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“I just want to be a good dad.”
How amazing it was to see Mr. Incredible up on the big screen in Disney•Pixar’s Incredibles 2, voicing the one fear that most of us fathers struggle with.
Admittedly, I almost teared up when his daughter Violet then responded with, “You’re not a good dad. You’re super.”
In the movie, Bob (aka Mr. Incredible) stays at home with the kids while his wife Helen (aka Elastigirl) becomes the face of the modern-day superhero. While Helen has always been an incredible (for lack of a better term) role model, she has also been the primary caregiver for her family. Now, however, the tables are turned — and Bob is learning to deal with family life in a new way.
The film captures the role of the stay-at-home dad very well. In the book The Art of Incredibles 2, story supervisor Ted Mathot explained how the team devoted a lot of time to getting that just right.
“One of our challenges was to avoid portraying the stereotypical clueless dad everyone has seen a bunch of times,” said Mathot.
So refreshing! Often stay-at-home dads are depicted as bumbling idiots who don’t know their way around a diaper. Instead, Mathot said they decided to portray Bob’s experience more realistically.
“Over time, we found the right arc, where [Bob] started off doing things relatively okay and then went through a much deeper, richer relationship with the kids,” Mathot said.
Director Brad Bird elaborated: “[Bob] gains an appreciation for the work of being a parent over the course of the movie, and he comes to value it more than he thought he would.”
Bird also pointed out that even though Bob is chomping at the bit to get back to the superhero game, his experience as a stay-at-home dad makes him rethink it.
“His sense of responsibility says, ‘I’m still interested, but I have some life stuff I have to take care of with my kids first,’” said Bird.
As a former stay-at-home dad myself, I can’t tell you how much I can relate to this.
When my wife Cassie and I were expecting our daughter, Emma, Cassie said she wished she had been able to stay at home with Eve (my stepdaughter). So, after much discussion, we planned that one of us would do it. We just didn’t anticipate it would be me! When I unexpectedly lost my job, Cassie was doing well in her career. So we decided that I would be the stay-at-home parent.
Was it hard? Most definitely! But it has been the time of my life.
I have a new, profound appreciation of single parents. Trying to balance the strong desire to be there for your child while still needing to provide financially for your family is a tough deal. I feel blessed to have had this opportunity to bond with my children.
But don’t get me wrong — being a stay-at-home parent isn’t all television and laundry. It was helping Eve with her homework while balancing Emma’s nap and feeding schedule. It was cooking for the family while trying to manage a part-time online business, cleaning the house, and paying the bills.
You get the picture. Parenting is a full-time job all by itself. But I loved it.
Not many guys are given that kind of opportunity, but I’m glad to see that’s changing. When I was a stay-at-home dad, it seemed like a pretty new concept. Every baby group was called something along the lines of “Mommy and Me.” Sometimes I felt awkward and out of place while trying to share experiences with my kids.
I did get high praise from all the moms in the circle, but at times it felt like people expected men NOT to be able to do this. Or they would assume that being the primary caregiver wouldn’t mean a lot to us.
But it does.
Family is the most important thing in my life and having the chance to bond with Emma in such a deep and meaningful way is something I will always cherish.
It’s clear that Brad Bird understands this sentiment. While writing about the film and its predecessor The Incredibles he noted:
“… Our ideas of what our lives are going to be and what they actually turn out to be are very different. We think we can see the future, but we can’t. But what both movies also say is that if you are lucky enough to have a family you can count on, it will help carry you through any obstacle life can throw at you.”
That’s the truth. It’s also exciting to me to see a film explore the nuances of role reversal in a family and how each member deals with it.
As Edna Mode once said, “Being a good parent IS a heroic journey.”
Here’s to all the dads and moms out there blazing that trail.
Incredibles 2 is available on Digital & Movies Anywhere now and Blu-ray Nov. 6.