My husband is a wonderful father. Our daughter has him wrapped around her finger in that special way only little girls can, and our son thinks he’s greater than any superhero he’s seen. Aren’t I lucky, having such a great dad in my children’s lives?
I ask this rhetorically, of course, because I know how lucky I am. In fact, I’m reminded of it each time we head out as a family and my husband straps the baby in the carrier, as I can’t push the stroller while hauling the millions of items mothers instinctively have on hand for such excursions.
Diapers, wipes, changes of clothes. Baby food, bibs, spoons. Teething rings, blankets, my son’s favorite train of the week. Each of these necessities meticulously selected and packed away in the bag before each trip to make it go as seamlessly as possible, and yet, look at my husband. He is baby wearing. Suddenly, we are an exhibit at the zoo, with people marveling at this rare male species holding his young. Yet, no one notices the female, attending to the other child who just made a daredevil jump and cut his leg open for the third time of the day.
Good thing I packed the first-aid kit, right?
Let me be clear: I am not discounting my husband’s efforts as a dad, because quite frankly, I think he’s got it down. What I am asking is that we please stop praising fathers for being, well, fathers. When I’m spotted in public by someone we mutually know, I’m told what a fabulous husband I have, watching the kids while I run an errand.
On the other hand, each time my husband takes the kids to the store, he comes home with stories about how many people complimented him for having both children on his own. Funny, I think: these are the same people who look at me as if I have no control over my son when he touches groceries on the shelves while I try to soothe the crying baby in the cart.
Superstar dad, one. Super-stressed mom, zip.
I work from home, which means squeezing in housework during nap time, and devoting nights and weekends to completing assignments so I don’t miss deadlines. Still, I’m regularly reminded of that one little thing — I’m so “lucky” my husband watches the kids while I work. Well, I’m fairly certain my husband’s colleagues don’t mention throughout the day how lucky he is that I’m home with the kids, and I’d bet that last Cheerio on the floor I’ve been called lucky by at least one of them for getting to “sit at home” all day.
So, listen up: next time you see a dad feeding or changing his child in public, just move along. The incessant praise adds to the outdated, nonsensical idea that only mothers should be taking care of their children’s basic needs, while fathers get a pass on anything other than playtime. Though I know I’ll melt the first time I see my husband put our daughter’s hair in a ponytail, I also know I’ll promptly remember mine’s in a ponytail because I won’t have had a shower yet that day since I was busy taking care of the kids, putting it all back into perspective.
Lucky me. Praise be.