Dads Being Good Dads is Big News
The New York Times this weekend did a full spread, front and mid-section page coverage on stay-at-home dads. The feature was a really nice one, a recognition of sorts, of men everywhere who have left the work place, either willingly or not, to care for their children while mom went to work.
As I read through it I felt happy for the many fathers who were jolted into stay-at-home-dom and have found their place. But the more I read the more I wondered, “When was the last time the New York Times, or anyone not considered a female-targeted publication, celebrated women who made similar sacrifices?”
I get that it’s kind of “trendy” this whole “dad taking care of their kids” thing, but is it really? I know many fathers, my husband included, who have been caring for their kids with an equal sense of commitment and passion than a lot of the dads featured in this piece. And like many of the dads featured in this piece, he builds stuff for his boys, cooks for them, cleans up after them, cares for them, takes them to the park, to school, to playgroups, attends parenting meetings, school functions, and more. Granted, he works out of the house, but when I travel, he acts very much not only like a good dad, but somewhat even like a single dad, as all responsibilities fall on him alone. It’s an awesome thing really, and one that I acknowledge and celebrate and appreciate daily – but is it really worth all the hoopla? Is it really worth saying, “You boys are incredible! Look at you! What a great job you’re doing! GO DAD!”
Listen, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. I get that it’s a cultural shift in male roles that has been growing over the past few years and that for many people, seeing a dad swoon over his baby is, to some, the biggest thing since sliced bread. You should’ve seen the moms at a recent blogging conference loose their shit when they saw a dad feeding his baby girl while the mom mingled with fellow female bloggers. It was HUGE. And these men should be celebrated for being great men, and hopefully also great partners.
But women have been making sacrifices for many years too. Yet, when a woman chooses to leave work to care for her children, she is seen as somewhat of a loser by society. The image of a stay-at-home mom is not as trendy and cool and worthy of a full spread New York Times feature. And what about the moms who are now the main providers for their families? What does the NYT and society have to say about them? That they lack the ability to mother their children? That they abandoned their nature-given roles to play corporate head honcho in the world of men – cause let’s face it, it’s still a world of men. That they are selfish? Cold-hearted? Bad mothers?
Look at the grief given to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for not only choosing to work through her pregnancy, but also her maternity leave and choosing to come right back after she gives birth. Yet, the NYT article celebrates the father, “this close” to becoming partner at the law firm he worked to be full-time dad – which, um, kinda gave his wife (also a lawyer) the full responsibilities of managing the corporate world, even after they had baby number two. So what is it, society? Are these guys only awesome because they gave up their careers to be daddy, or because they also have the support of the women who choose to keep working so they can stay home?
I am happy that some families have the ability to make these choices. That there are relationships out there where the man is confident enough, or at least has learned to be, to stay home and care for his children. That guys are finding their new (?) roles as fathers so freaking rewarding.
But, there are many more families out there made up of single moms who do what they do and more, and no one sees them as heroes – actually, according to some, single mom homes are the destruction of society as a whole. As a matter of fact, the last time the NYT featured anything on single moms was in their opinions section – not much of a feature there.
There are stay-at-home moms who have been doing this for a lot longer and no one has featured them to say, “Look at you! You are effing awesome!” And, there are women out there who sacrifice everything and more to be with their kids and who sew dresses and build cars and change diapers and all those really amazing things dads are learning to do now (?).
So, yes. Kudos to the dads who stay home with their kids. Congratulations on making it work and not loosing your sense of self or manhood. And, nice job on being able to blog about it. Because of your choices my boys will grow up in a society where a man’s role is not so strictly and exclusively defined by his place at work. For this, I thank you. But let’s be clear, you being a good dad is what we moms expect you to be. You providing how ever you can, and supporting your partner and your children the best way you know how, is what we wanted from you all along. You playing a more significant role as father and caregiver is why some of us married you in the first place.
So congrats on the NYT feature, and thanks for keeping up with what so many mothers have been doing for so long already. We love you and appreciate you for it all. Now, don’t forget to take out the garbage.
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