When Laszlo was six months old, my husband, Joel, took him out to a bar at 9pm to meet up with a friend. He took a seat by the fireplace at the bar and was swarmed by women cooing over Laszlo and calling Joel a “good dad.” That’s right. A GOOD DAD! For taking his infant son to a bar at 9pm. If I had been the one taking Laszlo to a bar at 9pm, someone would have called Child Services.
Not only does it take soooo little for a man to be seen as a good dad, but it takes everything for a woman to not be seen as a bad mom. The flaws and the failures of moms come to light more often than those of dads because we’re usually the ones who are more involved with the details of our kids’ lives.
But pretty much any guy with a baby strapped into an Ergo seems like a good dad for spending a couple of hours with his kid. I even find myself falling for it. I imagine that this guy must love his wife very, very much. In my fantasy, he said to his wife earlier that day, “Honey, I’m going to take some time off from work today. You look like you need a break. Why don’t I take the kids while you spend the day at the spa? And do something about that ragged looking manicure, babe.” (It’s right around the part where the husband actually notices his wife’s nails that I snap out of it.)
We fault moms more than dads for mistakes that parents make. If a dad lets a kid fall out of a stroller, we feel bad for him because he obviously doesn’t know how a stroller works. If a mom lets something like that happen, she’s negligent. He’s a hapless guy who’s just trying to take care of his kid. But she’s a bad mom who’s worthy of scorn and we should pity her child.
Good dads are sexier than good moms, too. You can take any dude who’s balding and a little too short and has some stupid-looking facial hair and easily dismiss him as unattractive. However, put a kid by his side and… Voila! Hottie! Total DILF. Just having a kid with him makes any guy about twice as hot. But there’s nothing sexy about being a good mom. In fact, in order to be a MILF, you should probably not be a “good mom.” MILFs should party, dress like a 20-year-old and not be seen wiping their kid’s nose. It’s so not fair, but being seen as a “good dad” is hot. I have no doubt that those women at the bar saw Joel’s amazing ability to bar-hop whilst toting a baby as sexy. Because any dad who spends an hour with his kid, even if it’s at a bar, is a DILF.
All a guy seems to have to do to be considered a good dad is not leave his wife, keep a job, and have a photo-op with the kid in public now and then. It hasn’t changed much since the 50s: He’s a guy who provides for his family and tosses the ball around with the kids on the weekend. He makes occasional appearances as the dignified representative of the family who’s not disheveled and un-showered. He’s a king-like figurehead who shows up at kid events and picks up the kid from preschool once a week.
But nobody knows how to define a “good mom” anymore. It used to be that a good mom cooked dinner, stayed at home with the kids, and popped a few Valiums to get her through the day without killing somebody. The complexity of the roles that moms play today means that everybody on the other side seems to be willing to attack you for the slightest digression.
The more you’re in the game, the more you’re going to foul, lose the ball, and fall on your face. And moms are in the game more. It’s easier for a dad on the bench to score the winning point. He’s not tired out when he gets put in during the last quarter after his wife fainted from exhaustion on the court.
Moms do most of the kid-related work: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving them around, parties and play dates, packing lunches, making baby food, keeping up with supplies and clothes, and finding the preschool and day care and sitters. (Did I bore you yet? Cause I’m bored just thinking about it.) We do it mostly without messing up too badly. But because we do more of that stuff, we mess up more often. And sadly, those few mistakes hang over us and prevent us from thinking of ourselves and each other as good moms.
Maybe I’ll never earn the title of “good mom.” But I’m going to do whatever it takes to prevent young, drunk, slutty women from thinking that Joel is a “good dad” just for showing up. I’m going to start by not letting Joel take Laszlo out to bars anymore.
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