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Shocked dad finds 'tutting' stranger unloading his toddler's food from shopping basket

The Out of Depth Dad is confronting the growing trend (Image: Chris Mcguire)

Forget ‘Mansplaining’, there’s a new craze hitting our nation: “Gransplaining” – when parents of young children (especially dads) are given unwanted parenting advice from complete strangers – usually elderly women.

Writer, blogger and stay at home dad, Chris McGuire, has experienced this trend first hand.

One of the worst examples was his confrontation with an older lady in a shop.
Chris explains: "The strangest thing happened to me. I was in a supermarket, looking around to find something for my toddler son’s tea – so far, so run-of-
the-mill.

One of the worst examples was his confrontation with an older lady in a shop.

Chris explains: "The strangest thing happened to me. I was in a supermarket, looking around to find something for my toddler son’s tea – so far, so run-of-the-mill.

"I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve found that I often sing in public. It’s something that creeps up on you when, like me, you’re a stay at home dad. I was singing Twinkle-twinkle Little Star – my son seems to like my singing even if nobody else does – when my shopping basket suddenly felt light.

Chris and his son Sam (Image: Chris Mcguire)

"I looked around to discover a lady, of pensionable age, unloading the contents of my basket – tutting to herself. I asked, as politely as I could, what she was doing.

"'He won’t like any of that,' was the reply I received. I assured this lady that my son regularly enjoyed the food she had pilfered from my basket – yet, despite this, she refused to give it back. I was in a no-win situation, so I made a quick exit – off to sing Incy Wincy Spider in the cheese aisle."

And that's not the only time Chris has had to battle off unsolicited interference.

Here’s The Out Of Depth Dad’s take on the epidemic of unhelpful advice that’s become a thorny issue for many.

 

1. An incredible interruption

This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced unhelpful interruptions, from a random stranger. On another occasion, in a restaurant, I was feeding my son some (very trendy) organic baby food, when am elderly fellow, on an adjoining table, grabbed the jar and announced: “What is this cr*p you’re feeding that child?” I’m proud of the way I acted on that occasion, counting to 10 (in my head) I asked him to hand back the jar – suppressing the overwhelming desire to release my inner Incredible Hulk: Don’t make me angry, you won’t like me when I’m angry. Yet, this Gransplaining (or should I say Grandad-splaining?) left me fuming.

You expect to be able to eat as a family without interruption (Image: Getty)

2. Mountains out of molehills

Strangers interfering with parenting isn’t an easy issue to address. How do you talk about it without sounding like someone who’s either extremely grumpy or just plain ungrateful? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. ‘You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,’ some have told me.

I don’t think I am.

Perhaps these intrusions are coming from people who are acting out of the best of intentions, but even if they are, the results are often an unnecessary added stress to the already frazzled parents of young children.

I’ve asked around and found that I’m not the only parent experiencing this issue. Stay at home dads, like me, seem particularly prone to receiving unwanted interference. There seems to be an assumption, with some people, that men in childcare roles have no clue what they’re doing.

Toddler in trolley

Why are supermarkets full of tutting strangers? (Image: Getty)

 

3. Not a one off

One dad I spoke to had been in a supermarket with his toddler daughter – who was having a tantrum. From nowhere, an elderly lady handed a chocolate bar to his crying tot, without the dad’s permission. “Don’t worry, that’ll stop her crying,” this Gransplainer told the gobsmacked dad. The dad in question was (understandably) furious, as it meant he now had an even bigger issue to deal with: prising the totally unsuitable sugary treat from the, already hysterical, child.

 

4. Cry Baby

To be fair, frustrating interruptions aren’t limited to those of grand-parenting age. Many fathers have experienced problems with younger members of the public. One dad explained of an incident where he’d been in a shop with his child. The baby was crying – nothing unusual there – babies tend to cry a lot (even I know that!). He found himself pushed out of the way by a lady (of around his own age) who stuck her finger into the kid’s mouth and proclaimed: “He’s hungry!” He wasn’t. The baby had only just been fed. The dad was left with a tired baby, additionally distressed by the sudden arrival of a strange finger.

 

Dad's aren't a substitute

Time and again, complete strangers seem to assume they know how to deal with a childcare situation better than the kid’s own parent – often just because that parent happens to be male. It’s clear to me that we, as a society, need to change attitudes to dads as primary carers. Dads are not the substitute teachers of the parenting world – an inferior stand-in for mums.

Chris McGuire, OutofDepthDad (Image: Chris Mcguire)

A dad's plea

Don’t get me wrong. Not every elderly lady Gransplains – far from it. Most people I meet, when out and about with my son, are genuinely lovely - sharing their excitement about the joys of parenting and passing on their precious memories. Most don’t even seem concerned by my constant singing of nursery rhymes!

Up and down the country parents are doing their level best for their kids. Increasingly dads are stepping up, taking on primary caring roles, it’s something that should be celebrated, not criticised. Next time you see a parent with a crying child, please offer a smile, not advice – I promise that this sign of solidarity will make the tired parent’s day.

 

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