We’ve talked a bit about this before, yes? About how society sees dads when it comes to hetero relationships, how the balance of responsibility between moms and dads is just a wee bit unequal and how we tend to let dads off the hook or minimize their contributions as parents in their own kids’ lives. It’s a bit of a touchy subject for us, in case you couldn’t tell. It’s so important in the interest of equitable parenting that we stop letting dads off the hook (or vastly underestimate and undervalue their work) and do more to hold them, ourselves and society accountable. We can all do better here. So let’s keep this change moving in the right direction, by talking about some things to NEVER say to a dad.
“Are you babysitting today?”
It’s this simple: parents do not babysit their own kids. They can babysit OTHER people’s kids, absolutely. They can babysit the neighbor’s kids, nieces, nephews, or their friend’s kids as a favor. But their own kids? No. That is not babysitting, that is called parenting. Doesn’t matter which parent happens to be in charge of the kids at the moment—parents, and that means dads, do not babysit their own kids. So let’s stop making it seem like they do by asking them if they’re babysitting when they’re rolling solo with their own small humans.
“Can you ask <mom/wife/other parent> this very basic piece of info about Kid A?”
Now, I certainly don’t expect my kids’ dad to know every single detail of their day-to-day life on the obsessive level that I do; after all, I spend an insane amount of time with them and honestly, my brain just works like that. But the basic stuff? The clothing size/birthdate/age/medical concerns stuff/general schedule stuff? Yes, he knows that, as he should! And I would venture a guess that most dads know most, if not all, of the same stuff moms do—we just don’t give them a chance to prove it. Let’s not make mom the default information guardian, okay? Ask dad what you need to know, and if he doesn’t know it, he damn well will the next time he’s asked!
“Do you change diapers/give baths/help with feeding?”
These are very basic tenets of parenting infants and toddlers so if he’s not doing these things… bigger problems exist, fam. This is literally all parenting is in the first few months, so if you’re not doing these things, WTH are you doing?! There’s this weird assumption that the dirty work, the diapers and baths and feeding and changing, is mom’s job. ESPECIALLY in the beginning. But it’s not. Dads are just as capable, minus the breastfeeding. So rather than asking IF they help, let’s reframe the question: ‘How many diapers are you changing?’ ‘Are you in charge of the morning or evening bath?’ ‘Do you and mom switch off nighttime feeds, or do you handle those and let her sleep?’ It’s all about framing, folks.
“Wow, you are such a hero, taking the kids to the store all by yourself!”
Ok, so maybe not that verbatim, but anything in that wheelhouse! You know, the praising of dads for doing very basic parenting tasks, like bringing their kids along on errands or getting their kids to school on time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t praise parents for doing this very difficult job, but like. Let’s raise the bar a little bit, hmmm? When’s the last time someone thought to heap praise on mom for juggling an infant and toddler while she pushes a cart full of groceries through the store? Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone has ever praised me for that. When dads do it—when they do any part of parenting, really—they’re not doing anything groundbreaking. They’re just … parenting.
Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t praise dads and engage with dads the same way we do with moms – level playing field is the goal, right? But in order to level the playing, we’ve got to stop assuming that dads don’t even know what game we’re all playing here. Let’s stop treating dads like they’re just cosplaying at being a parent, and collectively raise our expectations.