When it comes to acknowledging dads and their role in parenting, we really can do better. I realize not all children have a mother and a father — one may have two dads, or just one dad and no mother. The list below is based on my own personal experience, and (probably) that of most dads out there. I touch on this a little in No. 11. Please stop saying these things to and about dads:
1. “On (baby) duty, huh?”
It’s called being a parent. When is the last time you were at a playground or kid’s birthday party and something like this was said, “On duty, huh?” to a mom with a child.
The assumption is that, of course, she’s on duty. She’s a mom and that’s what they do. Dads just fill in once in a while so mom can get a break, right? No. Stop it. A dad with his child is not “on duty” any more than a mom.
2. “You babysitting tonight?”
Babysitting is when you watch someone else’s child, typically so the parents of said child can go on a date or maybe even work. Staying home with one’s own children, even if it’s a dad doing it, is called being a parent.
Yes, I know lots of people mean no harm when they say this. They might even say it to a mom if the dad was going ou…oh, who am I kidding? When dads go have a night with the boys — to play poker, go to wing night, watch the game at the bar, or whatever it is that groups of men do — it’s just mom staying home with the kids and “doing her job”.
Same goes for dads. Stop calling it babysitting.
3. “Taking one for the team, eh?”
I mean, yeah, it’s technically more difficult to parent alone than with two parents. My wife and I much prefer when both of us are there if we have our two children with us.
I would say she is taking one for the team if she were to have both kids, but most people see that and think nothing of it. Oh, look, a mom with kids just doing what moms do.
But dads taking on multiple children (or heck, even one child), well, he’s making some grand sacrifice that should be recognized. Without his generosity, none of this would be possible. Again, it’s just a dad doing what’s expected (or should be expected) of him from time to time. Plus, who’s to say the dad doesn’t enjoy having his kid(s) to himself, and that it’s not at all a chore or a burden?
4. “Relieving mom for a bit/giving mommy a break?”
Why do we assume that mom is the primary caregiver? Or that when dad has the kids, it’s so mommy can get a break? When we see moms, do we say, “Giving dad a break”? No, we don’t.
And yes, I realize that it’s still much more common for women to take on the larger parenting role. But that doesn’t mean that the only reason a man would have his children with him is so that mommy can get a break.
We have to stop thinking of dads as relief pitchers who enter late in the game when the starting pitcher needs a rest. It’s a team effort. Sometimes mom is with the kids, and sometimes it’s dad. At least that’s how it should be.
5. “Let’s hope the house is still standing when mom gets home!”
Because dads are completely inept and incompetent buffoons who have no idea how to keep the house from catching on fire or being destroyed by little humans. If they don’t do it very often, yeah, things could be a little messier or disorganized when mom gets home.
But to assume that every dad is just running some sort of “daddy day care” (full disclosure: I’ve only ever seen the trailer) is just silly. Grown men should be able to stay home with the kids and not have everything fall apart. And we should give them enough credit and stop making them sound completely clueless.
6. “Oh, looks like daddy dressed you today.”
Oh, haha! The child has mismatched socks or the shirt is on backwards. Silly dad! He doesn’t know any better — come on.
Is it true that my wife would say I don’t have much of a fashion sense when it comes to picking outfits for our boys? Absolutely. But is it necessarily the case that every child who isn’t perfectly dressed, expertly coiffed, and squeaky-clean was put together by dad? Of course not. Moms get overwhelmed and can be distracted while dressing kids.
Is it clean, and does it fit? Good enough — off you go. This is probably more common with dads of daughters, which to be fair can be more challenging.
Let’s stop insulting dads by saying, “Oh, look at this poor child, being dressed by her bumbling dad.”
Also, how mean is it to make fun of a kid like that? The comment clearly isn’t meant as a compliment.
7. “Ah, you got him trained well.”
So if a man is a good father and does his share of duties around the house he’s been trained by the woman? It couldn’t possibly be that he’s a grown man who understands that relationships and parenting require a division of labor and sharing of responsibility.
We just assume he’s doing all of it against his will and/or has been taught how to be a “good boy” by his wife/girlfriend. Come on — lots of men (but not enough) know how to take care of business.
8. “Wow, he changes diapers!”
Newsflash: Men are capable of changing diapers without dropping the child, getting poo everywhere, putting the diaper on backwards, etc. Men shouldn’t get an award or a celebratory parade in their honor because they change a damn diaper. It’s part of parenting, just like feeding them, bath time, and bedtime.
And since when do we expect women to do this disgusting thing but not the others? “Oh, I would never ask her to take out the trash/pick up the dog poo/kill spiders. But yes, feces from baby butts, that’s all on moms, and if dads help they’re heroes.”
9. “You’re lucky he’s so helpful.”
Nope. Not lucky. It shouldn’t be like women have won the “awesome daddy lottery” because the man does his friggin’ job as a parent. It’s not helpful when we assume the man does absolutely nothing and then say that the mom is so lucky her partner helps out with childrearing (even diapers?!).
Expect more and realize that there are lots of dads who are kicking ass and not expecting mom to do all the “parenting stuff” while they take care of the barbecuing and lawn-mowing.
10. “Just throw on football/MMA/boxing/play Xbox/some other ‘manly’ thing.”
Let’s stop encouraging men to just do whatever they’d do without a baby and just have the child as an accessory. And I get it, this one happens quite a bit (or at least we photograph it a lot). It’s probably other guys who say it more, especially non-dads.
Can we stop perpetuating this myth that fathers “spend time” with their kids by taking part in that favorite activity of theirs while not paying attention to the child? “But it’s cute. Look at the baby watching the hockey game with daddy!”
A baby/young toddler has no business watching sports (and certainly MMA fighting) or seeing fast-paced and loud video games. It’s barely appropriate for young kids to be watching TV of any sort, let alone football or Assassin’s Creed.
I suspect that men say this to dads in an attempt to not sound like “weak” domesticated men (the shame!). And from men who aren’t fathers: “Man, when I have kids, my life isn’t gonna change. They can watch the game with me and play Halo 59.”
There are plenty of dads who do age-appropriate things with their kids, and yes, that includes “girly” stuff like listening to nursery rhymes and playing with toy cooking sets.
11. Making references to mommy/your wife.
I know it’s likely the case that a man with a child has a wife or girlfriend, somewhere. But what if that man is gay, or not married yet, or the mother has passed away, or they’re divorced/separated. When women are with the kid(s) we don’t often reference the husband in some way that says, “Oh, giving that man a break/he’s lucky to have you/it’s nice to see a mom out with her child.” So let’s try to avoid jumping to the conclusion that while this dad is out with his child(ren) there’s a mother who’s getting a break and lucky to have this man as the father of her kids.
There’s just really not a need to make a comment at all, unless it’s a general “great day to be out with the kids…looks like they’re having a blast…enjoy them while they’re young because they grow up fast” (trite, yes, but also true).