I often gush about how amazing fatherhood has been for me. Because being a dad is the best. Yes, getting married to the woman you love feels incredible—and it was, without a doubt the best day of my life—that is, until I watched her give birth to our daughter.
Awestruck is a pretty good word to describe it, but it still doesn’t do the big event justice.
But let’s be real, being a parent is challenging too. (Not that this is a surprise for anyone to hear.) Sometimes it seems that a lot of the things that make being a dad challenging you can’t do anything about.
I mean, nobody can make baby poop smell better, or make waking up at all hours of the night any less tiring. But there are some aspects of being a dad that are challenging mainly because of the society we live in.
And these are the challenges that, as a society, we need to think about and correct.
Historically, men have been less involved in child rearing. However, I think at this point, our generation has decided that these stereotypical gender roles have no place in our lives, in our world. People should be free to do what they want with their life, regardless of gender. (Amirite?!)
It seems to me that attitudes around parenting are shifting now as work roles have shifted, and I am so happy about that. Look at Mark Zuckerberg taking two months paternity leave off for both of his children, or the parental leave policies of Netflix, where parents of both genders are encouraged to take as much time as they need and not just for biological children, but for adopted children as well.
Men should shoulder more of the burden of child care than society expects them to. More and more studies are coming out showing that children and parents benefit from more heavily involved fathers—i.e. when dads read to their children, they may see an improvement in their kiddos’ behavior and in their parenting skills. (Businesses often see positives of having generous paternity leave policies in place as well.)
The point is—most fathers, like me, really want to be more involved and spend more time with their children.
That said, I don’t need a high-five or a pat on the back when I’m doing my job—being a father.
When I am at the park with my daughter, I don’t want to hear, “You got stuck babysitting today, huh?”
I am NOT babysitting. I am my daughter’s primary caregiver and it is called parenting, thank you very much.
When I make dinner for my daughter, I don’t need to be told that I am an amazing husband and father.
I do it all the time because it is one of the responsibilities I shoulder for our family. Nobody would say that my wife is amazing if she cooks dinner, because the expectation is that cooking for the family is a “woman’s work.” Which is sexist and unfair.
When I am running errands with my daughter, I don’t need you to congratulate me on being able to handle my kid and shop at the same time.
It isn’t something unusual. I do it every week.
While I love compliments as much as the next guy, compliments grounded in inappropriate expectations are annoying and I don’t want them.
They end up feeling like backhanded compliments because they make it seem like I am doing better than this very low expectation they have set for me as a dad.
Many comments I hear end up being the equivalent to, “You’re not bad at this parenting thing...for a dad, anyway.”
So I ask you, please help shift the cultural expectations around fatherhood.
Before you say something to a dad out and about with his kids, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to a mom. And then if you wouldn’t, just don’t. It’s simple.
Shift your own expectations to one where dads are supposed to take equal care of the kids, and it isn’t unusual for a dad to do more than half of the child care. That’s just fatherhood, and it is awesome.