Dad Double-Standard: Father of the Year or Just Doing His Job?Monica Bielanko
A couple weeks ago I snapped this photo of my husband, Serge, as he pulled our three kids down the street in a wagon.
Husband, ex-husband, estranged life partner, former co-habitating legal spouse — I’m not sure what to refer to Serge as anymore. We have children together. We live apart. This ambiguous stage of our relationship, somewhere between marriage and divorce, is proving to be awkward to explain to the people we encounter together on a daily basis. The kids’ daycare teachers, our respective neighbors, the guy I’m hiring to mow my lawn, our readers.
One thing is for sure: Serge’s newly acquired status as single dad, divorcee, separated estranged man-with-kids has won him a lot of attention. How? Just for being the involved dad he has been from day one.
So that brings me to the photo I snapped of Serge with the wagon. Everyday event. He looked cool, yes. But folks, the props he was given were a little over the top. He promptly posted it to his various social media thingamajigs and, as expected, the comments started rolling in.
YOU ARE SUCH AN AMAZING DAD!
BEST. PHOTO. EVER.
YOUR KIDS ARE LUCKY TO HAVE YOU!
Don’t get me wrong, Serge is an amazing dad and his kids are lucky to have him. But he’s just pulling a freakin’ wagon. What’s with him doing next to nothing and getting praised to the high heavens like he just lifted a truck off a toddler? And it happens all the time. It happened all the time even before now. But this single dad thing? Every Band-Aid administered, every incident of baby-wearing, every act of parenting becomes EPIC.
You want to know what happens if I post a photo of me taking my kids for a walk? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I don’t want to discourage the fellas from taking parenting by storm but come on already. Women enter the workforce and we’re still fighting for equal pay, men choose to be stay-at-home dads and every bottle mixed is a stunning display of fatherhood at its finest? The fact that Serge is now a single dad means the dude isn’t going to have to pay for meals at any restaurants he takes the kids to, so great is the desire of every waitress to comp his stellar dad-ness. Know what I get for free at restaurants when I bring my kids? Dirty looks. Like boarding a plane with a baby, people assuming the worst about your kids’ behavior give you the Stink Eye. But dad alone with kids at restaurant? Legend-wait for it-ary. Send that beautiful man free cake! He’s AMAAZING.
Do I sound like I have sour grapes? I hope so! I’m tired of men with babies and kids being considered best dads ever! or super sexy just by virtue of being present while women with babies and kids are just regular old, soccer moms. Frankly, the men should find it equally offensive to be praised so effusively for accomplishing everyday parenting tasks. It’s kind of like cheering for an injured athlete who manages to take their first steps after surgery; taking a step is really no big deal, it’s just that the person taking it has undergone special circumstances. Except dads taking the kids to dinner or making the school run isn’t a special circumstance and they should discourage the over-the-top praise for doing so if only to maintain their dignity.
Just calm down already about dads doing normal stuff with their kids. If we keep making routine acts of dad-hood such a huge deal our boys will never learn that this bottle-making, baby-wearing, ponytail-creating level of fatherhood isn’t superhuman. It’s what’s expected of them. A dad wearing his baby on his chest isn’t cause for celebration, and it doesn’t mean he’s the BEST. DAD. EVER. It just means he’s doing his job.