Moms rule, dads drool

homer sleepingI was going to call this post “Defeating Stupid Stereotypes About Dads One Stupid One at a Time.” Then I realized that people might think I was referring to stupid dads, and not the stereotypes, and all hell would break loose. It would be a big ol Stereotype Cage Match on this page, the men armed with hunting knives and ninja style weapons; the women with frying pans at the ready, hoping not to get blood on their freshly pressed aprons.

What? That doesn’t sound like reality to you?

Funny, because I’ve read a lot (a lot) of articles and posts lately about the differences between moms and dads. All based on absolutely…um, something. I guess.Okay, dads have penises. Except for Lesbian Dad, who would be first to admit that. And dads, according to census data, earn more on the dollar. They also don’t tend to go back to work after paternity leave the way moms do, and get the sad sympathetic eyes and the hand on a shoulder while a colleague asks, “so…who’s taking care of the kids? Really? Are you okay with that?”

I am happy to support these assertions should you require it.

I have more trouble supporting the idea that men don’t take care of boo-boos, or show emotions, or pack healthy lunches, or change diapers well.

A post by Beta Dad last week pointed me to a post on Babble that I’m sure was written by a lovely guy and doting father (if he’s anything like his wife), that took the unfortunate structure of “reasons moms are better than dads.” I’m sure it was meant as an homage to his wife on Mother’s Day, and would have played a lot better with the title “The things my wife does better than I do.” Still, it’s not hard to see why the doting online dad community which I know and love was grandly annoyed.

But my eyebrows raised about 10 inches higher (a feat only accomplished by my minimal remaining resistance to Botox) when I found similar statements in a major publication yesterday.Working Mother, no less.

Shocked. Shocked, I say!

Evidently men forget sunscreen for the kids, they ignore their kids to check sports scores, they don’t know when their kid is getting sick, they prioritize “important meetings” over chaperoning field trips (uh okay), and they consider beef jerky on a hot dog bun “a real lunch.”

I mean geez, everyone knows beef jerky is better on sourdough.

There are plenty of things Nate does not do well. There are plenty of things I do not do well. If I were to list them all, multiple choice test style, and you had to fill out the little circles with a #2 black pencil next to the name Liz or Nate you might even fail our test.

Forgets sunscreen when we head to the park….. Liz

Makes wholesome lunches…. Nate

Yells at other parent for making peanut butter sandwiches with carrot sticks every day because  parent A would rather force the kids to try something healthy and new while parent B is happy just to know the kids are eating anything at all. … Nate

Knows exactly what to do with a hangnail…. Nate

Can’t make eggs… Liz

Gets yelled at for checking the phone too often … Liz

Believes that kids need to lose sometime and not everyone gets a trophy… Liz and Nate (ha, trick question)


Now the thing is, I don’t think we’re like some crazy rule-breakin’ Brooklyn couple who defies every gender stereotype. Nate is not a fan of clothes in hampers. I get insane when I come home to the air freshener on the entryway bookshelf and not where it belongs. Nate is great about taking the kids out to kick around a soccer ball on the weekends. I tend to help the girls pick out their clothes, and yes, I like when they match. Also, his farts? Extremely bad. Extremely.

Put it all together, and I’d imagine we as a couple are more like most of you, where there are some things you do well, some things your partner does well, and thank goodness you found each other, because that yin and yang balances out in the end to create some amazing kids if you’re lucky.

And if your husband isn’t the most nurturing of guys? As Kristen so perfectly, perfectly put it (please read this!) sometimes you just have to give him a chance.

In 2006 (2006!) I wrote a post imploring people to stop calling stay-at-home dads Mr. Mom, or to ask them if they’re “playing mommy.”  Oddly, it was called It is 2006, right? And now here it is, 2012, and just this week I got a pitch for a “humorous” new dad gift themed around a man’s innate incompetence around and abject fear of new babies.

It was Nate who taught me how to change a diaper. He always did it better than I did.

The more boys and men grow up to see messages about their deficiencies as caregivers, the more they will assume that it is true. The same way the more girls grow up to see messages about their prime value being sexual, the more they will assume that it is true.

If we continue to let these outmoded gender stereotypes stand, how can we expect fair paternity leave from employers? How can we expect more flex-time for working mothers? How can we expect the class parents to send both of us the emails, and not just the moms?

And so here I am offering another point of view. Specifically because I’m not a dad.

In other words, if only dads are talking about this, then it become a dad issue. It’s not. It’s a family issue.


111 thoughts on “Moms rule, dads drool”

  1. It is a family issue. And when it’s them vs. us, instead of both working together, it sort of defeats the purpose of “family.”

    And then what would the Republicans have to fight for?

  2. This is the right approach, dead on. Parents need to support each other in their roles as a family leaders rather than judging each other (mom v. mom, mom v. dad, etc.) on who is “right” in their methods. Lead by setting examples that break the stereotype but recognize you (and your spouse) are not going to be perfect at doing so every time then help them raise their level of their game with your support and communication, and– on the receiving end — be willing to learn and improve.

  3. Nice post. Particularly interested in this passage:

    The more boys and men grow up to see messages about their deficiencies as caregivers, the more they will assume that it is true. The same way the more girls grow up to see messages about their prime value being sexual, the more they will assume that it is true.

    I think that’s true, but I also think you can say the more boys and men grow up to see messages about their lack of responsibility as caregivers, the more they will assume it’s true. Just my opinion, but I think there’s a reason we see stories about egregious acts from “unfit moms” in the national media more often than we see stories about deadbeat dads. Dads who bail aren’t appreciated, but they’re not despised like moms who mess up. Quick – anyone ever heard of “Octo-DAD?”

    You’re right about the stereotypes. But I think more people have to follow the lead of so many of the guys we met at Dad2.0 and groups like NFI to get more fathers to “man up” and take their responsibilities seriously.

    Homer Simpson makes us chuckle. But men who act like Homer Simpson should make us angry. I’m not completely sure we’re there yet.

    1. Yes, David. yes! I’d say deficiencies is a combo of inability and lack of responsibility. But you’re right, calling out responsibilities specifically is spot-on.

      I always loved that Chris Rock routine where he said,”I hate guys who say, what? I’m a good dad. I support my kids. You don’t get credit for that! You’re SUPPOSED to support your kids.”

    2. This. THIS.

      The problem with framing a conversation around the construction of what moms do better than dads (or vice versa) isn’t that it’s false: there’s plenty of evidence that, generally speaking, moms, who are far more likely to be the primary carers of children, are more skilled in the practices associated with that care than dads. That’s not to say that ALL moms are better than ALL dads at caregiving practices, just that they are more often the ones that do it, and so are more habituated/practiced. We KNOW that more women do this kind of work. We KNOW that men do less of it. We KNOW that that has to change. It is changing, to be sure, but only very slowly. From within the very privileged echo chamber of our own community we can wax glorious about how much dads do and how well they do it – my husband, like Liz’s, is better at many ‘traditional’ caring practices than I am – but we’re not the majority. MOST dads don’t share the work of parenting equally – nor (as a consequence) do they do it as well. And that’s something that we need to keep talking about.

      But, but… we need to be careful about how we talk about these things, because it is too easy to slide into stereotypes. We need to continue to talk about why those stereotypes have force – it’s not just because we’re comfortable with them; it’s because they’re still rooted in reality – but we need to be careful to not *perpetuate* those stereotypes as we talk about them. We need to interrogate them. What Cody’s post lacked was that interrogation. But he wasn’t saying anything absurd or even untrue – he was pointing (if, perhaps, accidentally, and in less than discursively engaging terms) to a real issue. More moms than dads, in our own culture, and globally, are the diaper changers. More moms than dads make the dinners. More moms than dads clean house. More moms than dads do more of the work of the household, full stop. We need to change that. And Liz is right that a key part of changing that is by changing how we think about dads, which means changing how we talk about dads. But we do need to remain clear-sighted about how far we still have to go in changing the reality of inequality within so many families – most families, especially we think globally – if we’re going to effect real change.

      1. I’ve blogged about this numerous times as well — specifically about how much I hate when someone refers to a dad “babysitting” his own kids — and each time, the response from other moms is, “Yes! I hate that!” and the response from dads is, “We do more than any other dads we know and it’s STILL not enough for you!”

        I like to think in our house we’ve made small steps towards breaking down those gender stereotypes. Dad packs the lunches and dresses the kids, Mom grocery shops and keeps the calendar. Dad absolutely sucks at multitasking, Mom is physically incapable of “letting the little things go.” My husband is very involved with our kids, and has even corrected contractors who’ve come to the house and said, “Ah, you’re on babysitting duty, huh?” He replies: “Nope, just taking care of my kids.”

        But then there’s my friend, a SAHM of 3 challenging kids, whose husband works 80 hours a week, does jack on the weekends, and gives her a hard time whenever she wants to go out with friends or hire a babysitter. And tells her it “must be nice” to “get to” stay home with the kids. WTF? So, obviously we’re not all there yet. Which is why we need to keep talking about this issue.

        1. Forgive me for weighing in so late here, but I think an important point has been overlooked: Men are like dogs.

          Some breeds are great family dogs and love to go on long car rides and fetch your slippers. Some like to take a dump in living room and shed all over the place.

          Much like men.

          There are wonderful men out there who do a lot for home and hearth and they’re great at it. But in my world (suburban Philly), I’ve identified a troubling trend that I call The Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon. Basically, Giant Man-Babies are useless for anything that doesn’t directly and immediately serve their own interests. Their frustrated wives are forced to lead them through the world like they are poorly-trained bears. I’ve even come up with a fun little quiz to determine if you (or someone you know) is a Giant Man-Baby. You can take it here:

          I know it sounds harsh — and I’m not saying ALL men are like this, not by a long shot — but these guys aren’t uncommon, either (I think Abby may have been referring to one …)

          The trick is to spot them early and steer clear … but that’s another topic altogether.

          1. I think this is inflammatory and indeed it is generalizing, Trish, although I think you’re going for humor. “Men are like dogs?” Come on.

            1. I know this comment thread is way old but I didn’t check back to see your reply until now. I apologize.

              Believe it or not, I didn’t mean the dog reference to be inflammatory, although yes, I can see how it sounds that way. I read it to my boyfriend and he heard nothing at all after the word “dog.” So, clearly, my bad there. (Apparently nearly any other animal reference would’ve been fine though.) I was just trying to make the point that some dads are nurturing family men by nature. Some aren’t.

              I realize the term Giant Man-Baby IS inflammatory. And I meant it to be. You referenced the Motherhood Uncensored post in your piece and she refers to exactly what I’m talking about: “And worse, it’s become acceptable, cool even, to be the goofy, helpless dad who’d sooner drink beers with his buddies than spend time playing with his kids, doing everything they can to escape those dreaded parenting duties.”

              So much of this is colored by our own personal experiences. I know enough Giant Man-Babies to know that they’re not particularly rare. Maybe you don’t see as many of them in your world as I do down here in suburban Philly. I have friends who live in Brooklyn and they joke that they can buy organic breastmilk from albino koala bears at their local convenience store. Brooklyn is not my world.

              To you, perhaps, Nate is characteristic of men and fathers in general. To me, Nate sounds like a supernova of amazing parenting skills. Coincidentally, my Brooklyn pals mirror this: The guy is the primary caretaker of their daughter and he’s phenomenal at it. I’m begging him to write a book because he has fantastic insight into child-rearing — and raising girls, in particular.

              On the flipside, I know quite a few lazy, entitled men who don’t see any reason to lift a finger in the house or help with the children — and when they are asked to, they put up such a fuss that you’d think they were being asked to donate an internal organ. I am not saying this to be inflammatory, I am saying this because I’ve experienced this behavior. I know a lot of other women who have as well. It’s not a question that these men CAN’T do certain things, they simply don’t want to — and then use their supposed ineptness as an excuse.

              I’m not attacking men in general. But I am saying that there’s a subgroup of men (notice I didn’t say “breed’) who are still operating like it’s 1950s America. Let me repeat: A subgroup, not all. As Catherine/Her Bad Mother points out above, these stereotypes are rooted in reality. We need to interrogate them.

              I notice your latest post touches on whether or not everyone should get trophies just for participating. I agree that the great dads should be recognized and they deserve trophies. But some dads just haven’t earned them.

              Just wanted to clarify. (Again, sorry to comment so late after the fact.)

            2. Eh, comment any time Trish. I’m here, 24/7.

              Thanks for this by the way. And I agree, there’s definitely some men who suck at parenting like there are some women who suck at it. I wouldn’t say Brooklyn is entirely immune, but there’s probably more progressive gender roles where I live than in most places. As for Nate, yes he’s great with the kids. But he’s never put away an article of clothing in his life and has yet to understand the role of a hamper. Good thing his cooking rocks my socks off.

              I think we’re coming to the same conclusion in different ways: if we show more positive portrayals of fathers, we’ll get more better fathers. If we normalize the (increasingly outdated) stereotype of the useless guy, we’ll get more of them too.

              Welcome back!

      2. You always write so much and so eloquently, Cath, there’s so much to grab onto here! I agree with some of this, not all of it.

        I don’t actually think this is a view from a position of privilege one bit; in fact, the opposite. The study that we all saw at Mom 2.0 indicates only 4% of families in the US are now “traditional” – as in, two parents married, father working and mother at home with kids under 18. So increasing financial concerns have pushed more women at all economic levels into the workforce, requiring more equal share of parenting duties. Even from those dads who aren’t stay-at-home, or who traditionally weren’t raised to be as hands-on.

        As for Cody’s post, I realize you have some obligation to defend him as his employer at Babble. Without sidetracking the discussion, he was not talking about how the majority of men in the country don’t change diapers or kiss booboos. He was making generalized statements that men are not equipped to do these things well. As if they’re missing some kind of booboo-kissing gene. While not “absurd,” that’s what makes it arguably untrue. If it had been a personal piece alone, I think it would have been lovely and met with a different response.

          1. With all due respect, Andy, it’s not a matter of defending what he had to say – it’s defending his right to say it, and the reasonableness of engaging the deeper issues behind what he said. These ARE pervasive and problematic stereotypes – but there’s truth behind them, and we don’t make any advances in reframing how we talk about fatherhood if we don’t discuss them. You were insulted – but many dads wouldn’t be. Many dads wouldn’t blink. And that, I think, is why it’s worth discussing openly, rather than pretending that all dads are already where you are in this very important movement.

        1. (TL/DR :))

          You’re totally right that we’re now in a situation that *requires* more equal share of parenting duties in the family, but every study on the reality of the situation shows that moms still bear the significantly larger share. Even in households where women are the primary breadwinners. And if we take the global view, the inequality becomes even more extreme – women in so, so many communities are supporting their families and still doing most of the primary care of children (and of elders, and everyone else). We NEED greater equality, but we’re not there yet. There’s important work to be done there. We need to recognize that we’re not there yet if we’re to do that work. And part of that work requires that we do keep the light shining on what many dads ARE doing, and that we fight against any discourse that suggests that dads can’t or shouldn’t be equal partners.

          On that note, I didn’t see Cody stating that men/dads *can’t* do that. I didn’t see him suggesting that dads *couldn’t* change diapers or kiss boo-boos – just that moms/women were better at it. It was awkwardly executed and I totally get why it pushed buttons and I totally agree that it would have been better posted from the personal perspective. But it was his opinion, which he’s entitled to, even if there’s broad disagreement with it (and I would argue, following John Stuart Mill, that’s important that such opinions be shared, so that we can interrogate them, as we’re doing now).

          And, again (this is where my inner academic can’t avoid parsing details), he’s not wrong by any number of measures – if you did a retrospective longitudinal study of diaper-changing practices over the last 50 years, you’d find that mothers have disproportionately been the diaper-changers in the family, which leads to a reasonable supposition that women are more practiced diaper changers, and therefore more likely to be better at it. Doesn’t mean that dads can’t change diapers, or that some dads aren’t better diaper changers than some moms – just that the statement ‘moms, collectively, are better diaper changers than dads,’ if we make reasonable assumptions based on the skill that accrues with practice, is likely to be found to be true. We can say that the claim that ‘moms are more natural diaper-changers’ is untrue, and if that’s how we read Cody’s suggestions, then yes, that’s bogus. But I don’t think we need to read it that way.

          I’m giving him too much credit here, obviously, but I think that’s important to keep this argument in mind when we interrogate the stereotypes – the stereotypes persist in part because there’s still serious, widespread inequality in the family, and we do better in working toward changing those stereotypes when we begin with addressing the reality of that inequality. (Which is why I loved Kristen’s post on this, by the way – she nailed it when she argued that change begins in the home, in each relationship. The more we insist upon shared responsibility there, the sooner we’ll get to the real condition, in our society, of the robustly equal family.)

          (Always, love digging into discussion with you.)

          1. I think the issue on that post, is that the author did not in fact conduct a longitudinal study of diaper-changing practices over the last 50 years to determine that “moms are better diaper changers.” I think that what he meant to say is “my wife is a better diaper changer than I am.”

            Just think how you’d feel if you’re told that men are better bosses (or writers or artists or public speakers) – but hey, there’s historical reasons for it.

            Think about it as a realm in which you want to be taken seriously for your skills, devotion and performance, while various journalists (or marketers or bloggers) are writing that nope, sorry. You are inferior to 50% of the population.

            I really have to call a spade a spade here: the stereotypes don’t just persist because of inequality in the world. The stereotypes persist in part because publications allow stuff like that to be published, and then promoted.

            1. It was difficult for me to get riled up about Cody’s post, in much the same way as it would be difficult for, say, a surgeon to get upset over someone writing a post about the benefits of leeching.

  4. Spot on. My husband, better at housekeeping, by a long shot. Me, willing to go on field trips. My husband, not a people person. Especially with parents of other kids. Just like I do the shoveling/snowblowing and he blow dries post bath hair better.
    Today he is staying home with the baby, who has pink eye. He says she wants me more, but I bet after a day hanging out with him, I’ll be chopped liver again.
    We do it, together. We don’t go out much, but when I want to go out alone, I don’t ask him to “babysit” his own kids. We call it “kid duty” in our house. Sometimes he does it solo, sometimes I do.
    Anyways, thanks Liz. If you run for president, I’m totally voting for you.

  5. My husband is the stay at home dad. When he’s deployed I’m a single mom. We’ve each had a chance to take the lead in parenting and we do do it differently. But I actually struggle with whether differences by sex matter, because especially when my husband was in Iraq I had a chance to think about what it means for my kids to have a dad specifically. I’m still sorting it out.

    But the one thing I’ve noticed about the bumbling dad stereotype is it’s becoming less cool. A man who can’t change a diaper anymore is the outlier in our group. So we’re headed in a better direction.

  6. Bravo! As usual you have framed the issue perfectly. This narrowmindedness was maddening to come up against as a single father. Thanks for bringing the nuance!

    1. I can imagine John, that for a single father it’s even more painful. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. So much, said so well – by you and your commenters.

    This is why I went to Dad2Summit and spoke there (that, and because I adore Doug). Supporting dads who do what dads ought to do – that’s a job for both parents.

  8. Wow. You could just go ahead and replace Liz & Nate with Kelly & Mike. You’re like our parenting twins!

  9. Americans like to characterize and pigeon hole everything. Kurt Vonnegut got it right when he talked about Americans measuring everything (Slaughterhouse-Five, maybe) and keeping records. Parenting is a shared experience. Every household is different – and should be. What is ironic is that kids learn from the differences between parents and when they grow up can make their own decisions about what is best for themselves.

    There are differences between boys and girls, moms and dads. (When you were little, we believed that there should be no gender differences so we put a light switch in your room with a toy soldier; your brother had one with a teddy bear. In the long run, it made absolutely no difference in your growing up.) There are no rules. Each parent has to do what they do well. And, funny thing, the kids will turn out okay. Look at you.

    1. But wait, I’ve always harbored a secret desire to kill people on the battlefield. So that’s where it came from!

      Awesome comment dad, thank you.

    2. LOL! re: the light switches. My parents like to tell us that when they were raising us in the ’70s it was trendy to give girls trucks and boys dolls. And the girls would put the trucks to bed and the boys would shoot people with the dolls. 🙂

      1. I had the Barbie Camping Tent. My brothers had the GI Joe Jeep. Cooperation was necessary. Ken got left under the porch.

  10. I’ll try and be concise as possible. In short – my wife and I are a team. Period. We are both parents to our daughter and even though we are new at this (she’s just shy of 2 months) there’s no keeping score. We learn from each other and we also accept strengths and weaknesses or temporary priorities one might have on any given day. The articles that are “vs” in nature don’t do anyone any good, really. Whether it’s SAHM vs Working Mom, Breastfeeding vs Formula, Mommies vs Daddies, etc. Each family has to figure out what works best for them and quite frankly – that’s the most important thing. No family and the people in them are the same.

  11. My husband (Boom! of Sugar Free Allstars) relishes the days that he gets to stay home with our munchkin while I go in to the office. They have so much fun together, playing, running errands, picking up the house…he can do it all! I never imagined what a fantastic stay-at-home daddy he was going to be. He sometimes needs reminders about little things – but so do I. I am so grateful that his schedule allows us both to be at home with the baby and both work & contribute to the home. I love how proud he is to tell people that he gets to stay home with our son.

  12. THANK YOU for this post!!

    You are 100% correct it isn’t a dad issue, but a family issue and I’m sick of the stereotypes as well.

    1. Thanks CC, great to see you here.

      (And everyone else here, by the way. What a thoughtful, awesome, discussion. Even with differing viewpoints. My favorite!)

  13. This cannot be said enough:

    “The more boys and men grow up to see messages about their deficiencies as caregivers, the more they will assume that it is true. The same way the more girls grow up to see messages about their prime value being sexual, the more they will assume that it is true.”

  14. Great post. As with Kristen’s, I’m reminded just how forceful and punitive stereotypes are when it comes to gender — how often they are most forcefully traded in and enforced by members of the same gender. And that sometimes, when it comes to breaking down barriers, the most important help comes from the other side of the fence.

  15. Great post! This drives me nuts, too. I really, really don’t get it when feminists do this. Don’t they see that the other half of the mother who achieves success in the workplace is the father who does his fair share of the parenting? I had a rant on this topic awhile back, when I came across an old post on a prominent feminist site that didn’t just imply dads couldn’t do their half at home, it completely ignored the possibility. It is really, really relevant so I hope you don’t mind if I leave a link:

  16. As you may have heard*, this is an excellent post.

    I can admit that my husband and I had some learning curves to survive when we entered parenthood. He makes more money, with a much higher ceiling, than my career in education, so I have become a VERY part-time worker/mostly SAHM and he works his arse off and then goes to graduate school at night to get to that high ceiling as quickly as possible to support our family of four in Brooklyn.

    At this point, we both realize that we are working super hard every day, all day. In that vein, when he gets home at night he is ON – by CHOICE. He does almost all nighttime and weekend diapers. Puts the boys to sleep when he is home before bed time. And fills in lots of relationship/interaction gaps, such as wrestling, letting them help fix things, and playing music with them, for example.

    Everything has changed so much regarding gender roles and there has been so much discussion about the role of women and how it has evolved (or not evolved that much) and how we feel about it. Meanwhile, dads have basically quietly altered their role a GREAT DEAL and tried to show us all that they can do anything we can do, too. And yet, it just doesn’t get as much air time, if you will.

    Thanks for talking about it in such an honest and calm way. It’s the true new reality, so it should be discussed as such. Much appreciated!


  17. Wonderfully said!! This is exactly the reason why the ‘one man one woman’ people have got it completely wrong (IMO)… gender doesn’t necessarily correspond to anything – just as you’ve said here!


  18. “The more boys and men grow up to see messages about their deficiencies as caregivers, the more they will assume that it is true.”

    I guess that’s the reason so many of my fellow SAHD’s give a rat’s ass about all this stuff? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at the SHEER OUTRAGE expressed on facebook or whatever over THE LATEST SLIGHT TO FATHERS THROUGH STEREOTYPED REPRESENTATIONS IN THE MEDIA. come on fellow SAHDs, we have made an unorthodox choice and getting shit for it from idiots just comes with the territory. you should have callouses by now, what’s with the thin skin? people who work in advertising (like Liz, hey Liz! I still like you even if I think your industry is evil incarnate. . .) aren’t idiots, but they prey on the stupidity and ignorance of vast swaths of the population (“how can we get those fools to buy this brand of shit that they don’t actually need rather than that other brand of shit that they don’t actually need”). complaining about Huggies and cliche Dads and how great it is that they changed their commercial or whatever reminds me of a post Citymama did like six years ago about how great it was that there were Asians in some Laundry Detergent commercial. I was a dick back then too, and said something like, “Huzzah! Some massive corporation now recognizes that Asians are totally worth MARKETING TO! Yay Asians! It’s like the I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH is coming true!” Complaining about this insipid shit is like complaining that Battleship was a stupid movie or Two and a Half Men is a stupid show. Of course these things are stupid. it’s totally boring, mainstream pap. do I give a crap how well some douchebag with a v-neck t-shirt and male pattern baldness portrays life as a stay-at-home dad on some show with that blond chick who was the slutty Bundy? Hell no. It’s garbage. It’s filler between commercials that are all trying to sell you more garbage.

    this is becoming a rant. I need to go live in a cabin in the woods somewhere. I would change the statement to this:

    “The more boys and men grow up to see THEIR FATHERS ACTING AS RESPONSIBLE and DUTIFUL CAREGIVERS, the more they will assume that is totally normal.” Because statistically, that is happening, no matter how many commercials trying to sell moms some neon-colored floor mop juice might suggest otherwise. We don’t need some commercial showing men as responsible caregivers to prove to ourselves that it’s true. We’re doing that ourselves.

    1. You never miss an opportunity to hate on guys with male pattern baldness, do you?

      I understand that you have a low tolerance for self-righteous douchebaggery, but still, I don’t think we should just accept that ads and TV shows and blog posts have to be stupid and promote stereotypes and let them pass without remark. Parents provide examples for their kids as far as how to act when they’re grown ups, but there are a lot of other influences at work as well. If everybody had thick skin about stereotypes, the media would still be filled with images of mincey queens and pimp-walking black dudes.

      1. “I don’t think we should just accept that ads and TV shows and blog posts have to be stupid and promote stereotypes and let them pass without remark.”

        trouble is, 99% of that shit is linkbait. the least successful ads aren’t the ones that drum up all kinds of chest-thumping outrage, but the ones nobody bothers to notice. by taking Madison avenue stereotypes (and Babble linkbait) personally, we’re giving these people the attention they want and certainly do not deserve.

        “If everybody had thick skin about stereotypes, the media would still be filled with images of mincey queens and pimp-walking black dudes.”

        I’m not sure it isn’t.

        If you don’t like the way some diaper company portrays dads, speak with your wallet. don’t buy them. better yet, make your own fucking diapers.

    2. “The more boys and men grow up to see THEIR FATHERS ACTING AS RESPONSIBLE and DUTIFUL CAREGIVERS, the more they will assume that is normal.”

      Awesome! Doesn’t that start with more images in the world of fathers as responsible and dutiful caregivers? I think that’s all anyone is talking about. Not that we don’t always love a good Jim rant.

      (Also, my industry is only evil when we’re running banners on blogs and destroying the pureness of the craft. Also, when someone has an idea about how funny it would be to use Sara Palin in an ad.)

    3. Damn it. I can’t believe it took me so long to think about this:

      Shouldn’t we also have thick skins when the idiotic media portrays the city we live in as a decaying shithole with no grocery stores? Didn’t we choose to live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? (By “we” I mean “Jim.” The media is pretty kind to San Diego.)

      1. While I applaud the yoga you’ve done here to make me look like a hypocrite, you’re conflating my past criticism of journalistic laziness with the argument that letting advertisers manipulate us into outrage is dumb. Did Chris Hansen come to your front yard and say “San Diego fathers don’t know how to change diapers and have no clue what to do with their kids?” Did the Wall Street Journal report the same as “news.” If they did, I think you’d be in a position to offer a different perspective. Have you ever heard me say a word about those stupid Chrysler commercials? No, because they’re stupid commercials.

        Getting offended because of the way companies are marketing shitty products is not something I’m going to waste my time worrying about. Marketing is all about lies. Do you think Whoorl really uses Pantene? Does the girl at your local Burger King smile effervescently when she asks what you want? Are we going to demand justice for every mistruth Madison Avenue spits out?

        Frankly, I’d be more worried about what having a hair trigger response to every dumb media representation teaches our kids than, say, teaching them that the media is not always to be trusted.

        1. “…hair trigger response to every dumb media representation” is in the eye of the beholder. How can we teach kids to be critical media consumers without pointing out the specific things that the media is getting wrong? Where is the threshold between pointing out journalistic laziness and being manipulated into outrage?

          Thanks for the props on my yoga.

          1. . . .by not letting it always be so personal?

            occasionally throw in a, “There’s no way Beyonce dyes her hair that color herself with Loreal out of a box, muthafuckahs!”

            1. I never know what people mean by “being personal.” Your own experience is always at the basis of your criticism. I try to use logic and evidence when I criticize some media stupidity, but I’m still doing it because it made me mad. Because it was stupid. And because I felt somehow qualified to discuss the stupidity.

              I (personally) might overreact to stupid media stuff (including funny commercials–I laugh like an idiot when I see them at my friends’ houses and everybody is all, “what the fuck is wrong with him?”) because I ain’t got the Tee Vee, so I hardly ever see commercials (does anybody anymore?). I’m only exposed to that stuff when it’s brought to my attention, so I see it away from the context of all the other stupid shit.

              You know a lot more about hair care products than I do.

          2. and BD, I’m not going to let you off so easy comparing advertisements to news reports. journalism has a useful, productive function in our society. ads sell things.

            to get all bent out of shape over an ad just doesn’t make sense to me. saying that an advertisement sucks is like saying shit stinks. of course it does. we tolerate advertising to varying degrees, but it’s just not the same.

            1. Should we only criticize artifacts from institutions that have some intrinsic value? Just because you and I can turn up our sophisticated snoots at that claptrap doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect our culture.

  19. This post (and Kristen’s) really hit home for me. I’m the breadwinner in my family and my husband and I knew going into our marriage that we would probably never play “traditional” roles. I have a “corporate” job in finance and my husband is a firefighter and artist. (Renaissance man, FTW!) He works 24/48 shifts and is home with our school age (rising 4th & 5th grade) children on his off days. I flex my work schedule so that I work at home on the days he’s at the fire station. (I realize I am very lucky to have an employer who supports this flexibility.) We’ve been doing this for 8 years and joke that we are a reverse 1950’s family. Our kids marvel that parents in other families have to work on the same day. Daddy cooks, cleans and does laundry and Mommy spends too much time on her phone checking work email. Our children have no idea about expected stereotypes because they don’t know that we are in the midst of a Mommy/Daddy War. We’re a team and it works for us. Our system wouldn’t work for some of our closest friends, and that’s OK. We’re not competing to see who can do IT best…we’re just trying to do OUR best.

    1. Eh, I can never get riled up by those articles, because they’re always written by defensive people without children who call any reasonable counter-arguments “justification.”

  20. Excellent. Like JDG, I’m not so worried about this in our house. My boys see their father doing laundry and volunteering at school. They see me washing the car, working full time, etc. Yes, I still cook dinner most nights, except when my husband grills. But it’s true that, as our boys get older, they are exposed to other influences — from their classmates to their coaches to representations in the media — and having the media (including advertising) reinforce what the kids see at home would be ideal. But, as in so many things, our values aren’t always consistent with what we see on the screen(s), so we’re just going to have to deal with that.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the women cooking dinner and the man washing the car. I just think there’s something wrong when people assume that’s the way it is, and how it’s supposed to be, the end.

  21. About two or three months after starting to work for my current employer my new work bestie told me she really wanted to meet my husband because she had yet to hear me complain about him. She’s a 60 year old lesbian and has had to listen to her mainly female co-workers complain about their “worthless” husbands throughout her professional life. That felt pretty good. He was raising his (now our) little 18 month old daughter by himself when we got together and 8 years later I still feel like he takes on a lot of normally “mom” stuff naturally. I think I’m the one that needs to demonstrate a few more traditional male duties – my 3 yr old son saw a lady down the street mowing the lawn recently and informed me “Mommies don’t mow the lawn.”

  22. Great read! I have to say, the word stereotypes has a negative connotation. It just does. But they exist for a reason, and it’s usually because of a “majority.” A REAL majority (as pointed out above, that more Moms actually do change diapers and cook meals than Dads) or an “experienced” majority (like all skateboarders are punk kids, because that’s ones only personal experience with skaters). So I won’t beat on someone for blogging their opinion of said stereotypes(even if they do it as if that opinion were fact). I won’t even get terribly offended, because they don’t apply to me, at all. (Neither of the above mentioned items.) I also don’t really feel obligated to prove it and point out why with personal examples, you’ll just have to believe me. (But I do have a child and I do skate.)

    I also believe there has to be a point where we (Dads? Parents? Moms? People?) have to quit taking things so personal, particularly from some random(or even major) blog/publication. I would love to “get to” stay at home, and “babysit” all day and be called “Mr. Mom.” It’s a tough gig, no doubt, but I still want it. “Babysitting” is “taking care of my kids.” Except I don’t get to leave, with cash, after 3 hours. What other people call it/me, won’t matter a damn. I’ll even wear an apron while cooking and cleaning. It’ll have skulls and/or flames on it of course. I’m not a total pansy. 😉

    I’m gonna focus on parenting and being the Dad that all of these commenters are talking about, but not at all because of all of these comments or random blogs/publications. But because that’s what TheBoy needs. I want HIM to believe I’m a good Dad. His is the only opinion that really matters when it comes to my parenting skills (or lack thereof).

    (Really didn’t mean to sound so negative about the blogging community, I really do love to read this stuff, and it certainly helps me in my above mentioned goal.)

    1. Hm, I find this a pretty rational conversation. (Ignore jdg, he’s our token crazy but we love him.) I think that talking about it puts other perspectives out into the world, and that’s how change happens.

      So while of course, the number one best most important thing we can do is focus on our own lives first–I will always defend folks with soapboxes (digital or otherwise) using them for public good and social change, and promotion of the issues we care about.

      Thanks for your comment.

  23. I share 50/50 custody with my ex husband. That’s really all I can say about this. I share custody of my three kids with him. He’s as capable as I am. We do some things differently and there are things we are each better at. But the day to day life of raising kids? Well we split it.

  24. Every single time I unclench my white knuckle grip on managing every detail of our family and orchestrating idyllic and enriching projects for our daughters, I am met with the sincerest and most heartfelt, “Thanks Man*, we need that. I had the best time with the girls.” Every time it surprises and delights me, because I feel the same way. The girls are happy, I am rested, Sean is involved.

    When I think about why it surprises me and why it isn’t more routine, I realize it is that we unwittingly fall into these preordained ruts, damnit. Posts like this and Kristen’s remind me to be mindful of all aspects of parenting, particularly the sharing.


    *my nickname is Man. Had a neighbor who took it to us one day in a thick Long Island accent about why you shouldn’t ever call a woman man. Sigh.

  25. You are on a roll! First, a post to end the mommy wars. Now a post to end gender stereotypes. What next? World peace? 🙂

    But seriously, I’m loving the discussions here. It IS a family issue. And it’s wonderful to see families mixing it up and breaking the stereotypes. But what I loved even more were statements like those from David Wescott and your dad about responsibility and each parent contributing. Because yes, while I adore that my husband loves to cook (we share cooking duties and kids are always asking “whose turn is it to cook?” — partly because they want to know who gets to play with them), I think it’s important for our kids to see us share the household responsibilities (however we choose to divide them up) — that we are both doing our part for the family good. (Also kinda key is making sure that both sides feel like the other person is doing their part and to be supportive, rather than critical, of each other. And the supportive part, yes, sometimes means biting your tongue. Which, for me, can sometimes be hard. But I’m working on it.)

  26. Brava! If everybody would just write about their own experiences and not try to spin them into rules about the world, we would all be better off.

    1. What? How did you just take my long rambly post and get it down to 26 words. I hang my head in shame.

  27. I think, at least in my circle, that the Dad that isn’t involved, engaged, helping as an equal partner, and totally taking as much “kid duty” as the parents is becoming the one that is odd. My girl friends and I expect equal partnerships with our husbands and have the same sort of random strengths and weaknesses you out line. There are approximately two Dads I know that are still in the… but I make tons of money for them and don’t really need to actually see them or help care for them group. Those guys/relationships are now weird and not something most of us would accept, in fact we might occasionally try to push those guys buttons to do more, if only for our friend (their wives) sake.. possibly not the nicest behavior I’ll admit..oops. (The friends in this case are located both in DC and in OK– so not regional). Expectations have changed, the roles of parents have changed, and it is past time that is recognized and accepted. I’m sure some of the stereotype behaviors still exist, but I think the norm, at least in the relationships I see, has shifted and more credit should be given to everyone for our true existing version of family and partnership.

    1. I feel the same Abbey. I love seeing as many dads at Sage’s school drop-off in the morning as moms. It sends a message to all those kids, not just the ones with the dads there. Progress!

  28. My hubs spent the first year of our twins tiny lives at home with them. He set the schedule. And he still chastises me for checking my phone too often. After asking if I’ve remembered the sunscreen. (I totally did this time!)

    People did look at me with the sad eyes. “Are you ok with him watching the boys?” OK? He figured out how to get them both down for nap at the same time – not me. Yeah. He helped me create them. And he’s damn awesome at helping me care for them.

    The stereotypes annoy me.

  29. My husband is a WAHD, and I’ll tell you why it bothers him (and me) that these stereotypes exist:

    It bothers him because he gets lectured by other moms on the playground about ways to parent our son–because he’s a dad and can’t possibly know that his kid needs a snack/nap/hug/bandaid/bathroom break/to go run around.
    It bothers him because he gets asked “can’t wait until Mom gets back on duty?” when he goes to the grocery store.
    It bothers him because other moms won’t let their kids come over for a playdate because “something might happen” while Dad is on duty.

    In short, it bothers him because it’s a societal effect and one that reinforces negative connotations that he actually does have to deal with. In our day to day life in our home together, does it matter? No, of course not. We each have our ways of dealing with things and we each have our strengths and weaknesses and our son looks to us both for his needs. But when society still looks askance at the guy on the playground, or laughs at the bumbling idiot dads because that is the expectation, or tells him that he can’t possibly know what he’s doing, it’s bothersome and shows how far we have to go still.

  30. YES. My husband taught ME how to burp our new baby, how to give our new baby a bath, and he was the only one who coud swaddle our baby after I fed him. And he rocked at diaper changing, too. He’s awesome at puke clean-up, and he’s the one I run to if our kids are sick at night. I get overly worried and will hide in the bathroom sometimes, especially if they have a fever. I trust him like no one else. Sure, he might not be OCD about making sure the boys have a glass of water on their night table before they go to bed when I’m away on two day conference, but it’s allllllll good. He also cooks way better than I do.

  31. I think someone already said it well, but why, WHY, all this self comparison? This way or that way is better…yada yada yada. We are all different people and no two people will do things the same. Period.

    When my hubs and I switched off stay at home roles, the first thing he did was completely overhaul the kitchen layout. He moved stuff where HE preferred it. I won’t lie, it drove me nuts, but hey, he needed it to work for him since he is the one who now spends the most time in there. I got over it. Well, mostly. I still move things sometimes 😛 We both have our strengths and weaknesses as parents and it has more to do with who we are as people than whether we are “Mom” or “Dad”. For the record, he’s always kept the floor clean enough to eat off of but can’t put avoid leaving piles to save his life.

  32. “Dad-blogging controversy” is way more about blogging than about dadding. Dad bloggers are insecure about blogging, not about parenting.

  33. Great post once again!

    I’d like to throw in the Mexican perspective: I have an uncle that was born in Mexico but raised in the US who decided to become a SAHD…the men in our family (even some of the women)… how they chastised him!

    Many cultures in the US still need a lot of work when it comes to parenting as a team and overcoming stereotypes. I’m sure it’s not just Mexican macho thing.

    As Mexican-American parents of three boys, my husband and I are a team and I still hear a lot of, “Poor thing. He worked all day and now has to give the baby a bath?” by my mother-in-law. Currently, my parents are visiting and my five year old is wondering why Grandpa doesn’t clear his own plate after meals!

    We’ve come a long way but VERY SLOWLY…how I wish people I know would take initiative to even read your post and the comments that follow.

    Thanks again!

  34. As good as your posts are, Liz, the conversations that follow are equally amazing, sometimes more so. This conversation was/is fabulous. I am thinking a lot about this post from rage against the minivan,
    It seems to me that these battles about mom/dad who does it better, or the mommy wars themselves – as you yourself said, Liz, I think – it’s all a very nice comfy battle waged mostly in the arena of middle-class families where there are two parents duking it out for supremacy (or one is duking and the other is drooling, or picking up lint or whatever) – but what would happen if all this energy were turned outward, to the systems that so consistently fail us as parents and thus are also failing our children (hello healthcare, talking to you; or maybe parental leave policies, or foster care programs, social work agencies, or what passes for public school education…it’s a long-ass list). In other words, what if we all agreed that mostly – mostly – those of us on this blog – most of us who blog, in fact – we’ve mostly got it pretty good. What if we started (or continued) to agitate for improving The System? Challenging stereotypical modes of rhetoric is a first step, but it’s a teensy step on a very long, rather steep staircase.

  35. Am I the only one singing “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”? But silently, because I can’t really sing.

    Dads can do anything. And so can Moms. Just not constantly and simultaneously. And I’ve yet to meet one that can breastfeed worth a damn.

    1. Daddies are people, people with children
      When daddies were little, they used to be boys
      Like some of you, but then they grew
      And now daddies are men, men with children
      Busy with children, and things that they do
      There are a lot of things a lot of daddies can do

      But they can’t be mommies or grandmas.

  36. I’m not a big fan of those types of stereotypes. But I would love to be a stay at home dad. I can take care of my kids very well and I do often. There are some things my wife does better and somethings I do better, but they aren’t gender related.

  37. Oh, stereotypes… as long as we are talking about nebulous stereotypes, we tend not to take them seriously… “because it does not apply to me/my family/my partner”. And that is all swell, but these stereotypes, given even slightest chance, will grow into prejudices… and we are back into ’50, where employer looks to avoid hiring young women so he can avoid parental leave (here in Canada a whooping 12 months, paid by taxes – there were articles pointing out why poor companies don’t want to hire young women, as parental leave law is hurting companies). I wholeheartedly agree that change comes from us, from each family allowing for change in roles, for any combination that works, without chastising any other choice (oh, I adore, ADORE Kristen’s post). But at the same time, I do have to point out that it does take a village to raise a child. While I accept responsibility for starting the grass-roots change, we have to be careful on how much responsibility we take: if each and every malaise of modern society is individual responsibility to amend in his own circle, then there is never a social change, as we are never imparting change in majority, or even our closest neighbours. Similar to recycling, everybody has to do it, but nobody will do it unless facilities are there. And “facilities” for gender equalities are not there yet. We have to keep yelling.

    Using stereotypes for selling in one small dinner-talk theme for a family, but giant step for humankind toward prejudice, as we are not out of the woods yet. I know that I’m not only person in my kid’s life that will impart values (not by long stretch). And I’m painfully aware that teens are exposed to enormous amounts of adversing and peer pressure that is counter productive. And it is not helping us create a better world, no matter how much we try at home. Kids are not growing up in bubbles, and I have no intention to negate the society we all live in. I want to improve it. The whole village has to be behind me, not against me. And I will call out stereotypes and get flustered about stupidity of modern prejudices every time I see it. And yes, I’ll yell against dumb advertising and stereotypes.
    If not me, who? If not now, when?

  38. I grew up in a situation where the dads did nothing in the way of child care. None of them. Nothing. I still know dads who do very little, and some who do some, and some who do a lot. I also know some moms AND dads who do everything, who bring resentment that may well hurt their kids in the short and long run, and a bunch who check out in whatever ways with who knows what consequences.

    But mostly it’s everybody doing what they do and it’s cool, it’ll all come out in the human wash. I personally cannot wait until the children start blogging, then we’ll find out who really brought the skills. Good luck, y’all. Kid bloggers, start your keyboards. 😉

    PS I would like to thank Jim of Sweet Juniper for making me smile FOR REAL up there yonder. I love ya, Andy, but I needed some good rants with my happy hour. Bravo.

  39. My hubs can and does do everything that I do as a parent. Except explain the birds and the bees to the Girl Child. He handed that one straight over to me.

    If we, as moms, hover over the guys and criticize their every move, guess what? They won’t help any more. And that will feed the stereotype of fathers as bumbling fools.

  40. I can take care of my kids very well and I do often. There are some things my wife does better and somethings I do better, but they aren’t gender related.Good luck, y’all. Kid bloggers, start your keyboards.

  41. Thanks for posting this. I was starting to feel really guilty a few weeks agoa bout being such a horrible wife and was listing – in my head – all the things a “great wife” does that I do not.

    My husband does the grocery shopping, cleans the kitchen and bathroom and does the laundry. He even cooks most of the time and prefers it this way (eggs are the only thing I can cook well).

    I am usually embarrassed by all of the above because as a woman who is a mom and wife I am *expected* to do these things, right?

    We both work, we both spend quality time with the kids whenever we can and we both pretend to be sleeping when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying.

    And yeah, we’re not doing these “reverse roles” to rebel or to show the world how modern we are. We simply are doing what works best for us and our family and I need to stop feeling so guilty about it.

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