This week, an anonymous transgender dad wrote a piece for SheKnows about the sexism he experienced when he presented as a mother; now, as a dad, every act of basic parenting is celebrated by the adoring public. And according to Jenna Bush Hager’s new book Everything Beautiful in Its Time, it sounds like that adoring public — the folks who see any father who parents as a delight / joy / role model / “saint” —definitely includes former First Lady Laura Bush.
That “saint” bit is indeed a quote from Bush herself. In her book, Bush Hager recalls an incident when she and her mother were speaking together at a women’s panel in Dallas:
“My mom told the audience, ‘Our son-in-law Henry is a saint. He’s home with the kids while Jenna is here.'” Wow, a father actually spending time with his kids! Truly saintlike!
But wait, because Bush Hager clarifies that her mom’s assertion is not quite right. Henry was “not at home with the kids, mopping the floors and ironing our sheets,” Bush Hager continues in the book. “He is at work. The kids are at school.'” Riiight. So, just the fact that he’s not traveling gets Henry Hager “saint” points; not even actual childcare / household duties.
This painfully low bar that we set for dads echoes the aforementioned trans dad’s essay this week:
When it comes to parenting, the expectations put on women and men are worlds apart. Women are expected to sacrifice their careers and their bodies and their lives to their children, and so their efforts go largely unnoticed. For men, however, the standard of parenting is set so embarrassingly low that if they do anything more than the bare minimum, they’re hailed as a brilliant father.
We think Jenna Bush Hager might concur. In her book, she adds that even “the context of the Dallas speech was rather ironic… There we were, ostensibly discussing the power of women. My mother was describing my husband as a martyr for doing basic childcare.”
So what was Bush Hager’s response, anyway? “‘Mom!’ I said. ‘This is not the fifties! Henry is not a saint just because I travel for work.”
And she adds, in the book, that Mama Laura simply shrugged and laughed. Which is all well and good but can we please all get to a point, as a country and within our own families, where dads are held to anywhere near the same high parenting standard as moms are? At least the dad who told off his coworkers this week for expecting his wife could watch their kid mid-Zoom meeting is off to the right start. May more dads follow suit — because in this day and age, we all know who the real saints are. (Moms. It’s moms.)
Speaking of mothers being saints, check out these public breastfeeding protest pics. Enough said.