Dads are not Mr. Moms.
A great disservice is being done to our families and society by comparing and treating the men in our lives like children, or worse, like incompetent fools.
Apparently, surveys show that husbands stress out women just as much if not more as their kids. Memes and cartoons taunt, ‘Not sure who is harder to raise: Husbands or kids.’ Phrases like ‘Mr. Mom’, ‘dad is babysitting’, or jokes about the questionable ability of fathers with their children have become commonplace.
Contrary to these views, modern millennial dads are just as involved and sometimes even more so in raising their kids.
So why the conflicting views on the fatherhood?
I remember a conversation I had with another physician during a shift at the clinic. I was the pediatrician on duty and the other doctor was on the family medicine service. We introduced ourselves, discussing our kids, spouses, our schedules, etc.
He shared that both he and his spouse were physicians and although his kids were now in their teens, life was still very busy for them. I agreed, sharing that every stage of life is busy in a different way. As an after hours/urgent care doctor, my shifts are usually evenings and weekends. During the day, I am home with the kids while my husband is at work. On my work days, my husband is with the kids. It is definitely hectic for us but we make it work. At the time, our eldest child was 2 years old and the little one was 6 months old.
He looked a bit surprised and impressed when I mentioned that my husband, a software engineer, was taking care of our two kids while I was at work.
“Both kids? By himself? Wow, I guess he’s being Mr. Mom tonight, huh?’”
It caught me a little off guard that he found this an interesting point. After all, I just finished telling him that I do the exact same thing, which is take care of the kids while my husband works.Despite finding this comment off-putting, I just politely said, ‘no, not Mr. Mom. He’s just… being their dad’. After the initial small talk, we got busy seeing our patients, our shifts ended and we went our separate ways.
After I got home later that night, my husband and I chatted about our evenings. Curious about his experience, I shared the views of my colleague. My husband shared that he frequently received comments like Mr. Mom and he found it both offensive and annoying that people routinely gave him positive comments on how great it was that he is involved in his kids’ life or thanking him for babysitting and giving his wife a break from the kids.
How different are our experiences. I can’t recall a stranger thanking me for babysitting the kids.
The truth is that these comments underlie decades of double standards, relaying the general sense that the brunt of childcare and chores falls on the mother and anything the dad does is extra credit.
Yes, my husband is a wonderful man. After all, I married him and had kids with him. So why wouldn’t I expect him to share the responsibility of parenthood with him?
Holding on to the view that everything besides the 9-5 is extra credit is unrealistic and not even accurate for most modern parents. Women’s roles have expanded, doing double or triple duty as professionals, mothers, and homemakers. Mens roles are changing and they involved in responsibilities both at home and at work.
Studies show that kids are better adjusted happier, and thrive when an involved father is present. The American Psychological Association notes that ‘research on the role of fathers suggests that the influence of father love on children’s development is as great as the influence of a mother’s love’ and that ‘[f]atherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning’. Dads feel just as stressed out as moms and experience bias as well.
However, despite the studies of the positive shift in parenting and parental equality, antiquated views of parenthood are still circulating in polite circles. Hence, the jokes and taunts which disrespect the importance of the father. Haven’t we moved on from the tired view that a woman’s job is a hobby and that the ‘real job’ is taking care of the home and family? Or that men are merely sperm donors? It’s 2018, yes?
Parenting is changing and paradigms need to follow.
It’s not babysitting if you are spending time with your own child. It’s called being a parent.
Let’s not insult the men in our lives by treating them as stand ins for mothers. They are fathers and that needs to be respected.
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