I wrote this post ages ago, just after International Women’s Day and never got around to posting it for some reason, but here it is now
I know it isn’t the done thing to be talking about men right after Women’s Day, but here I am. I want to talk about dads, fathers, pappas, paternal entities. I want to talk about what we want, what we expect and then what we DO.
See, this past week at swimming, the daddy in the pool among all the mommies (he’s the only one in our class, but there are definitely dad-dominated classes) mentioned that he had his infant son ALL DAY on Wednesdays. All. Fucking. Work-day. So his wife could work. One day a week. And you know what happened? 4 women applauded him and told him he must have fallen straight from heaven. And he basked. In his brownie points, in his greatness, in his sainthood. And I nearly bliksemed him with the pool noodle. It seriously took a lot of effort not to.
So why does this piss me off so much? After all, dude stepped up, right? Well, really, I don’t know that he did. I don’t know their dynamic, but the basking tells me no. You see, my husband takes the kids, both of them, 24 hours of every day. We both work full-time jobs and we both tele-commute (work from home). Our desks are separated by a disaster zone of educational toys, snack dishes and books. Our office hours are punctuated by squeals, screams, crying, laughter, nagging and begging. My husband takes client calls with children in his lap and simply says “Excuse the soundtrack, my child is (doing whatever)”. He makes their breakfast, dresses them, changes them, comforts, disciplines, plays, cuddles, feeds. He is the ONLY one who can put our son down for naps. And he does ALL this, without ever letting his work suffer. Most importantly, he expects nothing in return. No recognition, no mention, no praise. All he wants is that I do the same.
Actually, it’s a big enough thing that this post would probably piss him off. My husband is no angel, no saint, no Mr. Perfect. He screws up. A lot. Just like me. What he is, is a parent. Just like me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the heck out of the parent he is. Every gosh-darned day. And I’ve heard it so many times. How fortunate I am. How I’m in the minority. How I got lucky. Even how he’s a saint. And I am fortunate, I married an incredible man, no denying it. But I’m assuming if you married a guy, he should be pretty awesome. (I know that’s not always the case, I’m neither stupid, nor naive). So why am I a minority?
I don’t really think I am. I have been in enough male-dominated environments to know that times are a-changing. Not only are dads becoming more involved, they crave the involvement. They’re becoming more vocal about it. They’re actively seeking out parenting and support structures of their own. So why aren’t we seeing this?
I’m an avid proponent of equality. Particularly parental equality. I want my partner to have the same rights, privileges and obstacles I have. I want marketing to target him as hard as it comes after me. I want him to have the same support and resources. And I expect him to work exactly as hard as I do. We all want equality, but what do we DO? We treat dads differently. Involved moms are just doing their jobs (if not looked down on), involved dads are canonised. A woman taking the kids while her partner takes a break, goes out or practices a hobby is pitied or ignored. A man doing the same is a babysitter. A stay at home mom is just a house wife. A dad is making sacrifices for his wife’s ambitions.
I. Call. Bullshit. My husband wasn’t doing me a favour or helping me out when our kids were conceived. He sure as puppies isn’t doing me one when he makes breakfast for our kids. And this is not about how he sees his actions. It’s about how I treat our partnership. I expect him to be a parent, just as he expects it of me. As a society and as mothers, we need to stop wanting one thing and acting a different way. You want your husband more involved, expect it of him, make space for it, stop treating it as a favour and for pity sake, stop criticising his every move. When you see a dad, treat his victories and defeats exactly as you treat a mom’s. Support, encourage, commiserate. Don’t praise him like you just followed a star to find him and don’t patronise him like a little kid playing dolls.