Involved dads are great. I’m married to one, so I can certainly attest to the fact that a father who does 50 percent of the parenting — or at least strives to, if circumstances don’t allow for an even split of duties — is better than the alternative. The alternative, of course, is a dude who thinks and acts like he’s rocketed all the way back to a crappier era where he’s only expected to grunt the odd syllable in his kids’ direction before settling down with a pipe and slippers and leaving his wife to the woman’s work.
In the age of viral pictures and female breadwinners, it’s hard not to get frustrated with the fact that we’ve skipped from “dads don’t do shit” to “OMG that dad is being An Actual Parent give him a medal” without the interim period of nobody giving a crap because that’s actually their job. You know, like when moms do it. Instead, we’re pretty anxious to give a dad a cookie for everything from basic to varsity-level parenting tasks. Tasks like:
1. Changing diapers
This right here is the pinnacle of dad cookies. Take your tiny baby to a group of other moms with tiny babies and then utter the words “my partner changes diapers all the time” and see what that gets you. Ten bucks says it’ll be a round of “oohs” and “wow, so lucky!”
Why? Why is it considered a stroke of luck for a parent to change a diaper? No group of dads crows about how lucky your husband is when you handle a blowout, trust and believe that.
2. Getting up with their child at night
Ditto this garbage. I think it’s understandable that if you’re breastfeeding, you’re about the only one in your marriage who can make that happen at two in the morning. But there’s no magic “sleep through the night” stage that your baby hits when they’re weaned or turn a certain age. They just keep waking up forever until they graduate high school. OK, maybe that’s exaggerating, but there’s no reason for one parent to be getting up 98 percent of the time and for the other parent to get a cookie if they put in a reluctant 2 percent. If you did that at work, you’d be fired.
3. Doing a good job dressing their children
Dressing children can be done on easy or expert mode, depending on the age and poo volume involved. If your kid’s dad can dress himself, he can dress his kid. It’s not a magic skill, it’s a basic one. Men aren’t stupid. When they put a toddler’s jacket on, let’s not clap for them with the same enthusiasm we reserve for the actual toddler.
4. Doing a mediocre job of dressing their children
And oh, Lord, but could we maybe not gold star them for this crap while we’re at it? Congrats, Dad, you did just a little less than the bare minimum. Equality achieved!
5. Using a hairbrush for its intended function
Lately, dudes have been making serious reputational hay by figuring out how to make a braid and then snapping a picture. If I asked people to give me a Klondike Bar for showing them what a simple Google search could, I’d be laughed off of the internet. No.
6. Baby carriers, oh my God
It seems that every time a dad (particularly a famous dad) slaps on a baby carrier, people just go bonkers for the sight of a man with a baby fastened to his person. No one seems to get particularly worked up over a woman doing the same thing, despite the fact that you use literally no part of your genitalia to fasten the straps and dads could have been doing this for a while now.
7. Being in public places with their children
I’m constantly reminded of this weird dichotomy when my husband grabs our kid and heads to a park or playground or the library or a parent-teacher conference. He’ll come home with tales of how he was beset by flocks of admirers who are absolutely gobsmacked at his propensity to actually take his child places. What strikes me as particularly weird is that they’re usually all their with their own kids: He’s just doing what they’re doing, except at the end, he’ll have a sash full of merit badges and they’ll get an open letter on Facebook about how they should have been watching their kids instead of talking to another adult. Cool!
8. Talking to their children at all
Sometimes when my husband works late, my daughter will call him for a goodnight chat. They’ll typically have each other on speaker, and if other people are around, here’s what you’ll hear:
Her: Good night, Daddy.
Him: Night night, Punkin. I love you.
People in break room: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW SHO SHWEEEEET!
I did this once at work, when I had to stay late. The conversation was very different.
Her: Good night, Mommy.
Me: Night, Ducks! I love you.
Person in break room: Bet you wish you’d stayed home about now, huh? *dirty look*
9. Staying at home
Stay-at-home parents are pretty amazing. I say this as someone who has tried every version of parenting and working. I’ve stayed at home. I’ve worked outside of the home while my kid went to daycare. I’ve worked outside of the home at a daycare where my kid was. I’ve worked from home where my kid wasn’t. You get the picture.
Staying at home is equal parts awesome and sucky, and the people who do it, no matter their gender, deserve respect and massages and really great alcohol.
However: what the hell, world?
Moms and even some people married to moms will get all backbitey and shitty about whether or not working at home is harder/lazier/easier/more rewarding/whatever, but when a dad comes along and tries it out, there’s no question: This is a man who puts his kids above his ego to do “the hardest job in the world.” Isn’t he amazing?
Yes, he is. He’s just not more amazing than the people who have been doing it fiveever.
The thing is, it isn’t bad to give dads major kudos. Dads deserve major kudos for being involved and awesome, just like their female partners do. But it continues to be insanely frustrating when we’re told that the only way to motivate dads to clear a bar so low it can literally be stepped over is to go over the top praising them like they’ve just dropped their first deuce in an Elmo potty.
Moms, on the other hand, aren’t supposed to expect motivation and praise. They’re expected to just do it, and when they do, it’ll probably be wrong anyway.
So I just feel like it’s time we pick one. Either all parents get a fucking Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade when they remember that kids need to do things like brush their teeth and eat a carrot or something once in a while, or no one does.