x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Security, love, guidance: let's celebrate dads

The mother does all the work and changes all the nappies. Why does Dad get all the love? Because he deserves it, too.

Dads everywhere: tomorrow is your day. Your wives, babies and children will lavish schmaltzy goodness upon your heads in the form of socks, cups of tea and promises to honour you.

It's the first year that my husband makes it onto the official Dad List. Since Baby is too little to come up with her own present, I'm left with the task of identifying a gift on her behalf. The convention is that it should look like she's made and delivered it. It's all so mushy cutesy, eh? Likkle baby, giving daddy a pwesent. OK, I admit it, it *is* cute. But I'm stuck for ideas. What does a six-month-old baby give Daddy as a token of her appreciation? A bottle of drool? A particularly noxious nappy (followed by a photo of the smile as it was filled)? A loud satisfying burp and a rip-roaring exodus of wind so he can feel paternal pride at her internal combustion?

But then I got to thinking … Who's really in charge of the baby here? (Dear husband, you may want to stop reading now as disillusionment may soon follow.)

If she's up every hour, I'm up with her, too. I'm Chief of Daytime Entertainment, Manager of Intellectual Services, as well as Social Secretary. And most importantly, I'm Director of Input, Consumption and Output.

Behind every dad of a new baby is a sleep-deprived, dribble-covered mummy in un-ironed clothes holding a pile of nappies. Proud father of the new offspring? Definitely. Yummy mummy? Not so much.

Hang on, I hear you cry. Where's my usual upbeat optimistic tone, which encourages men and women to be partners and support each other?

Why can't I just be happy for Daddy and let him enjoy his moment? After all, as mummies we get our own day earlier in the year. And it's true: we do have Mother's Day. But, according to a saying of the Prophet Mohammed, when asked which parent a child should obey first, he instructed: mother, mother, mother then father. I count three Mother's Days before I get to Father's Day (Hallmark, take note).

Baby, however, seems rather taken with Daddy. She chats to him (are they gossiping about me?), she gurgles at him when he makes funny noises (daddies are notoriously better at strange sounds) and she is slowly creating a niche for herself in the genetically predisposed role of Daddy's Little Girl. And he's lavishing her with love and attention in return. Has my status in his life been gazumped by this gorgeous little creature that now occupies the space between us?

There is plenty written about how husbands and wives can feel jealous of each other when a baby arrives. I don't feel at all jealous of the bond they are forming. In fact, it brings me great joy. My daughter's father loves her. What could be better than that? He calls me from work pining for her. And he rushes home so he can spend the last minutes of her day with her before bedtime.

I guess most fathers feel that way. Why do we harp on about the jealousy they feel that the baby has taken over the mother? Instead, we should focus on the fact that he loves this little one.

Dads have an important role to play in providing security, love, guidance, cuddles (and strange sounds). We should celebrate them for it. Oh yes! We do. It's called Father's Day.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk