Amongst dads who write about parenting, I’m kind of on an island, at least when it comes to the issue of respect. Many dad bloggers think fathers don’t get their due as parents and are portrayed as doofuses by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.
I’ve never had much of a problem with any of that. All the dads I know are fully engaged in the parenting process and are just as vital and respected as the moms. Sure, there are some negative stereotypes flying around, but progress can take a while. The horse is out of the barn, things are changing for the better, and it’s clear who is on the wrong side of history.
At least I thought it was clear, until a celebrity went on TV and said that he changes his new baby’s diapers, and the media lost its mind, including Scary Mommy!
At the end of last week, you could barely hear Kanye insult Taylor Swift over the chorus of hosannas that sounded when Ryan Reynolds suggested that maybe dads should change diapers once in a while. On Late Night with Seth Meyers, the star of the latest superhero blockbuster admitted, in all his benevolence, that he has been performing literally the most basic, bottom-shelf, slow-pitch, table-stakes parenting responsibility of them all. And the praise was deafening.
The world reacted as if he had cured cancer and invented feminism.
Here I am, ranting and raving about dads being too sensitive because, surely, in this enlightened age, the general public understands how involved we are in our kids’ lives. And then Ryan Reynolds takes a step towards progress that I thought had been made decades ago and the truth is laid bare: Apparently, dads who change diapers are unicorns.
I might have to rethink my whole stance!
This is almost as baffling to me as the fact that Donald Trump is leading in the polls. Are there really that many people out there living the kinds of prehistoric lives that the idea of a man caring for his own baby is so bizarre it takes a movie star to make it plausible? It’s 2016! Are there really such wide swaths of men out there who refuse to lift a finger to either help out their wives—just after childbirth, 6 months later, 5, 10, 20 years down the line—or simply parent their own children that one celebrity’s comments suggesting that maybe they should do otherwise are breaking news?
Is the bar really this low? For fathers and for husbands?
In the past, I’ve written about how I’m uncomfortable getting praise for the good parenting front I put up online, because I’m not all that. Well, guess what? It turns out I am all that! I change diapers on the regular! I get up and help feed my newborn in the middle of the night! I pack my son’s lunches, I take him to the bus stop, I read him bedtime stories, I cook dinner, I do laundry, sometimes I engage in foreplay, and I even stopped to ask for directions (once)!
SETH MEYERS, LET ME USE YOUR SHOW TO INTRODUCE THE WORLD TO THIS NEW PARADIGM OF MASCULINITY! I RESPECT AND VALUE MY WIFE AS A PERSON, AND I PERFORM THE BASIC FUNCTIONS OF PARENTHOOD AS NO MAN HAS BEFORE!
Look, more power to Deadpool and everything (my wife is dying for a Just Friends 2, btw!); he’s setting a great example non-terrible example. And I’m certainly happy he’s diving in with both feet to support, nay, join his wife in this whole “raising kids” thing by being an actual partner and a full-fledged parent. But can we all calm down just a little bit?
Because if the fact that a dad is enthusiastically “pitching in” is such big, groundbreaking news, then that makes me sad. And it makes me realize I’ve been wrong to dismiss my fellow dads when they get annoyed when fathers are belittled. Clearly, we have a lot more work to do.
Ryan Reynolds may play a superhero on screen, but to the millions of involved dads who are out there in the trenches every day, what he’s doing isn’t super at all. It’s simply normal.