Let's Stop Making Dads Look Dumb

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
making dads look dumb
RuslanDashinsky / iStock

No, really. Stop it.

Men are capable of actual parenting. Sure, if you’re a SAHM, you see the munchkins for more hours a day than he does, so you’re more likely to know that one hates PB&J, the other loves PB&J, and the third will leave gigantic crusts on his plate. But that’s not the meat of parenting; that’s the seasoning on top. Your husband is 100% capable of parenting his children without your help.

He can dress them, get their teeth brushed, and get them out the door. Remember the picture that went around recently of the dad brushing his daughter’s hair into a ponytail? That’s extraordinary only because someone took a picture of it. Dads do their daughters’ hair all the damn time. They don’t just brush it and put bows on it, either. They wash it, too. Dads can work through the shampoo-condition-detangle routine. This is mind-blowing for most of American culture. But I swear it’s true.

He can also do more than feed your kids bowls of cereal for dinner. Your husband is at least capable of making sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pasta, and a vegetable side. He can also heat up food you’ve previously made. However, he can also cook as decently as you when given directions on how to do so. You need to stop fearing your kids will starve when you leave him in charge of things. His culinary expertise extends beyond the grill, so stop setting out PB&Js when you leave them with him. He can fend for himself, in the best possible way.

And when you leave them with him, he isn’t babysitting. “Babysitting” implies he never watches the kids, and he’s getting paid to do so. It’s also not a “Daddy Day” or “Mommy’s Spa Day” or something stupid like that. He is a parent, who is left alone to parent his children in the ways he sees fit. Calling him a babysitter is rude and demeaning to your family structure.

He is also capable of running traditionally feminine errands with children in tow. For example, dads can go to the grocery store with children and not buy the wrong food, kill the kids, or burn the place down. No one needs to come up to him and tell him he’s doing a “good job!” A good job of what? Basic parenting? No one comes up to me in Target to say I’m doing a good job at basic parenting duties, like pushing a cart with three kids. But when my husband does it, he’s hailed as a conquering hero because he is pushing a shopping cart in Target with three kids. This should not be extraordinary.

Yes, I know he doesn’t do things the way you do them. For example, my husband often gets our kids’ clothes mixed up. He’ll put the 2T on the tiny preschooler and the 3T on the 2-year-old. I used to rant and rave when he made mistakes like this. Then I realized that he doesn’t usually sort the laundry. I do because I’m a SAHM and he works all day. Wearing clothes that are mildly ill-fitting — mildly, mind you — isn’t a yelling-worthy offense. It’s something anyone but me would do. No one else can be expected to know the red Star Wars T-shirt belongs to the baby, especially when it used to belong to the 4-year-old. And this is all fucking irrelevant to everyone’s happiness anyway.

He also may not discipline the exact same way you do. His tolerance for screaming may be higher. His tolerance for wrestling may be higher. His tolerance for mess may be higher, so when you come home, it looks like a gang of small children hit the house. You would freak out if the kids made this kind of a mess. He may not notice because he doesn’t worry about things like that. The mess isn’t on his radar. It’s on yours because you’re acutely aware that you’re the one cleaning it up.

And when that mess happens, after you both put the kids to bed — he can manage a bedtime story — he can help you clean it up. No, he won’t know that the goggles go in the pink basket, not with the costumes, and the Star Wars figures are separate from the dinosaurs. He won’t know this because he generally isn’t the one cleaning them. And if you think about it, these things really don’t fucking matter anyway. So let him do it the way he wants to do it and don’t go behind him changing it. That’s rude and makes him feel incompetent, which he isn’t. He’s cleaning, isn’t he?

Dad isn’t the bumbling, incompetent fool they play him for on TV. He’s an actual parent, with actual parenting skills, who can manage basic parenting things, like cooking and cleaning and washing hair and running errands. Dad’s got as much at stake in this enterprise as Mom. So stop treating him like an idiot — because he isn’t one, and you deserve the support.

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