My kids have a great dad. A stellar dad, a true prince among fathers. Seriously, he has like, a parenting philosophy, and can heal a broken heart with consensual tickling. This man was born to be a dad. But one thing about this whole awesome-dadness rankles, at least when you’re the mama involved. He gets credit for everything. You’d think the man hung the moon, the stars, and the sun, then staged a total solar eclipse as a kind of party trick, when he performs the basic acts of parenting.
The things moms do every day? Olympic gold medals, people. Ticker-tape parades with big brass bands, possibly nominations for political office. It’s totally unfair. Moms stand over here toiling their asses off with not so much as a nod of acknowledgment. Dad gets a round of high-fives. Like …
1. When he takes the kids to the grocery store.
When we wrangle a baby, a squalling toddler, and a 5 year old through produce, people glare at us like, “Can’t she shut that kid up?” When dad does it, people swarm with offers to help and pats on the back. Hell, the kid doesn’t even need to be squalling. They can be perfectly behaved, but he’s still a hero. Once, in Publix, an old lady put a hand on my husband’s shoulder. “You’re so brave,” she said. The kids? They were being perfect angels. WTF.
2. When he cooks dinner.
Tell someone your husband cooked dinner — cooked, not grilled. Just try it. “What a catch!” one of my friends said to me about it. “Oh my gosh, can I borrow him?!” another demanded. “Chris is such a good guy,” my own mother likes to inform me: “He cooks.” When mom picks up a skillet, no one gives a flying fuck. It’s just business as usual — everyone assumes she makes all the food. But when dad whips up something palatable that isn’t cereal, everyone cheers like he’s won the freaking Tour de France.
3. When he changes a diaper.
One kid = approximately eight million diaper changes, seven million of which have exploded poop up to the back of their necks, and mom is supposed to do it all. When dad steps in to “help,” he’s a hero. He’s supposed to be bumbling and stupid and put the diaper on backwards, and even this is still heroic, because poop.
My husband did half the diaper changes and even used flat diapers, which he had to fold himself. This had half the hippie population of my town panting after his sweet, sweet ass. Meanwhile, I’m ninja-ing diapers all day, but people only wrinkle their noses and ask if I really put poop in my washing machine.
4. When he puts the kids to bed.
Who puts the kids to bed? Mama puts the kids to bed. Why does mama put the kids to bed? Ask traditional Western gender roles. When dad steps in to “help,” he’s some kind of gem, a miracle, a rare bird. Like it’s hard to read Dragons Love Tacos then hold a kid’s hand while you play on your phone for 20 minutes. High-fives for cruising Deadspin, asshole.
5. When he dresses the kids and they don’t look like ragamuffins.
It’s a joke, right: When the kids don’t match, clearly daddy dressed them. If you have a mate who practices basic color-coordination and selects the appropriate shoes for the season, you’re supposed to jump up and down and kiss his feet before offering a blow job. The kids don’t have to look particularly good to earn effusive accolades. They just have to look semi-decent and not mix plaids with stripes.
6. When he does something gendered with his daughter.
You spend all day having tea with Polly PrissyPants, combing the snarls out of Barbie’s hair, and pretending to be Elsa for the six hundred and tenth time. But your husband braids his daughter’s hair and the pictures go fucking viral. In fact, the ability to scrape together a decent ponytail makes for some kind of hero-dad, and playing restaurant for 20 minutes while pretending to eat wooden sushi cements his Dad of the Year award. Where’s our award for doing this crap everyday?
Screw him, because you’re the one who has to clean up the play food.
7. When he talks to his kids like they are not space aliens.
My husband converses with our kids the way you talk to normal people, like: “How’s your day?” “What did you do?” “Did you know they discovered a new dinosaur in Patagonia?” Frequently, when out in public, strangers approach and tell him, “I love the way you talk to your kids.” If I did this, it would be dismissed as meaningless chatter and people would wish we’d just STFU.
8. When he knows about children’s pop culture.
Moms are expected to, on the spot, reel off the three members of PJ Masks, the four babies on Dinosaur Train, and the name of that stupid captain on Octonauts. If dads know that Octonauts is a thing that exists which children watch, not a sea porno from the 1970s, they’re already champions.
If they can speak at length about a child’s favorite character, episode, or even hum a theme song, they’re fatherhood gold. Meanwhile I’m trying to go to sleep, but that PJ Masks song is stuck in my head and screw you, dad.
9. When he takes them to anything remotely educational.
Admit it: Everyone notices dad at library story time. He’s so sweet! So sensitive! What a guy! If he takes his kids to art class, then has a conversation with the teacher? Stop the presses, this is international news. Children’s museum? Oh wow, what an amazing father, spending quality time with his child.
When I do any of these things, no flying fucks would be given if people even bothered to notice me, which they don’t. Why? Because I’m the mom, that’s why.
10. When he doesn’t talk on his phone.
If I plop down on a playground bench and pull up Facebook, the Mom Mafia will start snarking immediately. I’m expected to sit phoneless and staring while my children do their playground thing, occasionally calling out both commands and encouragement. Dad doesn’t even have to go that far. Did he take them to the playground? He’s a hero! Is he actively watching them? OMG, he’s so involved! Is he shouting encouragement? He must be such a loving father. I’m over here no less loving, but dad gets all the credit.
And if he gets up to push them on the swings? The heavens open, angel choirs sing, and all the moms rise in a standing ovation. I’m just expected to haul my carcass over there and push the kid till I drop.
11. When he babywears.
This is just not even fair, people. I dragged kids around on my front, back, and side for five years and no one cared, other than to tell me that my children were going to die of suffocation (they weren’t) or be late to walk (they weren’t). My husband puts on a kid — especially in a wrap — and it’s like he put on the identity of a Greek god. Strangers compliment him. They tell him what a good daddy he is. They tell him how sweet he is. They tell him how cute the baby is.
Men, if you ever want to get laid, borrow a baby and stick it in a sling.
12. When he volunteers for your kid.
No one treats you like a martyr for organizing the PTA bake sale. Hell, it’s not a guarantee that anyone even learns your name. But a Little League coach? Part the crowd and hand him a free hotdog, the conquering hero’s arrived! A Little League coach is the pillar of the community, apparently. He’s the arbiter of disputes, the wiper of tears, the yeller of encouragement and canned athletic phrases. Meanwhile you stew in the corner of the stands with your bake sale, which everyone forgot about, loaded down with chalky supermarket cookies. Too bad dad’s the one with the bat.
Basically, if he does anything remotely resembling housework or child care, he’s “taking time to be a dad today.” But look, people: I took 15 fucking hours to be a mom today, and no one stopped me in the supermarket, told me I was brave, liked the way I talked to my kids, or even praised me for being a good mom. We’re expected to nurture and read and tell stories and dance like freaking Elsa and sing the Octonauts “Creature Report” song during diaper changes.
Hey dad, we love you. We’re glad you’re here, and you do an amazing job. But hey dad, sometimes? Fuck you, dad.