Because Fathers Day was this week, I want to talk a little bit about the way our society treats fathers and mothers.
It’s generally known by now that there’s an unfair imbalance in where the burden of parenting falls in a two-parent household (usually on the mother). I won’t bore you with the extreme examples, because you’ve already heard them, and because this isn’t the 1950s. Fathers of the 21st century are expected to take a more active role than their own fathers and grandfathers did, but we’re still not in perfect equality, and probably never will be.
This seems to be because even if the mother and the father of the family were doing exactly the same things, they are met with different reactions socially and professionally.
The old complaint was, “Moms have to do all the child-rearing and housework.”
Thankfully, that isn’t the case anymore for a lot of families.
The new complaints are:
- When moms have a career, especially outside of the home, people wonder “How does she do both?” or, in cases where she’s met with a judgy-mcjudgerson, “So you’re only a part-time mom? Don’t you worry about someone else raising your kids?”
Meanwhile, no one wonders this about dads. It’s just a given. A man is allowed to keep his work life and family life separate without anyone asking questions.
- When moms choose to leave their careers to stay home with their young children, some people (usually the opposite of the ones above, but maybe the same ones in ironic cases), wonder if she’s lazy, sitting around watching cartoons all day.
When a dad chooses to be the stay-at-home parent, it’s cool, hip, progressive, and impressive. “Look at that hipster family with their stay-at-home dad! How cool of him to let his wife be the breadwinner!” (Ummm, ew??)
- When a mom does any of those boring mom-like things for her kids (cooks a meal, helps the kids get dressed, takes them to the doctor, etc), who cares? That’s just what moms do. When it’s all going right, no one notices. When it’s not going right (the meal cooking goes wrong and/or doesn’t happen at all because mom has no energy, the kids go out in mismatched backwards clothes that are too small, they show up late/never to the doctor), is when she has to worry about being noticed… At best (but still annoying), she receives worry and sympathy, at worst, judgement.
When a dad does those same bare-minimum things (or makes the same “mistakes”, depending on how you view it), the general reaction is celebratory. “Look at that dad trying! Oh, the kid’s diaper fell off, but it’s so cute that he attempted a diaper change! Why does that kid only have carrots and crackers for lunch? Doesn’t her mom know how to pack a balanced meal–Oh, it was dad? Wow, the dad packed a lunch! Amazing! And he went to the doctor appointments? So involved!”
You’ve definitely heard about all of these.
However, I think I can safely guess that you’ve also heard some of these:
- “I can’t believe the father of my children doesn’t know where the extra baby wipes are. I have to find them for him. So annoying.”
- “I don’t trust my partner to dress the kids, because he’ll probably put them in clothes too small. It’s like he can’t figure out anything on his own.”
- “lol, I’m leaving the kids to be babysat by their dad tonight, I wonder if he’ll even remember to feed them. It will be a miracle if they eat something healthy.”
- “I can’t get sick, because my family would die without me.”
- “Having a husband is like having another child!”
- “[insert literally any jab about how dumb and incapable men are]”
Sure, women are tired of having greater parenting expectations placed on them than on their male counterparts. So, it can be understandably cathartic to complain or make jokes about the men.
It’s a regular occurrence, and still socially acceptable, to see wives laughing at their husbands’ expense, mothers demeaning the fathers of their own children, publicly, sometimes even in front of their kids.
But are we going to start talking about what a double standard this is?
We want dads to do more, but everything we say about them with regards to their role in the family paints them as bumbling idiots who can barely take care of themselves, let alone their own offspring.
We notice that dads are given more credit for “bare minimum” parenting, but we don’t stop to ask whether dads even want that recognition. That parenting equivalent of a participation trophy is actually rather patronizing.
We ask for dads to be held to an equal standard in parenting, while in the same breath, telling dads that they are less than.
Maybe society “expects” less of dads because society loves when “the incompetence of dad” is the butt of a joke.
I’d like to think that maybe, if the public shaming and belittling of dads stops, more equality and shared responsibility will follow.
Also in honor of Fathers Day, I want to make sure I don’t wrap up this week’s post without telling you about the father of my own child, and my husband, Josh.
Although I’m sure he’s heard plenty of those cruel jokes about husbands and dads (hopefully not from me; I’ve made a conscious effort to partake in this trend), he’s one who doesn’t keep himself restrained to the insulting standards set for dads in our culture.
He’s present, helps with housework and cleaning, and does as equal a share of the childcare as his schedule will allow.
He has a job that drains him, but he still acknowledges that I can’t take care of a toddler 24/7 by myself, and makes time and energy for actively being here as the dad.
On top of that, he’s been supportive of me in my journey as a mom.
When we found out I was pregnant, there was no expectation placed that I’d give up my career to be a full-time mom, but we discussed it as an option.
I ended up staying home all this time when we realized how expensive daycare is, but that’s not oppressive; it’s just logical. If one parent’s income isn’t enough to even cover daycare, it makes sense for that parent to be the one to stop going to work.
Josh has been emotional support for me when I felt like I was losing my identity, and I went through phases of wanting to get away / back to work. He’s even taken over occasionally when I needed a break. He’s been encouraging while I found hobbies and passions to give myself a feeling of being a human, outside of just being “mom”.
He’s an amazing dad to our son, and our little boy’s hero.
I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging, but Josh is a great dad, and I’m blessed to have him as my partner in this journey. ❤
To all the dads out there, Happy Fathers Day!
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