It’s no secret that moms have their work cut out for them. And if anyone ever questioned it: enter a global pandemic. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s just how much weight moms carry. This pandemic is proof that moms hold everything together, often with little support from their male partners. Fathers aren’t the ones dropping out of the workforce at an alarming rate — mothers are. Fathers aren’t the ones who are expected to maintain a career, take care of the housework, and manage their kids’ virtual learning — mothers are.
I know that not every family looks the same. It truly does take a village to raise a child. But it seems there’s been an outpouring of frustration from mothers in heterosexual relationships with their children’s fathers. They’re frustrated that they are parenting both their kids and their partners. I see it in many of my friends’ relationships. I see it within my own extended family. I hurt for my fellow mothers. My heart aches for the women who carry the burden of their families almost entirely on their shoulders all alone. And I can’t help but feel guilty, because this isn’t a problem I have.
My husband is supportive and present. He takes just as much of a role in raising our son as I do. Sometimes, he carries more weight than I do. He is never irresponsible. I have never once been worried to leave my son with him. I don’t have to check-in. I don’t have to remind him about nap times or what foods to stay away from or to use the diaper cream when the baby’s booty looks a little red.
It’s a different kind of privilege that I don’t always realize I have until I mention something offhand to an acquaintance, like that my husband was staying home with our son because he was sick, and I get a scoff and a ton of follow up questions. “Why didn’t you stay home?” Because I am a teacher and we get very few sick days. Not to mention it’s a pain in the ass to plan for a sub. “Aren’t you worried about leaving your sick baby at home with only your husband?” No. He’s a father. He knows what he’s doing. No one would question my ability to take care of my sick baby, why would you question his? He’s as much a parent as I am. We literally have the exact same level of experience. “What about his job?” Um…what about mine? He works from home and doesn’t always have to take a sick day to stay at home with our son. I don’t get maternity leave, so all my sick days were used up to give birth.
Let me be clear — as frustrating as this line of questioning is, my frustration isn’t aimed at the person asking the question, it’s aimed at the society that enables men to behave like large children and put the entire weight of their families and households on their wives. My frustration is at the perception that men aren’t capable. Why do we buy into that bullshit? If my husband can do it, yours can too.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, your husband isn’t like most men.” I get this a lot. It’s used as an excuse any time my friends complain about something their spouse has done — or not done. And I get it. Their frustration at my privilege isn’t lost on me. I know it’s nuts, but I can’t help but feel guilty.
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I’m sick and fucking tired of my husband being referred to as the “exception” to the rule. I’m tired of women looking down on me for not having it as hard as they do. Because my husband should not be the “exception” to the “rule” that is half-ass fathers.
My husband is incredible. I am lucky to have him, to be loved by him, and to share a life with him. However, he is not doing anything remarkable. In fact, he’s doing about the same amount of work that moms do every single day. And before you scoff at me for not giving him credit, he would be the first person to tell you that he just does his job and helps his family. He would point to me and say that he and I pull this parenting thing off together. He pulls his weight. We both do. And I am convinced this is the reason why I’m not one of those women who has had to drop out of the workforce. I’m not one of those women who is fighting burnout (well, at least not as far as motherhood is concerned, teaching is another matter).
I know that this cannot apply to everyone, but this is how it should be for all mothers. When the father of your children is an equal partner, when he pulls not only his own weight but helps pull the weight of your children, it makes a huge difference. My family is the proof that what we need to get rid of the problem of mom burnout or the problem of women feeling like they have to leave the workforce is for men to step up and pull not only their own weight, but some of the children’s weight as well. We need society to stop giving men excuses. Parents are parents. Period. Being a mom or a dad shouldn’t be an indicator of the amount of parenting you do.
Dads, if you are unsure or not confident in your ability to care for your kids on your own, admit it. Ask questions. Learn. You are smart and you are capable. You can figure out what your wife or partner does and you can learn to pick up any slack. Part of the problem is that women assume their partners aren’t competent. That’s not true.
People perform to the level that is expected of them. If we don’t expect our husbands or partners to be able to perform basic tasks, like housework or taking care of our kids, then they assume they can’t. I see this concept every day in my classroom. If I expect my students to do well, they’re much more likely to outperform their own expectations.
Stop assuming men aren’t capable. They are. And dads, start asking questions. It’s time for everyone to step up. Not just moms.