There is something endearing about involved fathers. When we get a cute fatherhood story on social media about a dad making dinner to his kids or brushing his daughter’s hair, we often give the digital standing ovation. Especially women. However this glorification of involved fathers is wrong on many levels.
I am personally experiencing this praise on a regular basis. Whenever I go out for a stroll with my daughter, I get smiles and friendly comments. If I go out alone with both of my children, the friendliness and positive reinforcement get stronger. And when I go grocery shopping alone with both of them, forget about it: the looks get even bigger, the gentle stare even more gratifying: I am being looked at like I am a goddamn superhero.
While my ego self is extremely pleased, I cannot help but feeling guilty: why am I being celebrated for parenting my children while mothers are being ignored (or worse) for doing the same thing?
And this is the core of the issue.
The problem is not the celebration of involved fathers but the dismissal of mothers for similar behaviors. The truth is fathers, for generations, have been setting standards that are so low that we are being celebrated for the most basic caregiving acts.
Where are the praises for working mothers? The ones that juggle work, family life, playdates, doctor appointments while being underpaid and made feel guilty about not staying at home with their kids?
Where are the praises for stay at home moms? The ones that dedicate their lives to make a home and that run an entire household without earning a paycheck or having vacation time?
Where are the praises for single moms? The ones that are completely alone and that have to literally DO IT ALL? Chances are you probably crossed the paths of many of them. Maybe one of them was overwhelmed, tired, with screaming kids all around her: you might even have given her the judgmental side eye, while smiling to a dad for simply being a dad .
Of course, I understand that those behaviors are the result of centuries of traditional gender norms. However at a time when mothers are increasingly present in the workplace, it is urgent that we normalize involved fathers or that we celebrate motherhood equally, at the very least.
Let’s get something straight.
If both parents are working, it is only natural for house shores and childcare to be equally divided. Period.
You don’t get to have bonus points just because you are a dad and making dinner, or washing the dishes or taking the kids to school. The only fathers that can truly claim the superhero title are single dads. They are, with single mothers, in my opinion, the unsung heroes of our time and deserve to be celebrated.
A couple of years ago, I remember being triggered by Michelle Obama’s remarks during the White House Summit on the United State of Women. I was surprised because I genuinely love Michelle Obama, but somehow I felt so offended by her overall advice to men, which was “be better”. At this time, I was viewing my “commitment” as a father as exceptional, instead of recognizing that caregiving was simply part of my “job description”. In retrospect, two years and a daughter later, I get it. As men, we must be better. We must do better. Involved fathers are simply completing the tasks they ignored for generations. Nothing to brag about.