Friday, January 23, 2009

Request and Dedication

What do you call a Dad-E who helps get his kids ready in the morning, goes to work all day, comes home, plays with the kids, helps make dinner (and clean up), changes poopy diapers, gives the kids a bath, helps tuck them in at night with hugs and kisses, and then stays up afterwards to help clean up the residual mess and get ready for the next day? A dedicated dad.

What do you call a Mom-E who does the exact same thing? A mom.

The difference is subtle, but significant. It's a stereotype. As a society, we "expect" Mom-E's to do these kinds of things. If a Dad-E is that involved, too, then it's a "bonus." That's not fair to Mom-E's, and, in a way, it should bother Dad-E's, too. A few times I've had complete strangers (usually at church), who have observed me interacting with the boys, say "oh, you're such a great dad." Why? Because I hold my kids, pay attention and talk to them, and love them, even in public? Why didn't you say that to Mom-E, too? She does all of the above, not to mention she carried them around in utero for 9 months. Should I get into her abilities to simultaneously cook dinner, hold a baby, read to a preschooler, let the dog out with her foot, and answer the phone? I'm a guy, if I try to multitask my brain has and will explode.

And yet much of society continues to think in those terms. What makes it worse is the additional stereotype that if a Mom-E works outside of the home, then she's somehow less of a Mom-E. A number of friends have insinuated to my wife that she was a "bad" Mom-E because we have the kids in day care, even if it's part-time. On the flip-side, another family member was criticized for taking 12 instead of 6 weeks of maternity leave. "Why are you taking off for so long, you're not having twins?" My blog is not about giving advice, but when it comes to balancing work and family, I think parents should do what they believe is best for themselves and their children. It's a private, individual decision. Everything in life has risks and benefits, and the decisions are hard.

So why is this business about what it means to be a Dad-E important? I think it boils down to this: my children observe, process, and emulate EVERYTHING I say and do (that's a scary thought, sometimes). My mother told me long ago that the most important thing I could do as a father was to love the mother of my children. There's truth in that observation. What I say and do today, spoken and unspoken, will influence what kind of a spouse and father my boys will be in the future. They see how I support Mom-E working outside of the home. They see how we work together as a team when it comes to taking care of the housework (sure, I mow the grass and she does the ironing--she has "outdoor" allergies and I don't want to burn holes in everyone's clothes--but my kids see us both cook, clean, do laundry, change diapers, etc.) Their attitudes about women, gender roles, and relationships are already forming.

Remember, you are your child's most important teacher.

The Request: Did you challenge yourself to help break the stereotype about what it means to be a Dad-E (dedicated implied)? You can.

The Dedication: Did you thank your Mom-E today? You should.

Have a good weekend,

Rate this post (1 is lowest, 5 is highest)
5 free polls


  1. You are so right Dad-E. I think it is strange when I hear a Dad say he is babysitting his kids. What? Babysitting while your wife is out probably doing something for the family? It is not "babysitting" when you are the Dad. Very well stated Dad-E. I am sure all the Mom-Es out there appreciate your thoughts very much...especially since they are not commended for being good mom-es b/c that is what is expected of them. PS: Dad-E, you and Mom-E should write a book!