“You are the sexiest men alive”
We heard these words as we climbed stairs. 5 of us had gathered for a stair workout, and were doing it with kids strapped to our backs. It sounded like a compliment. At first all the praise we got when seen in public with our children felt good. “What a great dad!” as one of us walked through the grocery store with baby strapped up front. “It’s so great to see such great dads!” as a few of us had breakfast together with our babies.
Early on, the praise we received was reassuring. We were doing OK! But the more we thought about it, the more we realized we were “great” just for having our babies with us. The bar for us had been set at carrying our children. We were “great” for feeding our children breakfast. We were we being told all this by people who had no idea what kind of parents we actually were. They had no idea if we changed diapers, or packed lunches, or shared in teaching and nurturing our children. We can’t count the times people in public have commented on how great they think we are doing.
Our partners can’t count the times they have been told the same because there is nothing to count. Literally ZERO times. Not only are moms less likely to be congratulated for the parenting they are doing, all of our partners have stories of having their parenting corrected by other moms in public. This is not an experience we dads have shared. We do anything and we get a pat on the back. This highlights the sexist double standard that exists around the roles of men and women in caregiving. The commonly held view is that men are either unable or unwilling to share equally in caring for our children.
As time went on and we realized what was happening. These supposed compliments started to sound like little insults to every dad. Telling us we were “great” for nothing other than doing our workout with our kids on board sets expectations for all of us far too low. We need to start spreading the message that dads are equal partners in the parenting journey. We need to show that we both can and want to take part in our children’s early lives. There are as many dads out there as moms. We should see as many dads out with their kids as we see moms. We need to have the expectation that both parents provide loving and supportive environments for their children. For some dads, where this hasn’t been their norm, maybe just being out with their kids is a step. Being present is a great step. But let’s make sure it’s just a first step as we all try to share parenting equally with our partners.
Maybe next time you are called great for just being there, take the time to speak out for dads everywhere and remind that what you are doing is what you signed up for. Dads: its on us to normalize being a parent, not babysitter.
-A shared post by the daddinghamont team
For further reading, see Leah McLaren`s take in the Globe and Mail: