Maybe we need to come a longer way, baby.

Yesterday, I was teary reading the Cool Mom Picks post we had up for Father’s Day, rounding up 31 quotes about dads from our readers. There were such diverse, heartfelt loving tributes to their own dads, their own stepfathers, their sons who became fathers, their husbands who became stepfathers or foster parents, and of course, the fathers of a lot of newborns. It was really touching.

And really enlightening.

Why we love the dads in our lives: Cool Mom Picks

The more I thought about it, the more I went back to the original posts that contained the comments in the first place, the more I could see that the things we (you know, “we”) admire and appreciate and love our partners for, are a lot of the things that I think are taken for granted in us.

Not to pit moms versus dads or to take away from any of the wonderful things about the great fathers out there. And there are many. (Do not even ask how my dad can still give shoulder rides into his 70’s when I tremble at the thought myself.)

But let’s switch genders for a moment. How many dads would write that they love the mothers of their children because:

She truly is a co-parent and 50-50 partner

She works outside the home and still does 50% of the work at home.

I went back to work full time, but she still managed to get our daughter to ballet class with other little ones.

My wife does so much around the house to help. 

She puts them to bed almost every night.

She is a fantastic role model for our children. She even does dishes and the floors!

Kind of funny right? Not just me?

It’s not to take away from any of these awesome relationships. Whatever makes you happy and makes your relationship work, I’m all for it.

But it’s so clear that what mothers as a whole value is partnership, help, and support. And yet, it seems they don’t actually expect it, so they’re extra thrilled when they get it at all.

The research bears this out: Women are still doing more around the house as a whole, even as they work nearly as much out of the home. Even women who are the primary breadwinners do more around the house. And not surprisingly, women struggle more with work-life balance than their male partners because even if they both work outside the home, women feel more cultural (or familial or personal) pressure to still be responsible for more when it comes to children and the household.

I feel positive. I feel like there is movement. That there are dads actively out there campaigning to be taken seriously as caregivers and moms who support them.

Maybe though, there are a few more dads out there who can remember to thank their wives for making the bed or doing the dishes or picking the kids up from school or working out of home to support the family and still making time to read to the kids at night. Don’t just tell them on Mother’s Day, either, or write it in a birthday card once a year.

I know, I’m nudging a little. But something tells me it will go a very long way.


20 thoughts on “Maybe we need to come a longer way, baby.”

  1. I love this. You are so right. The transition happening in parenting roles for many is still relatively new in the scheme of things, which makes some changes still worth remarking on as much as we’d like them to simply be established by now.

    In terms of the housework in particular I don’t know if that will ever improve until men and women see their environments similarly. The women I know do more housework because they see more housework to do. My husband is amazing and does all the laundry and most of the cooking, etc., but damn if I’m out of the house for more than a few days the place looks like a pit. This is not all men by any means (my brothers are way neater than I am), but sheesh. I’m always amazed by how I look around a room and see things that need to happen and my husband sees something else (that doesn’t ever involved dusting).

    1. That’s a fascinating thought Korinthia – women see more housework. (Although I know a few OCD dads who see housework where there is none, ha.) Though I wonder whether women just see it all pile up on some mental to-do list–I envision the beginning of American Psycho–while men see it as something that will get done somehow.

      All generalizations of course. My dad is one of the best cleaner/cook/schedule organizers I know.

  2. As much as I want to believe that the parenting gender roles are changing, it’s times like these that I realize that we have a long way to go.

    In that vein, I do feel as though we exist in a bubble in the parent blogging community, particularly with the dads, because I think they are often times very much the exception to the general population of dads out there.

    This isn’t to say there aren’t dads out there co-parenting. I know there are. They just don’t have enough time or energy to write about it.

    But even they get that looks and stares, the high-fives and compliments, maybe even the weird looks, for doing what most moms do all the time.

    1. Yes! I do see so many amazing, involved dads in my network and then I think well duh, they’re self-defining as dads first and writing about parenthood and often the stay-at-home-parent. I give huge kudos to them because you’re right, as much as moms may still be amazed and grateful that men are doing (gasp) the floors, I think that amazement translates on the street (proverbial speaking) as — why is that dude doing the floors?

      Though I must add that not every stay-at-home parent is the primary household manager. As you know.

  3. Nailed it,Liz. As long as this remains a patriarchal society, as long as women are taught to say, “sorry” when they bump into a wall (that’d be me) or watch the world continue to tell them they are second class citizens (when do we talk about President Obama’s hair or suit?) and demand that they be ‘nice girls’ and not ‘powerful women’ the messages that trickle down from your generation better be the ones that turn the faucet on full blast. I don’t have much time to waste!

    1. Thank you! I want to acknowledge the amazing progress we’ve made–and we have–but without talking candidly about our own very ingrained biases, we can’t overcome them.

      I wholly admit I’m guilty of it. I catch myself saying “aw, so great that that dad is carrying his baby in a Bjorn.” And then I realize it’s because I’ve just seen some dude online comment that no way is he carrying the baby…that’s the mom’s job. He’ll be the guy to get the oil changed in the car. Why do I let the second guy get in my head?

  4. During the lead up to Father’s Day last week, I had a similar reaction to dads getting so much praise from the press and blogosphere. I’m the first to tell you that my husband does a lot, but also the first to say (and wrote a post to this effect a year or so ago) that we need to stop excessively praising them for it. No one is excessively praising me for anything. I posted a photo and praise for my husband yesterday, but he didn’t do the same for Mother’s Day. I tried to do what he would have liked yesterday, giving him as much free time and flexibility as I could, while on Mother’s Day he spent the entire day away and I was on my own with my kids. Men have come far, but they have a lot further to go.

    1. Thanks Cheryl. Jen Drexler also said similar on my Facebook page. I did see a lot of praise for mothers but I can’t say for sure if they were mostly coming from other women. I know they came from a lot of men in my feeds, but as Kristen said, I may have a skewed perspective with so many progressive guys as friends. (Lucky me.)

      I do know that women still do the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day shopping for the family. Maybe they’re not buying their own gifts, but they’re shopping for the mom, the mother-in-law, the grandmother.

      And I have to add (if it’s okay) that I’m sorry that you didn’t get the recognition you were hoping for on Mother’s Day. I know that’s frustrating when you feel you’ve put that out (or that other friends get it) and you don’t get it in return.

      I posted this article on Twitter last week from the Atlantic: It’s the best thing I’ve ever read about why relationships work and fail. Maybe there’s some guidance in there that’s useful.

      1. I read that article in The Atlantic too, and I do think it’s very good. My husband wasn’t totally lacking on Mother’s Day, but it wasn’t to the same degree, and it definitely wasn’t a public declaration. I’m probably more at ease with that than he is, so I understand, but like another commenter said below, we don’t get praise for being involved mothers. It’s just what we, and other, expect us to do. So, we do.

  5. This is a great post. You’re right, of course. I mean, just the fact that we commonly talk about men being “involved fathers” is weird. No one has ever praised me for being an “involved mother,” that’s for sure!

    I am glad to see fathers wanting more flexibility at work, to spend more time with their kids. I think *everyone* will be better off when caring for family (be it kids or aging parents or whatever) is seen as something *anyone* might need flexibility to do. Maybe then we’ll develop workplace processes and norms that truly support people in having responsibilities outside of work. I think if we do that, everyone will be healthier and happier, even those with nothing more than a couple of houseplants depending on them for care. And I think if we ever manage to make that happen, people will be surprised to discover that we’re even more productive than we are now.

    So, hooray for “involved fathers,” and bring on the time when that is so much the norm that they’re just called “fathers.”

  6. Turning it around demonstrates the absurdity quite well. On the upside, I love that we recognize it as absurdity. Not long ago, that’s just how it was for many families, and very few ever questioned it. (Your parents notwithstanding, of course!)

    I’ve got one of those guys who thanks me. We thank each other. I may be the one who manages the schedule and determines logistics, but that’s personality-driven, not gender-driven. Meanwhile, he doesn’t bat an eye at doing stuff with and for the kids, for me, or for our home.

    Hopefully he’s setting a good example for how my children will parent and what they’ll expect from themselves and their partners. I can tell you that already my oldest notices how other fathers differ from hers, both in how they treat their kids and their partners. It’s eye-opening.

    1. I love your point (and on Facebook too) that our children get a lot of cues from our language and behavior. That’s so so important to remember. I never wanted my girls growing up thinking that certain aspects of our household at one point were the norm or the expected.

  7. My husband and I both work, and make about the same amount of money. I do all of the cooking, but he does most of the cleaning. I can’t remember the last time I mopped floors or scrubbed toilets, because it’s something he always does. I cut the grass too. We both share baby duties for the most part, though I am in charge of baths. We have found what works for us without any preconceived notions of who should be doing what, and it works! We are southern folks and this is not the norm at all down here, so if we can do it here anyone can do it!

    1. Shining example! Congrats to you for finding what works for your own family, whatever the “norm” might be.

  8. I call this the complementarian hangover.

    The demands on women AND men have changed, but society’s role narrative still hasn’t *quite* caught up. And, there are extremes on either side of this debate that are keeping the old narratives alive.

  9. Both my husband and I work full time so he is has no choice but to contribute to 50% of the housework and parenting duties or I would loose my mind. I am grateful that he is a great husband and father ( and had a great father as a role model) and he doesn’t expect things to be any other way.
    What is constantly frustrating is the view of people outside our family. Friends and co-workers are constantly in awe and praising him for taking our son to the doctor or doing his part of the housework. The one that usually has me biting my tongue until it bleeds is plane travel. Our family is spread out around the country so we are flying with our two year old often. Although he is good for a two year old he is still a two year old and it is exhausting so we always split the legs of the flight. I sit next to our son on one flight and he sits next to him on the next. Without fail when it is my husbands turn we will have a min of 5 people come to him and tell him what an amazing dad he is and how lucky I am to have him (most of the time while shooting me an condemning look). I have yet to this day ever had a single person tell me what a great mom I am when it is my turn. There are definitely different expectations the general public places on moms and dads, so even when a guy has it “right” there are people telling him all day long that they are extraordinary… it can be hard to keep that from going to his head!

  10. Awesome way to illustrate the point!

    When our oldest was little and I’d be out of the house alone, more than one person would say something to the effect of ” how nice your husband is caring for the kids, is he good with them?” And I honestly had no idea how to answer. Who would ever ask him if I was “good with ” our children?

    In the spirit of positivity though, I do thank my husband for the things he does around the house or with the kids and tell him he’s a fabulous, involved parent. And he does the same for me. It’s a great way for both of us to acknowledge the work of the other and show that we’re paying attention and that we both realize that the lawn didn’t get mowed by the neighbour and supper wasn’t put on the table by an imaginary chef.

  11. When I met my husband he was a single 24 yr old dad with a 2 year old daughter. He was such an “amazing dad” I heard over and over and over from mutual friends. He is a loving parent, but in reality wasn’t doing anything more “amazing” than his single mom had done for him and many, many other single parents do each day – go to school, work, storytime, etc. It didn’t mean he shared 50% of the domestic work/management when we got married.We continue to work every single day at making our home an example of gender equality for her and her brothers.

    The 2 year old is 12 and I have never been able to articulately express my own views on feminism as well as I can now, as I prepare to send her out into what still often feels, let’s face it, like a Man’s World. In business, education and government, men hold most of the the leadership roles. Inequality is easy to explain and talk about with her. Trying to explain to her father that being an “amazing dad” is equivalent to being an “average mom” in our culture has been a lot harder. The image of his daughter washing dishes every night while her future partner watches TV isn’t one either of us wants to think about. Thanks for writing such a great post!

    1. Thanks for sharing this Martha. You’re not alone. But it sounds like if he’s working with you to make your home more equal, then you’re doing something amazing, together.

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