Stop Telling My Husband He's Awesome

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

Stop telling my husband he’s awesome. No, seriously. Stop it.

I am heartily sick of coming home to hear stories about old women, young women, old men, young men, women with kids, women without kids, Target cashiers, fellow fishermen, random passersby, and hark the herald angels sing descending down to inform my husband of his apparent awesomeness. This is not because he is super-handsome (though he does look exactly like Jack Black). This is not because he has super powers (though I like to think he does). This is not because of his magnificent hair, or impressive sartorial skills, or burning sex appeal. Nope.

It’s because he dares to leave the house with three kids. And then proceeds to do the same crap I do every single damn day as a stay-at-home-mama.

The last straw came when, a few weeks ago, he found himself at the grocery store with three kids eight and under, two in a car cart, shopping competently for dinner. This is no surprise in our house, because (a) he is not a babysitter, (b) he cooks and I do the laundry, down to matching his fucking socks, (c) I was home folding said laundry for five humans who go through at least two outfits each per day. So as he cruised the aisles, spoke to our children in a normal voice, tampered down their fighting, and somehow managed to shop for the dinner he was cooking, an elderly woman appeared from nowhere and clutched his arm.

“You. Are. So. Brave,” she breathed at him.

“Huh?” Chris asked, because he’s a normal dad who doesn’t see taking his kids to the grocery store as anything out of the ordinary.

“You are so brave. This…” — she gestured at the kids — “So brave, so brave.” She shuffled off, and he was left confused.

If I had been doing the shopping, she’d have glared at me when my kids started acting up. Because that’s how it works in the world. Dads get credit for basic parenting. Moms get crapped on for the exact same thing.

Or take the way he talks to them. Chris has always spoken to the kids like they were people with opinions and important things to say — you know, the way you talk to kids you expect to grow into healthy, happy human beings. I do the same thing. We ask which juice we should buy. We discuss the rise in price of apples. We talk about what a rip-off dish towels can be in certain so-called discount stores and how hard it is to leave Target without buying more than one thing. We ask them what they think about Trump’s latest policy initiative. We talk. We explain. We converse like humans do.

When I do this, no one blinks, unless the 6-year-old is ranting about the need for gun control. When my husband speaks to our kids like they aren’t pets, people goggle.

“I love the way you talk to your kids,” they tell him all the damn time. Waitresses. Target cashiers. Random people. They’ll even say this in front of me, when I’m clearly party of the conversation. Like dads aren’t supposed to talk to their kids at all, or speak only in grunting monosyllabic commands.

Once, in a certain discount supermarket that embraces the hell of doling out carts to small children, Chris was wrangling all three of our boys, two of whom were acting like this was Super Toy Run 2018 and cramming all the things into their carts. He was simultaneously shopping, cleaning out their carts, steering his cart, keeping them from sweeping people off their feet at the knee, and preventing a recurrence of cart bumper cars. I have long stopped visting this grocery store due to the glares and muttered comments from other shoppers. But for Chris? Only smiles. Only sympathetic pats on the back. “Doing good, Dad,” people said. “Way to go, Dad!” The kids got an extra lollipop because the cashier thought he was so amazingly awesome.

Last time I was there she made some comment about how I really needed that chocolate and wine, didn’t I?

Yes, I do. And you can keep your judgment and side-eye, Sharon.

My husband is not awesome.

My husband is not exceptional.

My husband does the same shit I do every damn day.

He does it no better or worse than me.

But he gets all the credit. When the kids act like kids and he copes in a calm tone of voice, it’s like the ceiling opens and confetti descends. When I do it, people glare like I should be dragging someone behind the woodshed. When I talk to them like people, no one notices. When he does it, he’s some exceptional God of parenting. I leave the house with three kids? Of course I do, because I popped them out of my uterus. He does it and it’s some kind of heroism. When he wore one of the kids, back before they could all walk, the comments were insufferable. The only time people commented on my babywearing: to inform me my kid was going to suffocate.

I’m sick of it.

We need to give dads more credit. They aren’t idiots who deserve a pat on the back for basic parenting. But if they do, then so do moms. If a dad going to the supermarket with three kids is heroic, then so is a mom braving the wilds of Target with two preschoolers and an eight-year-old. We need to give moms more grace and space. And we need to stop treating dads like conquering heroes for changing a diaper or feeding a bottle or taking a kid for the afternoon. They aren’t babysitters. They’re parents. They’re fully invested in their children, or should be.

So stop telling my husband he’s awesome. He’s not.

He’s just a dad. He’s a damn good one. But he’s just a dad. The same way I’m a just a mom. But I might just be a damn good one of those, too.

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