6 stereotypes about dads that need to end
If you’re like most 20-30 somethings then you probably grew up hearing about how your grandma would stay at home with the kids while Dad, the head of the household was responsible for making money and providing for the family. Maybe that was even your own parents. Or maybe you grew up in a house where both of your parents worked. Dad’s household duties included taking out the trash, cutting the grass, pruning the hedges, reading the paper and catching up on the latest sporting event with the guys. Needless to say, mom was then usually expected to cook (sometimes two meals, one for the kids and the second for adults), clean the house, do the laundry & take care of the kids (and everything else that comes along with that – and the list is LONG).
It’s no wonder the below-listed stereotypes exist today. It’s been my experience that in any stereotype there exists a little bit of truth. They’ve all come from somewhere and at some point along the line all known parties associated with this class received a blanketed badge of disapproval and thus the stereotype was born.
The Modern Family
The modern dad is a far throw from what has been depicted to us even from a young age. Let’s think back to who we had as examples. Growing up one of my first fatherly role models was none other than Mr. Fred Flinstone who, in his time, would clock in every morning at “The Yard” work his 8 hours and at the end of his long and tiring shift would make his way home. When he arrived the kids were somehow still alive, fed, and clean. There was almost always a pterodactyl or some other form of meat ready and waiting on the table and this was the norm. This is what was expected. Flinstones weren’t your thing? Fine, take any other late 80s early 90s sitcom or cartoon and there you have it, a formula for the perfect stereotype. It’s not our fault that these exist but it is our fault we allow these fabricated norms to cloud our judgment of who men are called to be as fathers. We perpetuate the stereotypes and constantly look down on fathers that seem to be going against the grain.
My point today is that we now live in the 21st century, the year is 2017 and we are still shaming dads and thinking of them as second in the parenting hierarchy. We are not allowing dads to come out from under the blanket and step into the role of father, at least not without some scrutiny first.
That video… You know the one
At this point I’m a little late to the party, but by now we’ve all seen the live BBC Interview where the interviewee had his kids casually stroll into the room and demand his attention. We all laughed as his wife frantically scrambled to get the kids out of the room, the whole time this poor guy is trying his best to remain composed and do his job, all while working from home mind you. It was lighthearted and hilarious to watch. I think I replayed it about 11 times.
Then there was this other video where some people thought it would be funny to compare what that situation would have looked like if a woman was the one being interviewed. The kids made their way in, she picked them up, fed them, ironed some clothes, cleaned the toilet, made dinner AND even diffused a bomb! A bomb! Wow, get this woman a medal! She can really do it all. That poor guy from the first video looked so frazzled, if he was only a woman that would have turned out so differently.
Let me state that yes, I do see the humour in both videos, my issue is that this response was created at all. This guy was working from home and for all we know was wearing 3 day old track pants with spit up and ravioli sauce all over them (we’ve all been there) and had just come from a feeding or playing with his kids. Did anyone stop to think that maybe he was at home working so that he can be present and involved as a father? Instead he was shamed publicly and compared to the mom who seemed all too comfortable “doing it all.” As if to say that moms don’t get overwhelmed and need assistance from their partner?
Let’s not kid ourselves, ask any mom and she’ll tell you, doing it all on your own is no simple task. This video made a mockery of fatherhood and further added to the shaming of fathers. Dad was probably out having a beer and watching the game anyway, right? Besides, everyone knows that moms do it best, and as you’ve seen, dads just can’t handle that kind of pressure.
That’s my rant, but before you go here it is, my list of the top 6 stereotypes about dads that need to end.
1. Dads are simply babysitters
“Is dad home babysitting the kids?” asks a girlfriend as mom takes a sip of her drink. Let’s get this straight, a babysitter is someone that you seek out, interview, hire and pay to look after your kids. They work for you. How did anyone ever get the thought into their head that dads worked for mom? If mom goes out one with some friends or has a meeting to attend, guess what? Dad will be there to parent and be with the kids, HIS kids. If schedules don’t allow it then sure, get a babysitter and pay them (a fair wage) to look after your kids. Let’s stop classifying dads as the “hired help.”
2. Stay at home dads are lazy/ weak
This one gets me. Though I’m not a SAHD I did take some time off work when the boys were born and when I told people I was either met with a “good for you, that’s great” or “really, you can do that, like maternity leave?” Parents do and can stay at home with their kids, regardless of what others think is normal. Whether they have a remote job position that allows them to do this while still working or staying at home with the kids IS their job I don’t see what is lazy about a dad wanting to spend time with his kids.
My wife has said to me numerous times, “I’ll go back to work and you stay home with the kids,” so I COULD be a SAHD, but through talking it out we’ve agreed that our current situation is what works best for our family. To further my point, looking down on the SAHD is enabling the behaviour and thought that dads can’t be nurturing and at the same time making the statement that mom can’t be the professional and provide for the family. If you’ve ever spent a day with a baby on your own you know that this is no easy task.
3. Dads pass off the “hard” tasks to mom
“Honey the baby needs changing” as the dad passes the baby to mom. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Similar to females, men have these two things called hands and on each hand are five fingers. These fingers allow the male to complete tasks such as changing diapers and holding bottles among other difficult tasks. With some practice and training the male can even be left to put a baby to sleep. They’ve really come a long way. Did I make my point? Dads are more involved these days than ever. They are more informed and want to be at the centre of it all. Even the dirty diapers.
4. Dads that are involved are miraculous wonders of society
“Oh he changes diapers and washes bottles, too?? Wow, look at super dad!” For far too long whether intentionally or innocently we have been patronizing men for completing simple everyday mundane tasks. You see the dad in the store with the stroller or baby sling and think, “wow he is so amazing,” “he is so brave,” “Look at that guy, he can do it all,” and yeah those things may be nice to hear for some but the fact is that moms do this on a regular basis and we are not handing out awards of merit and holding parades for them. And maybe we should. But we don’t, so why point out the men that are parenting and completing the same everyday mundane duties as the women? Stop doing this. I’m a dad, I love my kids, I’m more than capable so why wouldn’t I be doing these things? (Note: as my wife read this, she remembered how people would stop me at the grocery store when I was pushing the stroller and she had the shopping cart. They’d praise me for being out with the kids, tell me how great I was, and she hardly ever got those same comments.)
5. Dads lack nurturing qualities
“Stop crying, be a man, man up” are statements that little boys hear all too often. From a young age boys are conditioned to not show emotion, to keep it all inside and hold it all together because that’s what boys do. They’re tough. Then they become men and sadly a lot of the same is still true. I’ll be the first to say it but I cry more often than I ever thought I would and it all stemmed from becoming a father.
To say that men lack emotion and that nurturing quality is simply not true. Yes, we men will never feel what it is to give birth or be able to feed your child milk from your body but that doesn’t mean that we cannot be nurturing. The same love that I have for my wife has been broken down, multiplied and recreated to extend to two other beings. Seeing them grow, smile and learn are some of the best things I could ever witness as a dad. What makes it even more special is though they cannot yet say it I can see and feel that love reciprocated. There is a special bond that is formed between a father and their children, and no other person or preconceived notion should come between that.
6. Dads need to be trained
No. Just no. We are not dogs. There is no trick to this. We learn, just like anyone else. The great thing about parenting, especially for first time parents, is that neither of you have a clue what you’re doing and you’re picking it up as you go along. I’ve said before that Thalita was the one who read more than I did and from an educational point of view was better informed than I was when it came to feeding, sleep schedules and other topics related to having a newborn.
Don’t get me wrong, it helps to be informed but mostly you figure it out as you go. When she had finished reading we’d talk about it, information would be downloaded we’d try things, fail and try something else and it was beautiful because we were learning together and experiencing (eventual) success by trial and error. People respond much differently when they are treated as equals especially in a loving, caring relationship.
I know that there are so many more stereotypes I could have touched on but I’m here to start the conversation. Comment below with some of your dad stereotypes that need to end. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Until next time…
The Unfit Dad