“Phil, you come across as very male.”
These were the words of our Social Worker, when she summed me up in our Assessment Form to become Foster Carers.
I wasn’t sure what she meant but as my wife nodded, sagely, I decided to adopt a similar facial expression and nod along too.
I wasn’t sure whether she meant it in a positive or a negative light.
Quite frankly, I didn’t care.
I was just glad our assessment was positive, and we were on our way to becoming Foster Carers.
Back when I was a kid, gender roles were simple, rigid and fairly restrictive.
I’m not exactly sure when gender equality became enshrined in law, but the men and women in my early life all, more or less, fulfilled similar functions.
As a baby, your Mum looked after you, often helped by her Mum, her sisters, and a whole load of other women that you called ‘Auntie’, even though they weren’t.
The teachers at Primary School were mostly women, except for the Headmaster.
Dinner Ladies were women and the caretaker was an old man, usually in dungarees, who smelled of pipe tobacco.
At Secondary School, the teachers were a mix, but there was a pattern.
Science and Maths were usually men.
French teachers were women, and often worked part time.
On the TV, people in charge were mostly men, except for Margaret Thatcher.
Dads knew about cars, football and barbecues.
Men read the paper and drank pints.
Women did the cooking and drank Gin and Tonic.
To generalise outrageously, if a job involved caring for people, and wasn’t terribly well paid or well regarded, invariably it was done by a woman.
I think, though we live in more enlightened times, much of this is still true today.
There is still an assumption that a nurse will be female, a mechanic will be male, and a French teacher will be a woman.
There is an assumption that a woman will take Maternity Leave.
The clue is in the title.
Shared Parental Leave is catching on, but only slowly.
Society is changing, but The Patriarchy is far from dead.
I’ve done some research and I’ve done some observing and I would say that Foster Carers are more likely to be female than male.
If a married or cohabiting couple foster, it is the woman who is more likely to be the ‘main carer’.
If a single person fosters, they are more likely to be female than male.
There are exceptions, but these are exceptions.
If you are a man who fosters, you may repeatedly find yourself in the minority.
For the first time in your life, you may be ‘the diversity’.
Men, I really wouldn’t let it bother you.
The kids we’ve fostered have not been at all interested in how we have identified ourselves.
They’ve just wanted to feel safe, feel warm, and feel loved.
They’ve not cared that I drink beer and my wife prefers gin.
They have not cared that I’m both a Foster Carer and a French Teacher (part time).
Their only care has been that we have cared for them.
Gender, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, background and ethnicity are all secondary to character.
We need Foster Carers who reflect every single section of our society.