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On Dad Discrimination and Equal Parenting

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I would like to squash a stereotype with you today please. But first let me tell you a story.

Last night, Joe got home from work at 6 p.m. Georgie greeted him at the door, excited to show him the new paints I bought her that morning. Joe ran to the bedroom to change out of his work clothes and into “play clothes,” and tried to sneak in a quick trip to the bathroom. Georgie would have none of this, and banged on the bathroom door, yelling at him to hurry up. She knows that when Dad gets home, it’s play time.

Georgie and I had worked hard in the garden all afternoon and my back was sore. Like many nights in our household, I hadn’t made dinner.

So Joe emerged from his rushed bathroom visit, got out Georgie’s new paint set with one hand and with the other hand, started dinner. We chatted about our days as he flipped chicken around on the grill and complimented Georgie on her artwork.

This wasn’t a special night for me, not a reward for a rough day or a prelude to him getting something he wants.

This was a typical evening of my husband, NAILING IT as a father, partner, and man.

YES, I am bragging. And you know why? Because I think it’s time we as a society put to rest the Lazy Dad Myth. The Incompetent Dad Myth. The Disengaged Dad Myth. The I-Work-All-Day-So-I-Deserve-To-Put-My-Feet-Up Dad Myth. The I-Don’t-Do-Diaper-Changes Dad Myth.

Society tries to make a joke of fathers, even in 2015. A movie came out last year called Mom’s Night Out. The tagline: “What could go wrong?” The premise is a group of mom friends plan an evening out, and their husbands attempt to babysit their children with disastrous results. (I haven’t seen the movie. This is from the Wikipedia Page and what I’ve gathered from the trailer.)

Me leaving for the evening is not a “Mom’s Night Out,” it’s just a NIGHT. Joe caring for Georgie during said evening is not “babysitting,” it’s him, you know, spending time with his spawn. The “disastrous results” I come home to are a happy, bathed, sleeping toddler, and a husband ready to tell me about all the fun they had while I was gone.

I was talking to a woman recently with a son the same age as Georgie, and she said she would never let her husband “babysit” her son for more than an hour. I was floored. First off, Lady, you need to get out more. Second, your husband is just as much as a parent as you are, and you are depriving your children of an important bond. Third, if you think your husband is that incompetent or untrustworthy, maybe don’t reproduce with him? Fourth, I somehow left the conversation feeling like a Neglectful Mom for leaving my kid with my husband several evenings a week and it took a long talk with my girlfriend to filter the crazy out.

OK, so I’m a judgy little creep sometimes. You already knew this. But this is a stereotype that really ticks me off and as mothers we can help turn it around in the way we parent and talk about our partners.

Let’s brag on the men who are raising our children, not as secondary figures but as equal partners in child rearing and life. By doing this, we are not only affirming them but raising cultural expectations for a father’s involvement with the family. Oh, you say your husband does fit the bill of the Lazy Dad? Let’s not let culture say that’s normal or funny or endearing. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to our children.

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6 Comments

  1. Amber on May 29, 2015 at 8:48 am

    New reader here. Awesome post! We don’t have kids yet, but I feel like this applies also to stereotypes about men as husbands. I think of shows like Rules of Engagement, which, while funny, promotes various versions of the clueless husband. Really bugs me.

    Love your last paragraph. Boom. We can choose to not join in on the negative talk about our husbands (as fathers/husbands or just husbands) and praise them instead, even if we do wish things were different. People are motivated by high expectations and de-motivated by feeling pigeonholed. We don’t make our world (or the world) a better place by furthering negative, narrow views of anyone.

    • Carly Gelsinger on May 29, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Great thoughts. Totally applies to Buffoon Husband stereotypes too. Sure there are men out there like that, but if we continue to pigeonhole them (great word choice), then we aren’t doing favors to anyone. Thanks for reading!

    • R Bonwell parker on August 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

      The negative talk can affect moms, too, being accused of neglecting their child by leaving him/her with Dad.

  2. Amber on May 29, 2015 at 8:48 am

    New reader here. Awesome post! We don’t have kids yet, but I feel like this applies also to stereotypes about men as husbands. I think of shows like Rules of Engagement, which, while funny, promotes various versions of the clueless husband. Really bugs me.

    Love your last paragraph. Boom. We can choose to not join in on the negative talk about our husbands (as fathers/husbands or just husbands) and praise them instead, even if we do wish things were different. People are motivated by high expectations and de-motivated by feeling pigeonholed. We don’t make our world (or the world) a better place by furthering negative, narrow views of anyone.

  3. R Bonwell parker on August 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

    The darker side of the “lazy dad” stereotype is that if you’re not a lazy dad, some people assume you must not be a dad at all. I’ve had women literally tell my daughter not to talk to me because it doesn’t even occur to me that a guy sitting on the bench might actually be her father. It’s also very difficult to find any playmates for my daughter, because the majority of moms are very uncomfortable inviting a dad to playdates. There have been many occasions where mothers of my daughter’s friends, who had met me on several occasions, gave an invitation to my four-year-old and asked her to give it to her mom. And I live in a very progressive city… in more conservative places, fathers have literally been investigated by the police simply for taking pictures of their own children or grandchildren.

  4. R Bonwell parker on August 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

    The darker side of the “lazy dad” stereotype is that if you’re not a lazy dad, some people assume you must not be a dad at all. I’ve had women literally tell my daughter not to talk to me because it doesn’t even occur to me that a guy sitting on the bench might actually be her father. It’s also very difficult to find any playmates for my daughter, because the majority of moms are very uncomfortable inviting a dad to playdates. There have been many occasions where mothers of my daughter’s friends, who had met me on several occasions, gave an invitation to my four-year-old and asked her to give it to her mom. And I live in a very progressive city… in more conservative places, fathers have literally been investigated by the police simply for taking pictures of their own children or grandchildren.

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