“I was so tired last night I went to bed and woke up in the exact same position. I didn’t even move all night,” my husband told me over the phone as I was walking through a funky boutique with my girlfriends a few states away during a girls’ weekend.
“Wow, you must have been tired. What did you do yesterday?”
“I took the kids on a bike ride and wanted to make it home for lunch, but I got so hungry I decided to take them out to eat.”
“Oh fun.” Up until this point, I was only half in the conversation. I was too busy stroking shoes to be fully engaged, but my husband’s last statement grabbed my attention. He took our three kids, ages 2, 4, and 5 out to eat on his own, something he had never done.
“How did it go?” Yes, I was smug. I kind of wanted to pop some popcorn and listen to how he managed that monumental task. Not because I didn’t think he was capable, but because I was excited for him to see how hard it was to manage three kids all day on your own, especially out in public. Maybe then he would understand why I lost my shit a time or two when he was running late, wanted to go out after work or away with his boys for the weekend. While I believe we both need time on our with friends to decompress and “get away from it all,” he had never fully experienced solo parenting for longer than a few hours.
“Well, it was really crowded, but there were so many nice women there. Our waitress brought us crackers right away, and stayed with Anna and Jack so I could take Addison to the bathroom.”
He went on (and on and on) about how many compliments he got about his kids, how they put a rush order on the kids’ food, and how one woman even left him a coupon for 15% off his meal. He got so many accolades I am surprised his head fit through the door on the way out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told me he got a standing ovation for doing such a wonderful job as they left the restaurant.
While I was glad they had a great time and my kids behaved and didn’t ruin anyone else’s lunch, I honestly felt a little salty toward these women. I know they meant well, I do. After all, they were just trying to help him out. They probably had kids of their own and knew what a shitshow it can be dining with multiple toddlers. But they also sent the message that my husband wasn’t capable of handling things on his own, and because he was a man alone with his children, he was some type of super-human who deserved extra praise and special favors, when really he was just doing what he should be doing — being a father, spending time with his kids on a Saturday afternoon.
And the fact I have been out to eat several times with my kids and have never gotten rewarded with coupons or pats on the back (or anything even close) is not why I was disappointed. It’s the damn double standard we are still stuck in. In general, people do not go out of their way for moms in this fashion. Yet we are so quick to melt into a puddle when we see a man out with his kids alone, when really, they are doing what they are supposed to and no extra attention is needed. Our kids are watching this and learning that maybe men do need help when it comes to parenting in a way that a woman does not. While I realize my kids were very young, I can tell you they do remember it and have asked why so many people helped Daddy out that day. They always wanted mounds of crackers at every restaurant from that day forward.
I know it is endearing to see a man alone with his kids, sexy even, but he doesn’t need special treatment. We don’t need to be amazed by it. Just like moms, men know what they are doing when it comes to their kids. We don’t need to emasculate them by second-guessing their parenting skills and offering to help them in ways we would never help a woman. We all know a woman can take her kids out in public with one hand tied behind her back, but guess what, so can a man. And from where I sit, they do a really fucking good job, and we should let them.