with pride, because the lack of male caregivers at these programs and events is just as much the fault of the fathers as it is the fault of the “Cult of Mommy & Me.” We’re in this together, so let’s do this together.