“Campaigns such as this assist to identify very important barriers to fathers’ involvement, and it also helps us to change the environment to encourage fathers to become more involved caregivers and supportive partners.” ‒ Andre Lewaks, Sonke Gender Justice
Let’s understand one thing: the idea of moms-and-tots-only parking spots and signs is very outdated. We are living in an age where dads are a lot more hands-on and play an active role in the lives of their families.
In the beginning, every time I pulled up to a parking spot that read “Moms & Tots Parking Only,” I would wonder why and who decided that dads need to be excluded from the text on a sign. I still don’t have an answer to that, but I guess that these kinds of signs have just become the norm, and no one has actively raised the issue of changing them.
We want to be included and thought about. #IncludeDads is here to raise awareness about something that has previously been overlooked.
It all started about two years ago. I had never paid these kinds of signs any attention until I became a parent, and then they hit me flat in the face. “Surely this can’t be right,” I thought to myself. That is when I started noticing all kinds of signage purely aimed at moms.I remember on one particular outing, going to a child-friendly play restaurant and needing to change Gia’s nappy. When I asked where the baby change rooms are, I was told that they were in the woman’s toilets and that I was not able to go in there and change my child. My wife had to go instead.This raised concern and left me wondering why? What if my wife was not with me?
The response to #IncludeDads has been extremely positive. This further validates that modern parents agree that Dads need to be represented more. I have had moms, dads, grandparents and so on, emailing and messaging me on social media to give their support and/or nominate a mall they would like to see adopt the #IncludeDads initiative. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel; all I want is to remove the old stigma attached to these kinds of signs.
I do understand that some might say, “It’s just a sign,” and moms or dads can park there, but in the same breath, there is no reason why these signs cannot include dads. I don’t expect the malls to change the signage to “Mom, Dad & Tot” signs. Something as simple as “Parent & Child Parking” would be great. We are all equal parts in this parenting journey, and this needs to be represented, especially in the media. When it comes to parenting, almost everything is aimed at moms, and while there is nothing wrong with this, dads also want to feel acknowledged.
The first mall I contacted jumped on board almost immediately. They were excited to welcome this change and were also passionate about the message that the #IncludeDads Initiative delivers.
“At Hillcrest Corner, we pride ourselves on our pay-off line: ‘We’re Family,’ so when we were approached and asked to join the #IncludeDads initiative, we couldn’t help but get involved! We believe in progressing with society, and we know that dads are just as involved in their children’s lives as moms. We will be changing some of the Moms & Tots signage to include dads so that fathers can feel just as important!”
There are many layers to #IncludeDads, and I hope to address more than just parking signs. I have had many requests from moms and dads across South Africa to address the need to have changing stations in malls that are not for “Moms Only.”In general, the malls are welcoming of the idea. It is something that has never been raised, so I feel it is a fresh request that they know will have a positive reaction among shoppers.Several malls across the country have been contacted. I have been led by requests from community members, asking for malls in their area to jump onboard. Just recently, another mall in Durban confirmed that they would be changing their signage within the next year to “Parent & Pram Parking”. I am so excited about this.I am currently in the first phase of the campaign, which is to address the parking bays, but at the same time, I feel the phrase #IncludeDads is extremely powerful and can be applied to so many aspects. All I am asking is that dads be included. We are here, we are actively parenting, and we want to be included.
I had always wanted to write, but my thoughts were always clouded when it came deciding what to write about. I became a father in December 2015, and in January 2016, The Don Father was born. I had found my inspiration, and the rest they say is history. I am married to Milly, who’s passion lies in being a mom, baking and teaching. Gia, is our daughter. Gia has added a richness to our lives that has given us the opportunity of looking at the world in a completely different way.