It’s Friday which means it’s Fatherhood Friday over at Dad-Blogs, where the wicked cool dad (and mom) bloggers hang out and showcase our insane talents as bloggers and writers. When you’re done here, head there.
Shawn over at Backpacking Dad had a really thought-provoking post dealing with immersed parents, feminism and one of his solutions to the problem of non-involved fathers. Among other things, he’s calling for women and mothers everywhere to stop any and all negative blogging concerning the parental shortcomings of their husbands. He feels it perpetuates the “Everybody Loves Raymond” stereotype that fathers are nothing but buffoons, who are too far removed from being an involved parent. But even if this stereotype is true, Shawn contends that mommy bloggers shouldn’t write about it because it just serves to tear away at the father’s already diminished parenting capabilities. Instead, he said it is up to feminists everywhere to assist failing fathers instead of tearing them down.
While I agree with a lot of the points he makes, I completely disagree with this particular theory.
Look, we all know there are more and more stay at home dads these days for a variety of reasons. Some just really want to be involved parents while others are doing it out of necessity because of the failing economy. And yes, this new crop of immersed fathers is up against some resistance from not only men, but strangely enough, mothers. Some moms are firmly entrenched in traditional gender roles and they think parenting is their turf. To them, stay at home dads are an affront to the parenting community and therefore they are met with derision and skepticism. It’s almost as if they think these dads have chosen to be lazy and they’re using this newfound daddy gig to cruise the neighborhood for poor, unsuspecting MILFs.
That is wrong, and that mentality has to be broken down and fixed. But unlike Shawn, who puts the onus for societal change on feminists, women and mothers in general, I think it is up to us dads.
One thing I’ve noticed since becoming a father is that expectations for dads couldn’t be any lower. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me over the last 18 months and lauded me for being such a great dad, simply because I’m taking Will for a walk or I take him to a local play group. One woman who saw me changing a diaper at a restaurant stopped me and said “that’s just fantastic that you help your wife with diapers.” If I wasn’t so stunned I probably would’ve replied with something witty, but I was stopped in my tracks.
After all, no one goes up to a mom changing a diaper in public and comments on what a great job she’s doing. And why is that? Because moms are expected to engage in diaper changes, dressing the baby, feedings and most other caretaking responsibilities.
But dads? Society thinks so little of fathers that anything we do — even the tiniest effort we put forth — is celebrated and applauded. Some may think that’s a good thing because it means we can put in minimal effort with maximum praise. It’s like getting 500 points on your SATs just for spelling your name right. And not to get too off topic, but that makes “dead beat dads” even more deplorable because we live in a society that barely expects anything from us as fathers. But I think this system is the root of the problem, and dads are the ones who need to fix it.
I think all dads need to take a good long look in the mirror and really evaluate their fatherly contributions. Dads can’t come home from work, give the baby a bath and go to bed feeling good about themselves thinking they made an ample contribution. And just because you changed a couple of diapers over the years doesn’t make you an involved parent.
We have to hold ourselves to higher standards. Sure most of us have to work all day but we can still stay involved. If your wife stays home with the baby call her a couple times a day and see how things are going. Just because you’re not there doesn’t mean you can’t still be a part of what’s happening. If the kid is at day care, make it a point to visit with the provider or call him/her up to get a first-hand account of how your child is faring and the specifics of what they’re doing. Go to the doctor’s appointments and learn about vaccination schedules. Do some research online about milestones and what your kid should be doing when. Change diapers on a regular basis and learn what constitutes a regular poop and when your kid is crapping strangely. Focus on nutrition and know what your kid is eating, don’t just rely on mom cooking everything for him/her.
And yes, we will need the help of mothers here. We need moms to be accepting of involved dads instead of suspicious. More importantly, moms will be required to relinquish some control and loosen their grip on the parenting reins. I know for a fact this may be the single biggest obstacle for mothers. Because even the ones who wish their husbands would do more to help out, often have big problems when dad starts to take over and change the way mom has been handling everything. But if dads are to step up, moms need to be willing to move over and make way.
However, unlike Shawn, I think asking women to censor themselves is a big mistake. Sure there are some annoying mommy bloggers out there who constantly bitch and complain about their husbands, and that can become tiresome. However, it might also be deserved. And let’s not forget, not all criticism is negative. If MJ had a blog and I read something about how I wasn’t performing my duties as a dad, I might take it to heart and learn from it. But in the end, I’m a freedom of speech guy and I think asking people to censor their thoughts never leads anywhere positive.
But the bulk of the responsibility to institute change is squarely on the shoulders of fathers. We need to stop doing the minimum. We need to be partners in parenting instead of just part-time contributors. That doesn’t mean every guy has to be a stay at home dad by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean making your role as father the top priority. It means you’re thinking about your kid all the time and making it mandatory to stay perpetually involved. And unfortunately, it means dealing with long-held stereotypes — even from the women who have asked us to get more involved — and not backing down from them.
Although women can help us achieve this, fundamental change has to be instituted by the people seeking it. So dads, let’s be better. Let’s be persistent and unwavering in our desire to make men equal partners in parenting. Let’s make involved dads the industry standard.
It starts with each of us in our own homes. So let’s do it.