I have something I want to get off my chest.
I’ve come to realize, with every ounce of my being, that the worst part of parenting is other parents.
And if I’m being completely honest with you [*braces for impact*], I actually mean moms.
I’ve only been a father for five months now, and I’ve already heard enough off-putting things from random mothers to make me want to stay inside for a lifetime.
Here’s one example, of which there are many. I was recently walking down the street with my twins. I’d had a rough start to the day, so I was looking forward to a little fresh air and a nice cup of coffee. In the time it took me to walk from my house to the door of the coffee shop, roughly eleven minutes, two different women walked up to me unsolicited and barked “better go home and thank your wife for all she does” and “makes you thankful for your wife, now doesn’t it?”
I was completely shocked.
Here’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to yell back: “There isn’t a wife. It’s just me and my homosexual husband, lady. I’m a stay-at-home parent, busting my ass each day to make sure these twins stay alive.”
Here’s what I actually did. Absolutely nothing.
Honestly, I was in shock. I felt like I was back in school, too afraid to be honest when someone asked: “Do you have a girlfriend?”
It’s so much easier to keep your mouth shut in these situations. But we really shouldn’t.
I know those women weren’t out to hurt my feelings. But their approach represents a big problem with the way we think about, talk to, and speak with dads in our society.
Women have historically stayed at home and raised the kids. In fact, in 1970, only six men in the United States identified themselves as stay-at-home parents. Not 6%. Six entire American men. You could fit ‘em in a Kia.
That year, 3,731,386 babies were born in the US. Subtract six from that number, and that’s a lot of humans being raised by women. Since the dawn of time, women have shouldered most of the burden of caring for kids. That’s an incredible sacrifice that deserves all our gratitude and praise.
But it’s 2018. Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t always include stay-at-home women. Last year, the number of stay-at-home fathers in America was nearly two million. That’s a bloody big Kia.
But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that I was a working husband to a lovely stay-at-home wife. What is the purpose of striding up to that husband and reminding him to thank his wife when he gets home? Is the goal to belittle efforts made by the parent who doesn’t do most of the housework? Bravo. Such compassion.
It’s time we take a look at the way we communicate with each other, especially with modern dads. Parenting is tough. It’s tough for everyone involved. It’s a time filled with stress and fear, and the last thing we need – male or female – is to have someone make you feel insignificant when you’re trying to do your best.
What does that look like? Here’s what I think.
- Be a little more sensitive to the fact that every family is different. Every parent plays a different role in their own home. That’s okay. Be generous. Avoid gender stereotypes altogether, and just focus on the fact that standing right in front of you is a parent doing the best job they can.
- If a friend says something inappropriate, speak up politely. This can be tricky, especially with our elders, but very few people want to hurt other people’s feelings. If you explain why a term like “partner” might be preferable to “wife”, at least you’ve made them aware.
- Spend more time discussing parenthood with the men in your life. You’ll be shocked to find out that they are rarely asked how they feel about this major life change. Most of them – straight and gay – often feel like others view them as the “babysitter” instead of an equal partner in the relationship.
Okay, here endeth the rant. Thank you.
If you’re a stay-at-home dad or a working father who’s had a similar experience, please share your story below. For no other reason than I’d like to know I’m not alone. And if I am alone… well, that’d be nice to know, too.
Until next time, stay sensitive. And crafty. Always stay crafty.