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Behind Every Supermom Is An Incompetent Dad: This Dad Is Sick Of The Condescension

By TK | Think Pieces | April 21, 2014 | Comments ()


mrmomwut.png

Recently, the marvelous Courtney penned a gorgeously scathing piece that lambasted companies like American Greetings and their attempts to perpetuate the “woe is mom” trope, which for inexplicable reasons is determined to reduce women to but one facet of their complicated lives.

It’s something that I’ve often spoken to my own wife about, and we have gotten endless glee from reading its examples on delightful sites like STFU Parents and Mommyish. Because my wife is, like Courtney, a spectacular mom. She’s also a spectacular scientist, doctor, knitter, wife, daughter, cousin, friend, cook, debater, student, teacher, camper, etc. I’m guessing she probably has a pretty good right cross too, but I’ve never tried to prove it.

But I’m not here to reiterate Courtney’s piece, but rather to talk about the other side of that coin, the side that plagues me as a father and as a man. To illustrate my concerns, I give you the trailer for “Moms’ Night Out”:

Now, allow me to use the great Chris Rock to illustrate my counterpoint:

Movies like this make me seethe with rage, because while I find the cliche of the mom as unappreciated, exhausted hardest-working-human-in-the-galaxy to be tiresome, I find the cliche of the useless, untrustworthy, hapless dad to be equally tiresome. I absolutely acknowledge that there are likely more stay-at-home moms than dads, and that as a society it may well be that in many — perhaps most — families, the primary parenting responsibility is shouldered by mothers. But this is not the way it should be, and films like this, and ads like the ones Court mentioned, and this entire sub-genre of sob-politics, all contribute to those stereotypes and reinforce our existing antiquated gender norms.

Look, parenthood should be a partnership, to the best of your ability. My kid is two, and at that age there’s sometimes an inevitable motherly dependence, but you do your part as best you can. Our situation is a little different — we work opposite shifts, so we each spend a sizable portion of the day with the boy by himself, but even if we both worked straight 9-5’s, we’d still each do our best. That’s what you do as parents — you try to find balance, you each pull your weight, and you do it as a family. None of us deserves a medal for this stuff. All you’re doing is being a parent. You’re not curing cancer or discovering new solar systems.

But never once has my wife had to tell me to make sure that he eats, and never once have I lost my kid, or any of the other stupid shenanigans that movie/TV/commercial dads do. This is the case with me, and it’s the case with most of the dads I know. And yet we will continue to deal with that weird stereotype that diminishes both women and men, that women are born to be mothers, and that men are at best barely competent at being fathers. I’m often out with my son by myself, I cannot count the number of times where I’ve encountered people who tell me how nice I’m being for giving my wife a break.

Giving. My wife. A break. Because fathers clearly wouldn’t otherwise be out with their kids, and moms certainly aren’t allowed a life away from their child. Look, I’m not giving her a break and I am sure as goddamn hell not babysitting, because YOU CAN’T BABYSIT YOUR OWN CHILD YOU DUMB BASTARDS. I’m parenting, like my wife does, like we all do, and to reduce it to anything else is to make it all to easy for families to backslide back into another century and smother us in our own stupid stereotypes.

This nonsense that once a woman becomes a mom, she can’t be anything but a mom is preposterous and reductive and insulting and demeaning to women — mothers or not — everywhere. And similarly, the idea that men can just bumble along, fuck around, and generally act like assholes without responsibility once they become dads is just as insidious and insulting and dangerous. Mothers are not wondrous moon goddesses whose existences revolve around raising their child, and men should never be treated as heroes just because they made it through an afternoon without their child catching fire.

Be a parent, and be a good one, and be other things as well. So yes, I am a dad, just like I’m a husband, a manager, a writer, a reader, a brother, a son, a cousin, a gamer, a rider, and a few other things, too. You want a pithy slogan or a movie tagline? Here you go:

Everything that you do is who you are. Anyone who tries to tell you that you’re just one thing or that you’re not good enough to be another is trying to sell you something, and you should tell them to kindly go fuck themselves with a hedge trimmer.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Cheryl Ray

    We've been fed that stereotype for so long it's hard to break. It was based in truth from a different era...not that men weren't capable of child care...they just weren't expected to do it.

  • Jeremy

    My wife and I would both love to be stay at home parents. Not b/c we think it would be easier, but we realize the time we have with our children is limited and want more of it. There hasn't been a day where I found myself thinking "boy, I really do enjoy sitting at this desk/meeting/class so much more than spending time with my family."

  • Steve

    Great article. I'm not a parent, so I can't comment on this but this reminds me of how I pointed out in one of those drunk driving commercials, how all the drivers that were pulled over were all white men between the ages of 20-45. Cuz certainly, women, old people and minorities are such better drivers and more responsible drinkers, right?

  • cypher20

    Eh, well we each have our different parts to play as moms and dads. I can never be a mom and my wife will never be a dad. I also find that she tends to be the more naturally selfless one in our relationship, where as I have to actively work at it. So, there is some basis to the stereotypes and there are definitely deadbeat dads who do little to nothing in the childcare dept.

    All that said, yeah, I'm tired of the incompetent dad stereotype we see so much in media. Myself, and plenty of other men are definitely capable of childcare. I have taken care of my daughter while my wife went out and got to hang out with friends, managed to do so without anything catching fire. I'm actually responsible for making our daughter's hair look good, my wife will just put up in a ponytail and call it a day. So yeah, this dad can take care of a child, it's kind of part of the job.

    Although I don't know why you would get huffy for "giving your wife a break". I think we all need breaks from the kid(s) sometimes and the mom is usually the one less likely to take it even if she is the one more likely to need it.

  • BR

    Eh, I dunno. My husband is definitely the more selfless one in our relationship while I constantly have to remind myself to live up to his example. I think it has more to do with personality than gender.

  • cypher20

    Obviously there are always exceptions to the generalities but the fact that there are more single moms then single dads out there in the world pretty clearly shows that women tend to be more selfless while men tend to be more selfish.

    Personality is important but it doesn't change the fact that we can see significant differences in the general population of men and women.

  • BR

    I have to call BS on this comment. It is actually playing into exactly what this article is about - this idea that men are less nurturing and less interested or invested in parenting than women.

    While there may (or may not - I don't see a link to any evidence supporting this) be more fathers who abandon their families, you can't possibly be saying that this is the norm or that the majority of men would ditch their kids. Therefore, you can't make a generalization to all men based on a small minority who act irresponsibly. You can't claim that "all men" are more selfish than "all women." Talk about insulting to men, dang. I would argue that those men who do act so selfishly fit more into your exception to the rule than the norm.

    Arguing otherwise is perpetuating a socially constructed belief that when spread gives those selfish men the excuse they need to act selfishly by claiming it is in their genes as a male. This is the same argument that men used to keep women out of the work force and in the home until this last century - saying "Men are better at doing the hard thinking and money earning while women are better at raising the kids." It is the same argument that allowed slave owners to justify their actions by claiming that black people could not possibly be smart enough to learn to read or form rational thoughts - that they were just born subpar. These things are patently untrue and we know that now, but there was a time when people believed it and, in believing it, created a society that upheld these beliefs. These statements are a power play, putting men in control. But in this particular case it is to the detriment of men and families and society.

    To say that women are innately more caring than men is an insult to men. There are always going to be selfish people out there, both men and women, but giving someone an excuse to be selfish by claiming that it's an innate trait? I don't accept it. The more we assume that both men and women will act like respectful, intelligent, caring beings, the easier it will be to hold ourselves up to those standards.

    I could go on, but I don't expect to change your mind. Just had to vent a little. :)

  • TK

    It's not about needing a break. It's about the assumption that the only reason I'd be out with my child is because I'm giving her a break, instead of because, you know, it's my child and I like being with him. And your last sentence sort of plays into the whole problem for me, that there's an assumption that she's doing more work. That may be the case in many households, but it usually isn't in mine, and it's presumptive and rude for people to overtly say that it is.

    Put differently, I guarantee you that no one - NO ONE - ever sees my wife out with our son and congratulates her for giving her husband a break.

  • BlackRabbit

    So God's not dead, he's just a shitty father?

  • kirbyjay

    I think I fell in love with Mr.Kirbyjay all over again when I saw what a great dad he was when our kids were born. Diapers, drool, spit up, noise, crying...nothing fazed him and he jumped right in. I was a stay at home mom but I never felt squashed with child care because I had a great partner. Our kids are grown now and he can't wait to be a grandfather.

  • John W

    Man I have been resisting this all day but I can't any longer.

    220-221?

  • DaveKan

    You want a beer? It's 10 o'clock in the morning! Scotch?

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Excellent companion piece with Courtney's, TK. The joy of parenthood is that no matter what we do, someone's going to be certain that we're wrong.

  • foolsage

    There's a ton of gender-normative nonsense on both sides, to be sure. All women are innately nurturing and make perfect mothers, and all men are bumbling fools who should rarely if ever be trusted around children. Any deviation from the norm must be remarked on continually: "Why doesn't she have kids yet? Oh, look, he's babysitting!"

  • e jerry powell

    TK.

    Wow. Here's one of the funnier stories along those lines of seething. Maybe not right down the line with yours, but...

    The big boss (as in college dean) in my old office was SUCH A GOOD FATHER. Because he would bring his daughter to work with him to give his wife a day off from being a mother. Except that his wife didn't really need a break. While he has a job, he doesn't really work at it, and his wife doesn't have a job at all. She never really did all that much to take a break from; moreover, on the days when he brought his daughter to work with him, he spent virtually no time interacting with her. He dumped her on his executive assistant, or one of the associate dean's assistants, or, to my greatest chagrin, on the senior associate dean. You know, the woman who's in charge of the entire college's academic affairs. The associate dean who actually does all the dean's work on top of her own.

    Such a good dad.

  • Kati

    I was at a late afternoon training when our older speaker mentioned to the largely female group that we'd be wrapping up soon "so we could get home in time to cook for our family." Without thinking or considering the higher-ups in the room, I piped up and said, "Cook? Why would I cook? That's why I have a husband!" Stunned silence from the group. The presenter looked like I had slapped her.

    A few folks approached me afterwords about my "inappropriate" joke. They *really* didn't know what to say when they found out my husband handles food purchases and prep during the school year while I'm slogging through the 60-hour workweeks of the average teacher. I tried explaining that we are partners, and that we split up the work depending on what's going on in our individual schedules at the time, but they were so hung up on my husband taking care of all things edible with absolutely no input from me. I can only imagine what they would think if they knew he was also in charge of getting the knuckleheads out the door to school each morning...

  • DeaconG

    If it's one thing that frosts my butter, it's the stereotype that men can't cook.

    I'm single but my mama taught me how to BURN, y'all...and there have been a few times when I've been with friends and ladies who don't know me would get condescending with me about cooking (while my friends are violently shaking their heads and mouthing "Don't try him!").

    Oh, it's ON now...

    When your own mother wants your recipes, you've arrived...

  • e jerry powell

    I'm such a horrible person.

    I want to ask you all manner of inappropriate questions about your marriage now.

  • Kati

    Dude, go for it. I put myself out there. My partner is a great guy whom I supported as a SAHM for 9 years while he got his business going. Now that I'm in the workforce, trying to move up the ladder (as much as one can in the public school system without becoming an admin), he's returning the favor. And it's all so our kids know we have their backs *all* the time - every game, every honor roll breakfast, every tummy ache and every heartbreak. We make sure at least one of us is able to drop everything at a moment's notice if one of our kids needs us, and we are present for them in all aspects of their childhood.

  • e jerry powell

    Fantastic, but I said "inappropriate" questions.
    ;-)

  • Females are always impressed I do most of the cooking and a lot of the laundry. Why? It's not fair to my wife that she have to make all the sandwiches AND do wash. 2014 is here people. Traditional gender roles are dead.

  • Davis

    No they're not far from it

  • KF

    This garbage annoys me so much. My husband took six weeks off when our daughter was born; and before he finished up his boss said to him that he'd probably want to come back to work early because there was nothing much that he could do to help with a newborn anyway. What the fuck?? Other than breastfeeding, he was and is perfectly capable of every other parenting-related activity.

  • Belphebe

    My husband and I like to think we are equal opportunity fuck ups. Although technically, I think the minis are in much safer hands with him than me. He remembered that they might require dinner on Easter Sunday, while I was content to let them survive on candy and hard boiled eggs.

  • manting

    based on the gif that starts this piece I would like to quote-
    "Can I get you a beer?"
    uh, Its 10 am.
    "Scotch?"

  • Protoguy

    As much as I've heard people talk negatively about SAHMs, to have to endure every single movie and television dad's bumbling idiocy for comedy and drama's sake is beyond galling. Robert Bly wrote about it during that tiny window when there was a "men's movement" that wasn't an entitled bitch-fest by misogynist assholes. The father as fool, idiot. The mother as responsible and sensible.

    If I wrote about some of the things my daughter's mother has done you'd be wondering, as I have for so long, how she's not in jail. What isn't a wonder is that her relationship with OUR daughter is nearly non-existent. On the more normal side of life, I was the "bread winner", working a full time job and she the stay-at-home-mom, yet somehow that still meant daycare, which I drove our daughter to, after making breakfast and the bagged lunch for her while mom snoozed peacefully.

    Stay-at-home-mom doesn't quite have the comfortable warm fuzzyness for me that it might for real stay-at-home moms who actually do the job. Misnomer is not a descriptive enough word to cover that subject. And then to lose the initial custody battle because mom's friend explained to the court how I only gave our daughter toast for breakfast on the day she had visited, ignoring the fact that mom wasn't working and yet I was doing all the SAHM work.

    These are clearly dysfunctional arrangements and relationships and not the norm, though the norm seems to be so much less of a struggle than the prevailing rain of mommy-martyr sentiments I see and hear everyday. I did the job. Did I feel like it was hard or burdensome? Not one damn minute. I loved it. I enjoyed getting to spend time with my daughter and am so happy and proud that I was able to, even if that role was a necessity in addition to a desire to be the best parent I could be.

    I think that's the most annoying part of the mommy worship - the constant drone of how hard the job is, or that it's even a job at all. It's not a job at all and it's not work. It's love and responsibility, pure and simple and if you can't do it in love, without whining about not getting credit for doing that "job", maybe parenting isn't the job for you. But then, at that point it's too late isn't it? Not the time to say, "Maybe you shouldn't have had kids." It's too late. You had them. Be a parent and shut the fuck up .It's not "mother's instinct" and it's not the woman's domain and it's not just moms who do the thing, it's the role of being a parent.

  • Protoguy

    I hate when I word vomit and then have to rush out of the house before I can re-read what I wrote.

    I know I didn't really address the point of the article much. Still kinda pissed off at the original advertisement that started the whole ball rolling.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I have been told that I should "worship the ground my husband walks on" because of how involved he is in my daughter's life.

    Yes, I'm so proud of who he is as a man - he is truly a fantastic human being. BUT the people who are talking like this only seem to see him in comparison to the bumbling husband ads and previous generations of fathers who weren't involved in raising their children. And while I appreciate everything he does for our family, I also know he doesn't do it for applause. He does it because he likes spending time with our daughter, our dog and me. And because he's a competent human adult, who is equally capable of taking care of our daughter.

    Are there shitty fathers out there? Yup. Should I appreciate my husband? Yup. But don't fucking insult the man by comparing him to the lowest common denominator.

  • foolsage

    Thanks for this. Well said, all around.

  • chanohack

    Holy shit, your kid is two already?

  • TK

    Dude. Don't get me started.

  • Rachel Tibbetts

    The time when you are raising a child is both infinite (when they are screaming bloody murder at two in the morning) and infinitesimal (when you look up and your baby is suddenly a little kid).

  • Ruthie O

    Is there a Pajiba Parents of Human Children Facebook group (as opposed to the already existing and wonderful Pajiba Parents of Furry Children group, aka Pajiba Pets)? All of these recent posts about parenting here have made me think that such a group would be a really nice space for celebrating, sharing, and venting re: parenting ups and downs.

  • TK

    There actually is a pajiba parenting group, though it goes in fits and starts. If you're friends with any of the readers on FB, you should be able to track it down.

  • Ruthie O

    Thanks! Since the Pajiba group is public, I will do just that once I have told all my friends and family about my newly discovered bun in the oven.

  • PerpetualIntern

    Congratulations! I shared with all my Pajiba friends way before anyone in the real world. It's very liberating and supportive :)

  • TK

    Ha! Dustin was literally the first person I told when my wife was pregnant.

  • TK

    Hey, congratulations!

  • Lauren_Lauren

    *loud cheers from the balcony*

  • lingli

    This. There was an advert for a supermarket that aired before Christmas last year that absolutely infuriated me because it played exactly to both of those tired, lazy stereotypes: mum is rushing around, buying gifts after work and writing cards and doing the grocery shopping and making the dinner and pouring the drinks and just as she sits down on Christmas afternoon, bumbling Dad looks over at her and asks gormlessly, "What's for tea, love?" And it was not funny, or cute, or anything else, it was just incredibly annoying because it perpetuates this idea that women like doing everything because we're just so marvellous, post-feminism, and anyway, men! They're just so silly, they can't be trusted, can they? Which is not only complete bollocks and incredibly insulting to both genders, but also provides a nice get-out clause to those who don't want to do the boring, hard work of housekeeping and childcare. I know two couples where the husband claims to be unable to pack a lunch, or who cannot do the after-school activities because it's logistically too challenging. I mean, don't get me wrong, different couples have different division of labour; if you play to your strengths and they just happen to match typical gender roles there's nothing wrong with that, as long as both of you are happy with it. But making out that there's some kind of inherent female superiority or male inferiority to justify it ... No. Not in this day and age.

    Oh, and absolutely we are all many, many things - I've never been more aware of that than since I became a parent. The key to being a good parent is, in many ways, not to neglect those other parts of yourself.

  • Emm82

    That advert filled me with rage whenever I saw it & you just summed up why.

  • TK

    different couples have different division of labour

    Absolutely, and we tend to slip into more conventional gender roles in those cases -- I do far more outside stuff -- mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, shoveling the snow -- while my wife tends to be the one who cleans the house. We share cooking, though. But then there's this...

    My wife has a friend whose husband refuses to change diapers.

    Let that percolate for a second. He refuses to change his own child's diapers. In my mind, that in and of itself is grounds for divorce, and I am not kidding even a little bit.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    If the hub had refused to change the lad's diapers, he would have found quite a pile of poopy ones somewhere important to him. Luckily, that was not an issue at the Tuttle compound.

  • Aaron Schulz

    I kind of feel like thats grounds for social services to limit his access to the child.

  • amberdragonfly

    And then you've got guys like my ex, who act like they didn't realize it would be a problem when you find out your seven year old spent an entire weekend hanging out with a convicted child molester who is dating her older sister. Or who seems to think it's okay to get in a fistfight with teenagers in front of his child. Or who doesn't see the point in bedtime when your daughter has to get up for school the next day. Or who thinks it's okay to drink an 18 pack of beer around a child as long as his teenagers are there to take care of her, even though he turns into a raging asshole when he's drunk. I could go on, but the fact is, not every dad (or mom, to be fair) can parent without explicit directions from their ex and/or a judge.

    I applaud any man who knows what it means to be a good father. I grew up with an amazing father, and I am still amazed by some of the dumb ass stuff my ex does on a regular basis.

  • Jiffylush

    Is it okay to ask why you chose to have children with a man like that?

  • amberdragonfly

    I can answer that and take absolutely no offense in the question. I had a child with him because he was so different when we met. He had two older kids (7 & 8 when we met), who were total sweethearts. They lived with us 50% of the time, and he was a very attentive father. When we decided to have a child, we had difficulty conceiving, and had four total miscarriages. Each miscarriage affected both of us differently. I wrapped myself up in his kids and he started drinking heavily. He is one of the few people whose entire personality is affected by alcohol. He litereally becomes a different person, and he is not nice. By the time we had the fourth miscarriage I couldn't take anymore. I knew that we had to break up, because his drinking was outrageously bad. Of course, three weeks after he left, I found out I was pregnant, and guess what? Yep, no problems at all with this one. So we talked and he decided to stop drinking for the sake of his family, which meant he went from drinking in front of me to hiding bottles of vodka in the garage and finding lots of excuses to work out there.

    Then I went into labor during a Spurs game and he told me to shut the fuck up, because it wasn't even the second quarter yet. That was maybe a tiny red flag that things really weren't going to work out, but it wasn't until our daughter was three months old and I woke up to find him pissing on our child (yes, he was URINATING ON MY DAUGHTER) because he was so drunk he thought the baby bed was the bathroom that I knew that was it. He was out. I didn't let him take my daughter out of the house until she was almost two, and I didn't let her spend a night with him until she was almost four. Every time I would start to trust him, he would do something incredibly stupid. So that is basically my story of how I had a child with a total fucking loser. I would like to thank the state of Texas though. If it wasn't for you giving him that DUI last Christmas, he wouldn't be in AA, and as of now, he is sober and a completely different person. I am praying he stays that way.

  • Wednesday

    You don't always know how life is going to work out, Jiffylush. I was married for six years, partnered with my ex for nine years, before our daughter was born. And that's when his true colors started to show. Fast-forward a few years and he literally fell to pieces at the prospect of turning 40, and threw away his life for alcohol.

    Life can take a lot of turns you don't expect, no matter how smart and prepared you are. Nobody outside a Jerry Springer episode thinks that a baby will force someone to grow up and be responsible. But a lot of people think a demonstrably stable partner will continue to stay stable barring catastrophes, and that is not an unreasonable assumption. Just an assumption that can backfire.

    So please don't ask that very "Dr. Laura"-ish question in real life, OK? It is offensive, and I hope you didn't mean for it to be.

  • Jiffylush

    I knew it was offensive, but if it matters I would probably qualify as one of those people that my ex-wife shouldn't have gotten involved with in the first place. I had had mental health issues and major substance abuse problems when we met and even into our marriage 6 years later (we were very young). Luckily for everyone involved I was able to really get my shit together and be a good father (with help) but it could very easily have gone a different way.

    I'm sorry you have to deal with that, having a normal/fully-functioning ex and dealing with stuff regarding the kids is difficult but I never question that my kids will be taken care of and be safe and protected at all times. Even with my past I know that my ex feels the same way.

  • Wednesday

    It's like you were living my life....

    I had to sleep with my cellphone during those 72-hours-a-month my ex would have visitation, because he put her in physical danger on more than one occasion. And she was 11 when we split, not an infant.

    He benefited from the de facto assumption that Mom is the parent on call and Dad "helps." I wish we lived in a world where non-paying work was valued, whether that is caring for your child or your infirm relatives or just doing all the crap it takes to run a house. But unless it brings in a paycheck, we don't call it work.

    My fingers are crossed for the next generation.

  • kasper

    Seriously.

    I work, and my wife is a stay at home, but I try to take my kids as often as possible. Both to give her a break and because I LIKE HANGING OUT WITH MY KIDS. They are my kids. I think they are kinda awesome. I like to do fun shit with them.

    I am not helpless when I have them. If we go out I bring snacks, drinks, diapers for the young one, toys etc. We have fun together. My kids aren't in danger with me because I'm a dad, not a fucking idiot.

    And I absolutely despise when people call it babysitting. My own parents do that and I bitch at them ever time. It's almost like I'm weird for wanting to be an involved father. Every single dad I know spends time with his own kids and enjoys it.

    Maybe for previous generations it was weird. If so, I would say that this is one of the overlooked things about gender equality. Maybe it isn't a question of the mother going to work. Maybe, just maybe, kids are actually benefiting from having a second parent that is more involved.

  • Jiffylush

    I kind of feel like the movie is a "conservative comedy" (oxymoron?). By that I mean it is based on "traditional roles" that haven't been the norm in 40 years.

    My wife stayed home for the first 9 mos with each and was a teacher so she was home during the summer as well (two months anyway). There was a period of time before our 2nd was born that I was working overtime and going to school at night (going back to one income was an adjustment). I was lucky to see the kids for an hour at night during the week and that was basically just dinner, bath and the book before bed. The weekends were a completely different story, she wanted to get out with her mom or her friends and all I wanted was to have them with me. I was completely capable of taking care of my children because seriously who the hell isn't? We had so much fun, even if it was just a movie I was trying to get them to love, time in the woods or play dates, parks and the like.

    I grew up without a father, he didn't really became a part of my life until after I had kids and he was diagnosed with cancer. I resented him, a lot, for a very long time. Once I had kids I stopped resenting him and started really feeling sorry for him because I could see what he missed and I think it's a lot more than what I missed (due in no small part to having an amazing mother).

    A dad that is not comfortable spending time with and taking care of his own children (after that initial new baby fear) isn't an average dad, he is a bad father. So I guess the stereotype that is being exploited for comic effect here is that your average dad is a bad father. Yay America?

  • Ken

    I ran into this a few times when I was out with my then-infant son. But the worst offender was before he was born in 2009. My wife and I both read an excellent book about childbirth, including a lot of good info about what the husband/partner can do to provide support during labor. When it got to the section with advice for the husband/partner, the authors said "we know that men aren't big on reading, but try to get your partner to at least read this chapter." I was stunned!

  • JJ

    Exactly! Set the bar low enough, and I'll try not to drool on myself too much when I step over it.

  • JJ

    It has taken years for me to carefully craft the perception that am I just this side of capable enough to not shit myself or require corks on my forks in order to shirk responsibilities. SO HELP ME, IF YOU TAKE MY PERCEIVED INCOMPETENCE FROM ME!

  • foolsage
  • Theunis Stofberg

    screw them... I can and have to do everything she does. She is the one with the bigger salary and as a freelancer I have the ability to move my time around to make sure the stuff gets done. But the moms at the sport practices always look me sideways. Screw you bitches. I do it myself. I dont need and dont have a freaking au-pair to wipe my kids snot. I do it myself. I might still have a few problems with doing braids in the hair but give me time. I will get there. and then BRAID-IN-YOUR-FACE BITCHES!

  • thebeardedlady

    I have been saying my own version of that babysitting line since I had my first baby, so thank you. The thought that I would have to ask if their father would watch his own children so I could go out makes me want to burn all the bras, to say nothing of the permission aspect. My husband took the parental leave with our 3rd baby and we got nothing but grief for it, starting with the nurses in the hospital. I was uncaring and he had a good excuse to laze around for a year was the general consensus. Although, honestly, I got sick of the fawning by other women over simple tasks. One time the 3 kids had a birthday to go to but I had to work, so naturally he took them to it. 3 weeks I had to hear how great and wonderful he was for taking them by himself, how good he was and other incredulous declarations on his behalf. Give me a MF'n break. You want a good father then choose a good man. I have reminded my husband about them eating and other simple tasks but not because he's incompetent but because I have some control issues.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    My older brother is a true co-parenting dad, and his children are a delight. (To see my 8 year old nephew step up to the stove one morning before school to COOK HIS OWN EGGS blew my mind, not because he's a boy, but because that's way more self-sufficient than I was as a kid.)

  • Alice

    I have so many feelings about this as I did about Courtney's post. My gut reaction, though, is to feel defensive about what I cannot help but perceive as an anti-mommy backlash. It feels hurtful to devalue, for me, what has become my single biggest identifier (being a mom). I am not ashamed to feel like a mom first; every other role, including my career, takes a place in line.

    My other feeling is that I must live in a different world than all the other Pajiba commenters. And, I want to go to there. My husband is a great dad, but his role in parenthood is a whole hell of a lot different than mine. I am the orchestrator, the planner, the enforcer, and the workhorse. If I get any time off from being the primary care-giver, it really is treated like a favor bestowed upon me by my husband, my family, and my friends. I am by no means a martyr and I'm not asking for accolades either. Most of the women I know do the heavy-lifting in the childcare department. At the risk of sounding naive at best and idiotic at worst, I am pleasantly surprised and a little jealous that so many couples out there have such an equal approach to parenting.

  • ScienceGeek

    I know what it's like when family members think you're being given a favour if your husband takes care of the kids for a day, but I have to admit that I feel sorry for you that your husband sees it that way as well. (Come to think of it, I feel a little sorry for him too - it's like he's just given up his importance to his kids.)
    I do think there's a very strong element of peer pressure. In my case, I'm part of a group of about 5 couples who have been close for years. One had kids much earlier than the rest of us, and she became a stay at home mum and, like you, did the bulk of the heavy lifting. But I noticed that once the rest of us started having kids, her husband started stepping up to the plate, and I think that's mostly because he realised all of his mates were really involved in their kid's care, and saw it as completely natural to be that way. Perhaps he also saw how well the kids responded to that. It can really bring home what you're missing out on when your kid only cries for his mum, but your mate's kid will eagerly snuggle up to him.

  • Emm82

    I do agree with you on the front that the workload does immediately tip. I currently do all the cooking, cleaning etc as well as childcare (we have a 10 week old). My husband is a wonderful husband & father, but works nights and sometimes takes care of bottle making in the morning and childcare for a couple of hours if I've had a bad night. My problem, just as yours, is that my role is taken somewhat for granted & I worry it will get worse as my son gets older.

  • JJ

    And kudos if that's how you want your relationship to work. Nobody's devaluing motherhood. I do the laundry, dishes, planning, enforcing, cooking, etc too. Those weren't abilities that I was born with, but it's been my personal experience that relationships with a significant difference in the division of labor are the result of one of the two members, either male or female, not relinquishing control while their partner is happy to hand it over. There's nothing special to a lot of it, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable.

  • Mrs. Julien

    When Little J was a baby, I remember fussing at Mr. J about something to do with care-taking in my absence and my husband replied, "I'll take care of him as though he's my own child."

  • tiny_bookbot

    Truth. I have a few male friends who do the primary childcare in their marriages, and they're great at it, but--you know--it's because they love their kids and spouses, not because they're superhuman. If you care, you figure this stuff out, which goes for most parts of life as well--jobs, hobbies, volunteer commitments, whatever.

    (They do seem more inclined to let their daughters pick out whatever crazy ensemble they want, but hey: 1) getting dressed in the morning isn't always a battle everyone wants to pick; 2) kid's gotta learn to dress herself anyway; and 3) let's face it, a four year old is cute even in weird clothes.)

  • JJ

    My daughters think it's hilarious to go to school in mismatched socks. I tell them that as long as their teeth are brushed and we get out the door on time, knock yourselves out, sprouts.

  • PerpetualIntern

    What I've been amazed at is how early this gender stereotyping starts. I'm pregnant now. Since the beginning, I have been indifferent, at best, to the whole process. My husband, on the other hand, has felt connected to the baby, the process, and the journey since day one, with a lot more excitement than I've felt. He can't wait to meet our son. I eventually had to stop reading any pregnancy books because I was so offended by how men were portrayed in them, and what they were telling me I felt as the woman. Most authors just assumed that my partner was distant, that pregnancy didn't seem "real" to him, and told me to be patient with him while he came around because he wouldn't feel like a "dad" until the baby was born. I was offended on his behalf, because he has been nothing but supportive, engaged, and psyched since day one. I can only imagine he will encounter all of the issues you outline above once our son is born.

  • ScienceGeek

    Have you discovered how weird baby stores are yet? My husband did all the research on baby products, then we'd go to the baby store where, if the advertising and packaging is anything to go by, men simply do not exist. It's freaky. I could walk into a MotherCare store, pick up a Motherschoice car seat and god only knows how many other 'mother' branded products, but the closest I'd get to any mention of a father was the (back) side of the baby bjorn box. The salespeople kept deferring to me for decisions and were genuinely surprised that my husband was the one to ask all the questions, or was the one who had the 'frequent buyers' card in his wallet.

    I gave up on every pregnancy book except 'Up the Duff', which gave good information while treating the whole thing as the ridiculous shit-show it really is, rather than some magical feminine journey of powerful goddessness.

  • Emm82

    Definitely. My son is 10 weeks now, and I used to get so pissed off when I would say that my husband would have him in the morning while I nap (he works nights), and people would be so surprised that I would "chance" it (yes, the word chance was used!). For me, the most insulting part was when pregnancy websites would advise men to get used to the lack of attention, My husbands 38 for christ sake! I think a father can manage somehow.

  • PerpetualIntern

    The "lack of attention" stuff drove me batty.

  • "Idiot Commercial Dad" (a subset of Idiot Commercial Man) is my least favorite thing on TV, but I try not to complain too much about it because it's easier just to shut up and continue to reap all the advantages of being a male in our culture, despite the hack-y writing. You've put it into words far better than I could anyway.

  • Professor Sara

    My brother's the primary custodial parent of his two daughters, and I can't tell you how many times he's had someone coo at him for being so cute about taking such good care of his girls during their "special weekends together."

    "LISTEN, LADY, I DO ALL THE LAUNDRY, THE COOKING, THE HOMEWORK CHECKING, THE CLEANING, THE DRIVING, THE BOOK READING, THE TEAR-WIPING AND THE FUN HAVING," he wants to shout at them but never does.

  • Al

    We were at the mall once and a lady interrupted my private conversation with my (then 4 year-old) daughter about going to the bathroom. This utter stranger tried to take my child to the bathroom "for me". I was, oddly, polite and said "No thanks!" and she got all miffed saying a "man couldn't take a little girl to the bathroom". WTF?

    Imagine me going up to some random woman in public, taking her little boy's hand, and leading him off to a public restroom?

  • My dad used to just take me in the (empty) men's room and guard the door so no one else could get in. He dealt with a lot of nosy old ladies trying to take me and my brother out of his arms or demanding to know where our mother was ("I dunno, picking up a trucker in some bar?") It's rough out there for a dad.

  • Drake

    And, on a somewhat related note, there are still some major dept. stores who do not have diaper changing stations in the men's restrooms. Changing diapers on the floor is not good for anyone.

  • TK

    I will give Starbucks a lot of shit for a lot of things, but they consistently -- in every single city I've been to -- have a changing station in the men's room. As does Barnes and Noble.

    Yeah, I pay attention to these things now.

  • JJ

    I just assumed that no diaper changing stations in the men's room meant that they wanted me to use an open cash register counter instead.

  • BWeaves

    You need to put that on a T-shirt and give it to him to wear when he's out and about.

  • Professor Sara

    Where was this suggestion when I was struggling over a Christmas gift??

  • BWeaves

    I was out Chanuka shopping?

    OK, I wasn't. I don't give gifts, but this I would make an exception.

  • Professor Sara

    He says he wants his tombstone to say: "Finally done with the laundry." I think this shirt will get him by until then.

  • lowercase_ryan

    "She’s also a spectacular scientist, doctor, knitter, wife, daughter, cousin, friend, cook, debater, student, teacher, camper, etc."

    You really outkicked your coverage.

    Also, yeah to that other stuff. Good piece.

  • Al

    When my wife quit her job to stay home and take care of the baby she was a hero. Months later when she got a day job and I stayed home (and still worked from home) I was on "easy street" and a lazy bum. Also, I was frequently "insulted" by being called a wife.

  • idiosynchronic

    I have had the pleasure of this nonsense turned up to 11 by being a clergy spouse to boot.

  • I'll admit that when I was hanging out with my brothers a couple of weeks ago, my youngest brother and I were ragging on the middle brother(who is a stay-at-home dad) for being 'Mr. Mom' and asking him how he got along with the other wives in the neighborhood.

    Although in our defense, we were doing it less because we're invested in the patriarchy and traditional gender roles and more because it's funny to watch him get all aggravated and launch into these long-winded and pretentious justifications for his lifestyle and cite all these parenting studies instead of just telling us to mind our business and/or go to hell.

  • tinad5

    Yeah, you and your brother are still assholes.

  • Ben

    I'm pretty sure it's the rule that you have to give your siblings shit for basically any possible excuse because that's how siblings work.

  • petitesuissesse

    Isn't that in the constitution?

  • Ben

    If not I think we should start our own country.

  • It's worth noting that nobody who was actually involved got all that worked up. But if you want to consign me to outer darkness on the strength of one anecdote, I don't suppose there is really anything I can do to stop you.

  • Jonny

    You have offended an internet commenter. Clearly, you are a terrible person. Have a nice day.

  • emmalita

    And then really freak them both out by agreeing with the middle brother and asking your other brother why he's so invested in the patriarchy. That would make an excellent film for family Christmas.

  • I'm too Republican to do that credibly. When I use the term 'patriarchy' people just assume I'm being sarcastic and/or ironic, even when I'm not.

  • emmalita

    Put it in your back pocket and keep it for a future prank.

  • BWeaves

    I feel your pain. I'm a woman who works from home doing advanced computer support. No kids, but. . .

    The number of times someone has asked me to come help them do something, and when I say I can't because I have to work, they say, "But I thought you worked from home?" like I stuff envelopes in my free time or something while watching soap operas all day.

    I can't imagine working and taking care of a child at home. It's definitely NOT easy street.

  • "YOU CAN’T BABYSIT YOUR OWN CHILD YOU DUMB BASTARDS."

    This.

  • BlackRabbit

    You're damn right I can't! Why would I pay myself too little and sneak booze out of my own house? It makes no sense!

  • L.O.V.E.

    You can if you're also the kid's uncle and the kid is indeed a dumb bastard.

    /Jaime Lannister'ed

  • /standing ovation

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