I think single dads are great. As a single parent, I understand how difficult many aspects of solo parenting can be. Do I think single dads deserve heaps of praise for doing normal parenting things? No.
At first, the stories of fathers doing their daughters’ hair charmed me. There’s something really cute about a dude braiding hair for his little girl. But it seems like every other day there’s another story about a heroic single father who’s somehow raising his kids on his own.
Do you hear the same kinds of stories about single moms?
Single mom takes her kids to the grocery store alone. Single mom teaches her son how to go fishing. Community raises thousands of dollars for single mom raising a baby all on her own.
Those stories don’t exist, because single moms are held to the same standards as any other parents. If they don’t accomplish everything other parents do, then they’re failing their kids by not having a father figure around or not balancing work and life well enough. A single dad can show up at school drop-off with a kid wearing mix-matched socks and last night’s macaroni and cheese in her hair, and people will say, “Awwww!”
If a mom did that? Somebody would probably call CPS. And I’m only half exaggerating.
Married dads are held to the same wacky standards, of course. From characterizing watching kids as “babysitting” to acting like changing a diaper is grounds for Parent of the Year, our culture tells dads they’re superheroes for doing… normal stuff.
It’s worse with single dads, who elicit the sympathy factor and project some kind of powerful allure simply by managing to feed, bathe, clothe and hang out with their children.
Unless a dude is literally Chris Hemsworth lovingly cradling a burrito-shaped newborn, I just don’t understand the mystique. Maybe that’s because most behaviors celebrated in single dads are the things moms do every day. Maybe it’s because when dads cut corners or don’t do things quite right, it’s adorable. When mothers don’t adhere to the ridiculous standards imposed on them by our culture, they’re failures.
Single dads, don’t get me wrong. You’re doing a great job. This stuff is hard. Every parent deserves to be praised, and every parent deserves to be supported. But I’ll hold the confetti next time a single dad takes his child to dance class or bakes cupcakes for a birthday party. That’s called getting it done. That’s what we do.