It’s Time to Stop Treating Dads Like Idiots

The straw that broke the camel’s back came in the form of a text message from my wife. This is what she sent:


I know what you’re thinking. “Really? You’re upset about this?? Get a life.” I get it and you’re not alone. Hell, I showed it to a few fathers in my dads’ group and many of them thought the same exact thing. Some even said it was funny and told me I was being oversensitive. Don’t get me wrong, this ridiculous onesie in and of itself is not the end of the world. I didn’t see this picture and suddenly reach for my pitchfork, start a petition, and rise up in fiery vengeance with the goal of putting Sara Kety — the manufacturer — out of business. And frankly, I’ve seen worse instances of perpetuating the idiot dad stereotype.

So why was this bothering me so much?

Even if you find this funny — which I don’t — then it should be funny if directed at moms too, right? So I immediately began searching out the “this shirt is mommy-proof” onesie. But guess what? They don’t make one. Curious, don’t you think? After all, if this is all in good fun and I’m just missing the joke because I’m too sensitive, then everyone else would find it funny. But apparently it’s only “funny” to joke about dads being inept parents. Because if Sara Kety made a product basically calling moms idiots who don’t know how to take care of their babies, there would be a mommy backlash of epic proportions. But since dads lack the same muscle and influence, it goes under the radar.

The reason I’m so bent out of shape about this is because it’s a small problem that’s indicative of a much larger and more serious issue.

On one hand, dads hear everyone telling us how important involved fatherhood is. And I agree completely. Studies have proven children with involved dads have enhanced cognitive abilities, stay in school, have increased self-confidence, wait longer to have sex for the first time, and are less likely to be depressed. Furthermore, American men are becoming stay-at-home fathers in record numbers. And even if they’re not staying at home, men are paying more attention to work/life balance and heeding the call of women everywhere to step it up at home by taking on more of the household and childcare duties.

All that is well and good and encouraged. But herein lies the rub.

The same people — mostly moms — who claim to be overworked and desperate for dads to do more, are all too often the first ones to criticize them when they do step up for not doing things right. And by right, I mean their way. I’ve seen dads criticized and made fun of for how they dress the baby. For how they feed the baby. For how they handle things differently than moms. Despite the fact that most first-time moms are just as clueless and confused as first-time dads, it’s chic to make fun of the dads while moms are assumed to know absolutely everything. As if the parenting instruction manual is imprinted in the female DNA. The fact that mothers face an unfair societal expectation to be a perfect parent from the get-go is a separate, albeit deserving, issue. But it’s no reason to crap all over the very same people you just asked to help more.

Guys see the low bar set for dads on commercials and TV shows and will only rise high enough to meet it. And when their wives dress the baby in a shirt that basically calls them idiots, they’ll soon learn they’re expected to be know-nothing dolts so there’s no need to improve.

I’m not looking to pull the shirt from shelves or put anyone out of business (as if I had that clout). If there’s a market for it and it sells, so be it. And while I’m all in favor of witty, legitimately funny stuff that pokes fun at dads, I don’t think this fits the bill. I think because no one would dare make fun of mothers in this fashion, it’s harmful to attack dads. More than that, I just don’t understand it. If you want to help raise the level of active and involved fatherhood, why on Earth would you go out of your way to deride them with crap like this?

This onesie on its own isn’t so terrible, but combine it with all the other negative messages guys receive. Dads on TV who can’t take care of their kids on their own. Dads in diaper commercials who are the “ultimate test” because of their incompetence. Dads who are told they’re not doing things right simply because they do things differently. I genuinely believe the smaller stuff like the onesie piggybacks on all the other crap we absorb, until it becomes part of a defeatist attitude and a self-fulfilling prophecy in which we all lose.

So while things like this might seem irrelevant to many and certainly aren’t the end of the world, it is worth speaking up. I can only hope more people realize how harmful this is to men seeking to be involved dads, and avoid buying it so companies will realize it’s no longer profitable to make fathers a punchline.

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65 thoughts on “It’s Time to Stop Treating Dads Like Idiots

  1. You touch on this some in the post, but what sticks out with me is how moms buy into the stereotype too and just assume fathers are incapable (maybe event their own father was), so they reinforce the message by denying the father a chance to be involved. In turn the dad start to believe this too and they begin to play the part. It’s quite a self destructive cycle. I think most guys want to be good fathers but many end up being denied the opportunity because everyone is saying they can’t do it.
    Clark Kent’s Lunchbox recently posted..I Miss Being A Dad BloggerMy Profile

  2. Lance: Not just stay-at-home parents, but all parents.

    Ron: Although I think men have to step up regardless of the messages they receive, I absolutely agree with you. It mystifies me how so many women complain they’re overworked, yet they’re the first to criticize whenever dads try to do something. It’s a weird martyr complex that I just don’t understand. If you want dads to be more involved, encourage them. Don’t dress your kid in something that calls him an idiot, or else he might turtle and go back to meeting the already low expectations placed on him.
    DaddyFiles1 recently posted..It’s Time to Stop Treating Dads Like IdiotsMy Profile

  3. This is not easy to write about, AG. I say that because you have to be aware of the MRAs lurking, ready to turn everything into an anti-feminist crusade. And you also have to deal with the societal barrier regarding backward ideas about masculinity (it’s diminishing, as you say, but still there — clearly). Part of the problem is that short-sighted manufacturers don’t care about shifting cultural ideas. They care about the quick sale, and based on their market “research” it’s still OK to bash dads. That’ll change, but only if people like you (and, I guess, me) continue to write reasoned, reasonable pieces like this that point out how wrong-headed that kind of marketing/thinking is now.
    Carter recently posted..What I Was Going to Write for My DadCentric Intro PostMy Profile

  4. This is definitely something that other people need to learn about. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s already a huge number of dads out there that are taking care of their kids even better than their counterparts and the sad part is, there are those that just don’t want to accept this fact (e.g, this company that made the onesies). Thanks for this Aaron and great job!

  5. You want a little cheese with that whine? It was funny – laugh and move on. Tell an old person joke, it will make you feel better. 🙂

  6. It wasn’t funny. It was lame. Funny onesies are “Daddy Drinks Because I Cry” and “All Dad Wanted Was a Blowjob.” Coincidentally, the site that sells that also has the same onesies for moms (except the second is changed to “All Mom Wanted Was a Backrub). That’s hysterical all around.

    This is lame and unfunny. And it’s not in good fun because there’s no mom equivalent. Again, it’s not the end of the world but it’s definitely indicative of a larger problem. A problem that is perpetuated every time guys are told to laugh and move on.
    DaddyFiles1 recently posted..It’s Time to Stop Treating Dads Like IdiotsMy Profile

  7. We women do not like to be treated as dumb bimbos and eye candy. At least no woman I know does. Sexism is sexism. If the same item pegged women as being the incapable twits, it would not go over well.
    It’s the twenty-first century. In the days of my youth, I naively thought we would be more enlightened as a culture than to continue with silly stereotyping of this nature.
    I used to be in EMS, my brother still is. Jokes circulate about the need to make things “firefighter-proof,” but the firefighters themselves are telling the jokes. In any case, this is an insular culture, not society at large.
    I think it is time to cease sexual stereotyping when it comes to both men and women. Stereotypes don’t do anyone any good.
    Naila Rainmaker recently posted..Not of This WorldMy Profile

  8. I completely agree. As Naila mentioned, women don’t like being portrayed as dumb bimbos. If the shirt said “This shirt is Blond Mom-proof”, I doubt moms who happen to have blond hair would find it hilarious.

    The dumb dad appears to be a TV staple. Usually, it’s a less-attractive, dumb man who somehow is married to a very attractive, smart woman who has to put up with his idiotic antics. I’ve seen this in countless shows (though I don’t watch them for long as the trope annoys me to no end). Let’s see them field a show about an attractive, smart man and his less-attractive, not-so-smart wife who is always made fun of for her looks/weight/etc and for her stupid antics. Of course, any show like this would instantly – and rightfully – draw ire from women everywhere and would be pulled. But the reverse? Ratings gold, apparently.
    TechyDad recently posted..Superheroes, The Sun, and (Because) Saturn!My Profile

  9. I didn’t get into the discussion earlier (because I was house-hunting all day, and on Zillow all night), but I agree with you, for the record. If anyone is keeping a record.

    I’m not sure the fault is with the shirt manufacturer. I can’t blame a shirtrepreneur for trying to make a buck (yes, I just coined it). But when a store (I think you said it was “Bye Bye Baby”?) carries offensive items like that, it should be called out. This is not some t-shirt store on the boardwalk, it’s a big chain, and it should know better.
    Oren recently posted..RyanMy Profile

  10. That idiot dad stereotype has been around for so long and beat into the ground so many times. I’ve never understood it, when fathers have always been important to a child’s development. How did we go from Ward Cleaver to Ray Romano? The good dad, the competant dad somehow got lost in the mix. I’ll admit, I didn’t pick up the parenting books my wife left laying around the house when we had each of our kids, but it wasn’t because I wanted an out for the late nights or dirty diapers, I just knew I needed to get my hands dirty to do it justice, and only by doing would I be what my kids needed me to be.
    Nick recently posted..The Morning Rush, or Why I Need CoffeeMy Profile

  11. I agree, it was lame, but I did get a chuckle out of the onesie.

    I think the issue (besides media/tv) is not just that dad’s are portrayed as “idiot dads”, but that there are a lot of men who are NOT the involved father, and do not want to be. They want their wife/gf to be the one who takes care of the kid with minimal impact to them. When I read the onesie, I actually looked at it in the light of some males I knew. And honestly, some of them would truly need that onesie for their kid. But, they are the minority of parents I knew, thank goodness.

    All the same, your point regarding not being able to find the “idiot mother” counterpart does hit home. If there was one for them as well, it still would be lame. The others that you mentioned are definitely funny and well received.

    Good article Aaron. Always enjoy reading your writing.

  12. You’ve really hit the nail on the head here! Dad’s doing things differently from how mums do them doesn’t make us wrong or dumb. We see the world differently and that’s how we can present it to our children…yes, they’re *our* children too!

    Even our children know there’s a difference between mums and dads – how many times do they come to us for permission for something after mummy has said “no”, or the other way around?

    It’s time for the industry to wake up to this farcical stereotyping. (I would say they need to “grow up”, but children haven’t and they understand!)
    Paul Wandason recently posted..Why Daddy?My Profile

  13. I don’t think that you’re overly sensitive; you said yourself that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The portrayal of fathers in the media has always been terrible.

    When I was married, I was always under scrutiny for how I handled our kids. When my wife walked out, I think that she expected me to curl up and die without her. Six years later, I am the one who gets the kids to school, takes them to the Dr, helps them with their homework, sits down with them every night at the dinner table and eats with them, etc etc. I taught them to ride a bike, hit and throw a softball (three girls), change the oil in the car, sew, match their clothes, hammer a nail, drive a lawn mower, properly stick a maxi-pad to their underwear, make bread, how electricity works, and to use a computer. I’ve explained boys, sex, periods, and anything else that they want to know. I cook, clean, do laundry, and work at least 40 hours per week.

    My kids are aware of what I do. How do I know? They get me cards on Mother’s Day.

    I am not unique. I am not special. There are a lot of dads like me. Hats off to you if you are a parent, not just a father.

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more.

  14. Yes!!! Thank you for stepping up on this. These days I am more upset at the anti-male sexism than the state of anti-female sexism. We (women) have made huge gains and are moving steadily forward- the work is not done by a long shot, but I am happy with the continued progress.

    But men’s liberation is barely a blip on the radar screen. People still think it is funny to make jokes about male rape, or hitting men in the groin. Men are belittled for being anything but the stereotypical ‘guy’- this is what your post concerns. We as a society are deeply uncomfortable with men being wonderful nurturers and carers, so we make fun of them when they do it. Men have to take a stand and stop this…..and I hope you face less resistance than we did/do.

  15. Thank you for the comments everyone. I wondered how this would be received and I appreciate all the kind words.

    And “Real Man,” I’d love to hear how I’m “misogynist.” You know, since I’m calling for added male involvement in caretaking and household duties, as opposed to putting it all on women. You should try looking words up in the dictionary first before trying to use them. I’m sure you’re the antithesis to a “real man,” my not-so-bright friend.

  16. I hear but…you need to remember women, and in particular wives criticize – everything, and sometimes they’re mean just because they can be without consequence. That’s what they do, and they do it in great amounts. So brother, play the long game and role with it; go along with their superiority complex, let them think you are a no nothing dolt, it’s all just water off a ducks back. You’re in it to make sure your wife’s criticism doesn’t put your kids in therapy for the rest their life, and that one day they can cut the cord and conquer the world on their own.

    If you were to look deep down inside yourself, you’d see that you’re doing this for the satisfaction of moving life forward, not for a pat on the back, a congratulations, or even a thank you. You want glory, and recognition become an NBA star; you want to move the human race forward, become a dad. No one beyond yourself every needs to know all the clever, smart, ingenious, creative ways you helped your kids, and – ahem – your wife, become stronger more resilient people.

  17. You should be more pissed off than you are!! When our child was born 1 lb 9 oz premature, my wife got counseling, provided by our insurance, Dr’s. And Nurses helped her learn how to care for our daughter during the first year. Help with post partum depression for the next year, constant reassurance from friends and family that everything would work out ok and our baby would be just fine. Thank fully everyone was right and our daughter is now 8 year old and perfect. But what I got was and emergency call from my wife, saying she was being admitted to surgery and I had to come to the hospital right now. Once at the hospital I was lead into a hall out side the operating room by someone who didn’t know what the problem was. Sitting alone for almost an hour (now three hours since my last contact with my wife) in a cold plastic chair as staffed walked to and fro, with every horrible thought I could imagine with no one around, wondering what was going on. I got friends and family constantly asking “how my wife was, how the baby is”not once“how you are?” I got a visit from a counselor not to help with my fears and concerns, but so my wife could help me understand her fears and worries. The whole time I have to go to work, with no maternity leave for me, only able to visit my daughter in the hospital after all the social workers, counselors and my wife had gone home. Crying, alone as I listened to the sound of the machines my daughter was hooked up too for 6 months without a kind word to be heard from anyone. The nurses didn’t even know my name though I was there every night. I was always referred to as my daughter’s father or my wife’s husband. Coming home to a worried sick wife that just need to not think about it for a few hours, that is how my life as a father began. So I see things like that and it really pisses me off you

  18. You absolutely have a point, and are right to feel outraged. Plus the fact that parents seem to have forgotten that older children can read these too..which is not funny at all considering some of the messages.

  19. This article, while close to being how i feel, especially the second to last paragraph, fails by its own standard when you says “Guys see the low bar set for dads on commercials and TV shows and will only rise high enough to meet it.” I actually find that comment to be as equally offensive as the shirt and commercials he is writing about. It also does not really account for the Dads that are the primary care givers in the family.

  20. Really enjoyed this post and the discussion it brings to the table for many amazing stay at home dads that I do know. I was also equally surprised to see not twenty minutes after reading your post this morning this very onesie being advertised in the Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Sale direct mail advert. I think your point is powerful enough you should email them your article =) Thank you for putting your thoughts out there.

  21. GB: I think it was pretty clear that comment was not directed at involved dads and certainly not dads who have assumed primary caregiving responsibilities. I was taking a broad view of things and, unfortunately, there are still more uninvolved dads than involved ones. I hope that changes, and one way I see it changing is to set the bar higher — and that includes raising society’s expectations of fathers through the media.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Many Women Don’t Support Stay-at-Home DadsMy Profile

  22. I do find it odd you actually receive harsh criticism for the point you’re making. Especially when something is cherry picked out of the context of the post. I don’t agree us dads are as hard up as all that, but I do appreciate there’s a point to be made we need some strong dad role models on the telly. Al Bundy and Sam McGuire weren’t so hot. Reg Forman and Homer Simpson barely lukewarm. Dan Conner and Ray Barone have flashes of brilliance. Even Cliff Huxtable wasn’t always flash. But then none of us are. And how boring would a perfect tv dad be? Great post, Aaron. And thanks for popping over to my blog and commenting on my response to yours 🙂
    Bruce Devereaux recently posted..Who’s a Dumb Dad?My Profile

  23. I came across this article by accident and it is brilliant. You really present a balanced view, very carefully treading around the expectations of Mothers without putting explicit blame on anyone. I think Dads must really find it tough and I applaud any Dad who is pushing the boundaries of expectations and being wonderful, loving and caring stay at home Dads. I’m going to keep reading your site to see what else you come up with as I also try and enter the world of blogging, and hope that maybe one day I can write articles that make the same impact at yours. Great work, well done!

  24. I agree with you and see the fault in my own actions at times toward my husband as a father. I tend to be pretty hard on him. Although he is amazing and so very loving, making life easier on me by taking sole charge of the grocery list and other important duties, he admits, however, that he just doesn’t see things like I do. He doesn’t know when our daughter’s cry signifies hunger, That she’s due for a bath or needs more veggies added to her diet. I’m not saying this makes him an idiot or that he wouldn’t be capable if left to fend for himself but there are things he just doesn’t see; processes I have found that save time or make life easier based on our daughter’s personality. I believe there IS an instinct in a mom that may not always be there in a father for I have seen it first hand. It is my instinct to wake in the middle of the night to feed my baby whereas my husband would sleep right through the night unknowingly whether the baby cries or not. Does this make men more inept? No. But it does give credence to their lessened awareness. I would not want to know life without my husband, without my daughter’s father because he does so much and loves so deeply but he is still is not as in tune as I am. This doesn’t make him an idiot and that’s why I agree with you that it’s high time to stop lambasting fathers for ineptitude but I can also understand the frustration that creeps up in a moms heart after a lifetime of balancing and organizing everything. Babies respond to routine and sometimes it’s difficult to break that routine when the reprocussions of that fall harder on mom. I see moms who do it all and do it excellently. Without instruction but with instinct. And if it weren’t that way, well, there wouldn’t be exist the topic for which you have written.

  25. Laura, thanks for your comment. But I still respectfully and fundamentally disagree. There is no automatic biological leg up for moms to be better parents.

    Ever think your husband doesn’t wake up because he knows you will? And he doesn’t have to learn which cries mean what because you jump in. I believe men possess these skills just like women, but they need a chance to hone them and work on them. If my wife didn’t throw me solo into the deep end and make me figure it out for myself, I’d still be clueless too.

    These skills are not inherent, they’re learned. For both sexes.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Many Women Don’t Support Stay-at-Home DadsMy Profile

  26. ounterproductive to put down dads, especially when they are stepping up to be more involved. Dads have things contribute to parenting that are unique and wonderful. At the same time, I look forward to a dad’s movement in which dad’s encourage each other to be dads, rather than focusing on women as being the problem and what is holding dads back. And if dads will only rise to meet the low bar set for them on TV (which is what is said in this article) that would be sad. Every single group portrayed on TV: moms, teenagers, every ethic group are portrayed as idiotic. Please don’t rely on TV to set your bar.

  27. Marya: Just to be clear, I don’t take my cues from TV portrayals. But many do unfortunately.

    ALso, dads are (and have been) encouraging other dads for years. And slowly but surely we’re gaining momentum, attention, and a voice. But now we need to do more than preach to the choir (other dads). We need help from moms desperately. Without support from mothers the real change we want to see happen never will. So we need to focus on several areas, not just other dads.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Many Women Don’t Support Stay-at-Home DadsMy Profile

  28. I agree with you on every point except one. The super-mom expectation is not a separate issue. How the family is seen in public is a direct reflection on the perceived ability of the mother to be a good mother. When a dad digs in and learns from his mistakes, those mistakes, whether fairly or not, make the mother look like they have lost control of their household and are inept. No onesie required. I would bet, if “society” got off of moms’ backs about being perfect all the time, wives would criticize less.

  29. Angie: I agree it’s unfair that how the kid is seen in public is a reflection on the mother. That’s all kinds of wrong. But it’s also wrong for moms to give in to that pressure and act in a way that pleases society instead of improves her own family. To hell with what other people think. I had to deal with my wife being the breadwinner for years, something for which society generally looks sideways at underachieving men.

    I think we can advocate for society to stop unfairly judging moms AND for dads to be given a fair shake. But we need men and women to commit to working together for it to happen.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Many Women Don’t Support Stay-at-Home DadsMy Profile

  30. While the onesie did produce a bit of a chuckle from me, I agree with you whole hardedly. I find it interesting the double standard that exists within society, the media, and within the household. When I take my daugther to the doctor, they have a form to fill out which asks “are you breast feeding?” and other mom-centric questions. When my wife was home with my son, I was critiqued for not helping around the house when I got home from work, but I just convinced her to start running in the morning so that instead of dealing with a fussy baby for an hour, I could get dishes done in the evening. (BTW I love my wife and she is happy I stay home with my daughter, but it is a double standard that I noticed). I am not a 50’s man who is afraid of dirty diapers, spit up, or mass quantities of drool.

    I also think women should be upset that the media portrays them as morons who stay with the rude, obnoxious, incompantant bag of meat that us men are supposed to be.
    Dashing Dad recently posted..Stay at Home Dad’s Can Fix Stuff Too!My Profile

  31. A very good point. When my son was small I very much wished that my (now ex) husband would step up more. Perhaps if fathers weren’t portrayed as bumbling idiots, more men would feel capable of doing so. I also wonder, though, if the portrayal isn’t a two way street (in some few *not all* cases)? If men are portrayed as unable to parent effectively, not only are they excluded form the wonder of early childhood, women are “put in their place”. If dad can’t or wont step up, for whatever reason, them mom is on the hook all the time.
    I just tore up a current magazine. It ran an article celebrating how women “do it all”: work, cooking, cleaning, parenting, groceries, etc. Wow. In a two-adult household, all of those tasks need to be split equitably. 19

  32. I just wanted to comment, as a woman, I really appreciated your article. I am also SO SICK of the debassing of men I see everywhere in the media. One example that comes to mind is the current nespresso commercial. He makes a coffee, brings it over to her, and she has this stpid look on her face like (“haha i get to just take this from you and give you nothing back” instead of thanks and appreciation. anyway. I agree. I’ve seen many capable men. And I appreciate and applaud them all.

  33. p.s. I guess I’m annoyed at the lack of appreciation and deprecation I see in the media that women show for men in general. It’s not a sexist thing.. it’s not a feminist thing.. it’s damnable common decency and respect. There’s no wonder that I hear a lot of mifted and angry talk between men about what users/selfish/bitchy/mean people woman can be. It breaks my heart. Woman have too often become bullies when it comes to interaction with the people they should love and appreciate (mutually) the most.

  34. I agree with you completely. As a working mother with a husband who stays home and homeschools our three children, things like this anger me so much. I get so angry when I hear women berating their husband. I want to ask them why a man should do everything you want them to when they treat them so badly.
    My husband takes our special ed daughter our local school district co-op each week for therapy. While sitting and waiting one day, a lady came to him and handed him a brochure for “daddy-child” nights the school was hosting to give dads more time with their kids. He saw the title and replied “No thank you, I’m a stay-at home, homeschooling dad. I spend plenty of time with my children.”
    “But it will teach you parenting techniques.” she replied.

    Huh? Seriously? The fact that he was sitting, waiting for our daughter at her physical/occupational/speech therapist and stayed home and homeschooled 3 kids didn’t clue this dolt into the fact that he had some experience with parenting?

    I can’t tell you how many times he has been smiled at by old ladies in he grocery store and asked “Mom’s day off?” or “Babysitting?” When he was introduced to another dad one day and the man replied “So, this is the little woman?” to my 6’2″, 220 lb husband, I just wonder what in the heck is wrong with these people.

  35. aMEN!

    Men have been portrayed as some form of stupid or another since Homer Simpson became a star moron.

  36. Exactly. I’ve been saying this for years.

    If we women listened to what we said about our men, and then reversed the sexes, we’d call ourselves Female Chauvinist pigs with a healthy helping of hypocrisy.

    We can’t become the thing we fight against.

    I hate hearing women say all men are little boys. Or implying dads are incompetent. Or that they can’t do our jobs. yes they can and yes they do.

    It really pisses me off.
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  37. I’m 33 years old. Back in the early 80’s, when I was about 4, my Father and Mother divorced. In a time when it was nearly unheard of for the courts to favor the man, my Father fought for and won full custody of me, his only child and daughter. From that point on, he raised me by himself. No handbook, no friends, no woman around to even give him hints. He held down a full time job as a Police Officer and dealt silently with then unspoken of mental trauma from his two tours in Vietnam. Now some thirty years later, I’m an adult and about ready to think of having children of my own.

    Do I look back on all my Dad did “wrong”? Do I look at my husband and cringe or snicker at the idea of him being a father? Not at all. I look back and give sincere thanks for everything my Dad did. Wrong or right, good or bad, mistake or not. Because he could have chosen Not to do anything at all. Like so many “parents”(Fathers AND Mothers) in this society today seem to be doing, he could have foisted off his parental responsibility on his parents, or even on the system. He did his very best. Because of him, I have a healthy (and very high bar) to reach for when I have and raise children of my own. The things my dad did for me, provided me with, protected me from; that is a lot to live up to. And I hope, as a woman (with no internal baby-book, I promise!), I can be half the parent my Father was.

    Men are not only capable of being exceptional parents, they are just as capable as women. Sometimes more so. It wasn’t from a woman that I got my stubbornness, my pride, my self esteem, my ability to ‘cowboy up’ in the face of all and any adversity and reach for my goals despite any opposition (even if that opposition is sometimes my own Father!). It was from my Dad.

    Is that little outfit the end of the world? Nope. But I agree, that kind of “humorous criticism” should be applied and amusing across the board or not at all.

  38. I, for one, am with you! However, unlike you, I did take up that pitchfork and I did start that riot. I am currently sequestered in a homemade fortress with three…make that two other likeminded dads. We are surrounded by police…seemingly all female police. (where is one of those when you want to commit a crime…just sayin’) They are threatening some sort of Benghazi-style raid on our compound. We do not appear long for this world…Going radio silent…should we parish, please continue our fight for parenting equality…over.and.out.

  39. I agree that the ‘dumb dad’ stereotype is a big problem in our culture. I think it stems in large part on a break down in communication that’s happened between the sexes since the 60s. Back in the day (granted I wasn’t there, but…) women understood how to motivate men using their wiles, so the burden on communicating between the sexes was largely on women. Ultimately that shifted to men needing to get in touch with their feminine side and the burden shifted entirely on men. The thing is, communicating between the sexes has challenges that don’t exist between members of the same sex. Men and women approach problems differently, implement solutions differently, analyze situations differently – so there does need to be a special focus on communicating with your spouse as a member of the opposite sex as opposed to just one of the gals/guys. The problem with the modern approach is that women are much more complex than men. Men like to look at the facts in a straight-forward way and go straight to solutions while women like to get into feelings, analyze things in light of what happened yesterday/last week/last month/five years ago (ask any man who’s heard his wife bring up that *one* stupid thing he did a decade ago every argument if I’m right about that). Neither way of looking at things is wrong, and both have their strengths, but the fact is that since women are more complex, it is easier for them to figure out how to communicate with men than visa versa. It may be totally unfair that the ‘burden’ of successful communication needs to fall predominately on the wife in a marriage, but that’s a fact of nature, not an artificial construct of society.

    So…. how does this all tie in to your post? Men operate best when approached by their wives in a certain way, and that way tends to be one where the man’s strengths are emphasized, where he is made to feel competent, appreciated, and respected (positive emotional manipulation, if you will). Since women no longer seem to understand this as a matter of fact, they all too often try to motivate their men to act a certain way by using negative emotional manipulation; teasing, complaining, pointing out ‘errors’ in the way a man is doing things in a way that is demeaning instead of building him up. The obvious problem with that way of communicating is that it doesn’t work. Men who aren’t treated like men generally stop acting like men. It’s part of the straight-forward, simple way they view the world. If it is impossible to reach a goal, then stop trying. It’s logical. Women, by complaining and demeaning their men – especially over trivial things (you fed the baby *what* for lunch?) – make it consistently clear that being treated like a good dad/husband/whatever is impossible, so therefore men stop trying to be good dads/husbands/whatevers. Children who grow up in a household where the dad is not treated as a good dad, and therefore doesn’t act like a good dad are not going to receive the same degree of benefits as children raised in a household where the parents treat each other with mutual respect. Additionally, looking at the situation from the point of society at large, men are not going to opt into a profession (fatherhood) where they know they’re going to be disrespected, and it shows in the increase of men who father children and then abandon them. Women also figure out that men just aren’t meeting their expectations, and since they are either unwilling or unaware of how to motivate their men, tend to de-emphasize their roles in their children’s lives.

    I think it’s important to for parents to demonstrate to their children that they respect each other. I’ve made a point of picking out onesies that say ‘Daddy’s Girl,’ or ‘My Dad is a Rock Star!’ even though the kids can’t read them. Get into the habit of appreciating your spouse’s efforts as a parent early on and it’ll be easier as everyone ages. I want my children to value their dad, so I need to show that I value him, too.

  40. I agree with your article. Especially that certain diaper brand. You should have heard the rant I let out the first time I saw one! My husband is an incredible dad. I am a SAHM and he works full time but he is majorly involved in our daughters lives, diapers included. As for doing things differently, when we had our first baby we discovered that he had troubles with the snap up sleepers and I with the zip-ups. So we bought both. Did it mean one of us wasn’t as good? No. There are many parts of child care that he is better at (like brushing teeth, tucking in and teaching sports & music to name a few) and there are some things I’m better at (like breastfeeding 😉 ). And I also agree with your response to Laura; men can be attuned to cries if the cries are ones they can help with. I respond to our infants cries because I know she wants to nurse. I’m glad my husband sleeps through that because there wouldn’t be anything he could do about it. But both of hear when our 5 year old or 3 year old need something in the night.

  41. I was a stay at home dad in the early 90s and felt like an outsider at the school bus stop or play group. And every time I got a phone call asking for ‘the lady of the house’ (it happened a fair bit with a couple of charities) I would growl “You’ve got him.” back.

    Every friend of mine who is a dad is an active dad. This stereotype from the early days of television needs to end.

  42. I agree that it is in poor taste, and frankly fail to see who the market is – Bunker-like fathers-in-law who believe their SIL is a ‘meathead’?

    I get irritated by such things too – it’s inaccurate and demeaning. And you are right – women would scream loudly and long if you replace “Dad” with “Mom” on that shirt (even if you used “New Mom” they would complain). If you cannot use a non-gendered, non-specific wording, the shirt doesn’t need to exist. And I don’t believe they will replace “Dad” with “Idiot” any time soon.

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  44. *standing ovation* My husband never ceases to blow me away with how quickly he picked up the daddy thing. Certainly much faster than I picked up the mommy thing. He was our oldest child’s primary caregiver for most of her first year while I worked. No day care or babysitter, just daddy. When I struggled with depression after her birth, he immediately picked up the slack, taking her when I was overwhelmed, and he knew her cries better than I did!

    Even now that we have had our second, both our girls will pick daddy over mommy. He changes diapers, feeds them, helps me at bedtime, all without being asked.

    I applaud all you outstanding daddies out there!

  45. Love it. I really wish the moms would back off and let dads be dads. I’m not a guy, so I can’t act like one. Men parent differently than women and in no way is it wrong. Strong supporter of the men’s movement.
    I would love to know your thoughts on father’s rights during divorce or separation from non married couples. That one really gets my blood boiling. I have a friend who is going through a nasty divorce, at first fighting her for custody and now the state. Despite him having numerous character witnesses to how good of a father he is, and her only a few friends and family she was granted temporary custody during the proceedings. Then it came to light that both his son and daughter and her son from a previous relationship were being physically abused. Instead of giving him custody, despite being approved by a DCS supervisor, all three children were given to the state. He was allowed 2 supervised visits each week, while for some reason she was given 3 hours visitation, 1 unsupervised. Somehow during this 1 hour unsupervised visit, his daughter somehow broke her femur, which is difficult to break, and his son suffered a shattered nose and check fractures. It was only after this that he has been granted partial custody which he shares with the state. Two years later and still fighter for full custody. What is your take on father’s rights?

  46. When I saw that onesie for the first time I thought, man I’m glad my husband is not like the guys that need this! I am so grateful for him and the way he shares the parental responsibilities with me. I’m really glad to see most dads no do that!

  47. It’s also important to show our sons and daughters that fathers are important so that when they have kids, they will know “Hey, my Dad did so much for me when I was younger, I want to do that for my kids.” Especially for our sons, this generation of Dads is doing a great job of showing them how to be good, involved fathers.

    Women who think it’s okay to make fun of the incompetent Dad really need to stop and look at their own incompetence. Many new mothers out there are learning how to take care of the baby just as the dads are and don’t have some special genetic predisposition to know how to feed the baby better, change a diaper better or what to do if the baby is sick.

    Many mothers also seem to conveniently forget how important their own fathers were in their lives and make it seem like all mothers and daughters were best friends growing up (ask any women if she and her own mother were always best friends and you’ll see that mos women fought a lot more with their own mothers than with their fathers growing up).

  48. I for one m tired of that stereotype on television. It is always the goofy dad that can’t drive or ask for directions or wash clothes etc… It makes me sick to see commercials portraying men as little boys being scolded by their mommies (wives). Double standard for sure. It’s funny….once….but everyday day on countless television ads is just terrible and incredibly insulting.
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  49. This “fathers are incapable” stereotype is as old as the “women stay at home to cook and clean” stereotype, and they have the same sexist root.

    Maybe few hundred years ago when the father was at work all the time and the moms really mastered the rule of raising kids, it had some truth to it.

    It’s annoying even if you are not a father. Because women are seen as more trusted when it comes to taking care of kids, while men are automatically suspected as being caveman that can’t be trusted with young kids by themselves.

    So yes, so It sucks.

  50. It’s time dads stopped acting like idiots.

    Step 1. Don’t be a dad.

    Don’t have kids. It’s really that simple.

  51. Good article, a lot of truth to this. Unfortunately we still have a long way to go to change the stereotype that mothers are the primary parent. Fathers are extremely important in a child’s development, and to brush them aside as if they were not is damaging.

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