We've said it before here at Motherly, dads should be seen as partners—not just 'helpers.' But this week at a coffee shop in Iowa, O'Rourke spoke to a crowd of citizens and reporters, and joked that his wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, is raising his kids, "sometimes with [his] help."
The statement was tweeted by Washington Post reporter Matt Viser and quickly ignited a controversy online, with some parents offended and others feeling that the comment was a joke.
But experts say even if O'Rourke's comments were a joke, they highlight the extra burden that working mothers carry, and that men don't. And that's not funny in 2019.
"Comments like this might seem harmless or made in jest, or maybe even a form of praise for women's hard efforts at caring for kids. But these comments aren't harmless," sociologist Caitlyn Collins, author if the new book, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, tells Motherly.
"But I'd say that it's problematic for any men—especially those in positions of power—to reference 'babysitting' or 'helping' raise their kids rather than egalitarian parenting. This rhetoric suggests that childrearing is primarily women's responsibility," adds Collins.
As Claire Kamp Dush, associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, previously told Motherly, "Women need to ban 'my husband helps me a lot' from their language."
So here are seven phrases we can use instead of calling dads helpers:
- Instead of, "I'm so happy my husband's babysitting tonight," try, "I'm so happy to have a partner who can stay home with the kids tonight."
- Instead of, "My partner's great, he helps me a lot with the baby," try,"My partner is great, he's such a competent father."
- Instead of, "My partner watches the baby for me while I work," try, "My partner parents the baby while I'm at work."
- Instead of, "My husband helps with household chores a lot", try, "We try to keep responsibilities around the house equal."
- Instead of, "Thanks for helping me with the kids today," try, "Thanks for being such a great dad."
- Instead of "Why don't you want to watch the baby by yourself" try "You've got this. You're a competent dad. I trust you."
- Instead of, "You need to start helping with the laundry," try, "I have a lot on my plate. You need to do some laundry, too."
And here are a few phrases for dads like Beto to use:
- Instead of, "She's raising the kids, I'm just helping," try, "My partner shoulders a lot of responsibility and I really appreciate her."
- Instead of, "I can't come I'm babysitting my kids," try, "I can't come, I've got my kids today."
- Instead of, "I help out a lot at home" try, "I put in effort in around our house."
Because if fathers are labeled as helpers, they are by definition not equal parents. And we know that that is what millennial fathers want to be, and what American families need them to be.