How We Insult Dads on a Daily Basis...and What We Need to Do About It
There's a new dad in town and we should all take some time to celebrate him...and learn what NOT to say to him, too. It's time to #parentlikeadad.
You might've noticed things are different at your local park, playground and school pick-up line: dads are EVERYWHERE. They're at their kids' birthday parties; they're making plans for carpooling; they're chaperoning school outings; and they're discussing the best place to take the little league team for ice cream. While mom historically took the lead child-rearing role at home, today's dads are proving that they can and want to be equal parents, but there's an obstacle in the way: us.
But don't take our word for it. Here's a quick glimpse into what today's dads are up against:
In fact, a recent Care@Work survey shows that dads today feel as though their fathers were more concerned about career, job fulfillment and planning for the future (e.g. children's tuition, retirement). On the other hand, they feel that they are more concerned about family life (e.g. making children happy, a healthy family lifestyle), a good work-life balance and making their partner happy.
Whether we realize it or not, dads are often treated differently -- and on a daily basis. Care.com took a closer look at this with a focus group of dads who shared their experiences. Below, we've shared some of the biggest takeaways, along with advice on how we can fix this problem:
- The Swoop In
Imagine this: an 18-month-old falls. She then picks herself up and toddles over to Daddy with her arms outstretched and her lips trembling. As if on cue, in rushes Mom, Nana or the nanny to save the day. We've all seen "swoopers" in action. Heck, we've probably all been swoopers at one time or another. As part of the focus group, Bryan, father of two, said his mother-in-law did the classic swoop-in all the time while his boys were young. But the plain fact is that it implies that a kid needs a maternal figure when they're hurt and that Dad just can't handle it.
- Gender Stereotyping
David, father of two, acknowledged that he's the cook in the house, but every time his family brings food for parties and potlucks, everyone assumes his wife made it and praises her for being such a great cook. Tom H., also a father of two, put his daughter's hair in pigtails and received shocked responses of, "Wow, you did that?!" These scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg. Even after Ashton Kutcher's campaign to get changing tables installed in men's bathrooms, you can still find many without them. Sometimes, it feels like the general population still thinks any household or child-raising task is a woman's job...and frankly, it's insulting to both sexes.
- Helping the Babysitter
Tom P., father of three, said he still gets shocked responses when people learn his wife is away and he's got his kids ALONE for the weekend. Family comes to help as if he must be overwhelmed. "I got so much support that I didnt need. I love spending time with my kids. It's parenting, not babysitting," he says.
- Over-Complimenting for Being a Parent
Kenrick, father of four, was out on a walk with his daughter when someone stopped him and told him what a great dad he was. "Really? That's what makes me a great dad?" he said. The same kind of thing can be heard as dads across America take their kids to school, eat breakfast with their kids in public or leave work early to go to their kids' doctors' appointments. While these compliments are well-intentioned, they're actually insulting to someone who's doing something they should be doing. It's like getting praised for brushing your teeth.
- Assuming Dads Are Not Full Participants
Todd, father of two, tells the story of how he went to parent-teacher night while his partner was traveling, only to have the teacher suggest that they wait to discuss the issues when his wife returned. Jackson, father of one, noted that even the workplace can give mixed reactions when dads need to cancel a 5 or 6 o'clock meeting because they need to pick up the kids. The workplace is actually where dads get the first inclination of how fatherhood will be perceived by their co-workers when paternity leave comes up. They might get asked, "Are you going to take the whole two weeks?" (If theyre lucky enough to get two paid weeks at all.) Or, "What are you going to do for all that time youre going to be so bored!" Would anyone ever say that to a mother?
We need to take a moment and honor just how far we've come. There's a new dad in town. And this dad is a lot different from his own father.
Remember growing up and asking people what their dad did? For example, you go into someone's house and say, "Wow, what does your dad do?" Or your friend gets new Nike Pumps and you say, "Well, his dad is a lawyer." As if their mom didnt work or, if she did, she certainly wasn't the breadwinner.
As a child of the '80s and '90s, I specifically remember having to consciously change my mindset to include moms as equal earners. And so while we honor the changes in fathers, it might just take a nudge to remind us that dads are carrying their fair share of parenting responsibilities these days, too.
All of these faux-pas have one main theme in common: they underestimate men. Think about it: we celebrate a woman's maternal instinct. We say that a child needs his Mama.
We need to re-frame our thinking. Just as the child version of me had to realize that women were just as capable of being the breadwinner, the grown-up version of all of us needs to realize that men have a paternal instinct, and it can be just as nurturing and loving and good at braiding hair, as a maternal one. Dads deserve respect, too.
In fact, there are a lot of things that we can learn from dads. Maybe we should focus less on forcing dads to operate the way we do, and instead we should try to #parentlikeadad more.
And we need to raise our children to know this as well. Because we havent seen the last of this evolution of dads -- and we predict it's only going to get better.
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