While parenthood should ideally bring a couple together, it seems that it can also highlight the differences between mothers and fathers. Or at least, those differences according to conventional social standards and expectations. Never mind that both the mother and the father actively participated in conceiving a child. Don't worry about the undeniable fact that a father has just as much responsibility as a mother when it comes to taking care of the child. In fact, you'd never know that a mom and a dad are essentially doing the same job — raising a kid — by the way we (the collective "we") talk to both. The truth is, there's a hardcore differentiation between our generalized perception of "what moms do" and "what dads do" engrained in every part of society, and for the most part, any resemblance those archetypes bear to real-life families is because those families patterned their roles after the stereotypes they were taught; not the other way around.
In general, fathers are hailed as secondary parents; silly, glorified babysitters who need to "learn" how to parent. While mothers are burdened with the majority of the responsibility. We're plagued by gendered ideas that attempt to force a particular idea of motherhood on every woman who willingly enters into it. That's why, sadly, people say things to moms that they don't say to dads.
Whether it's worrying about post-pregnancy weight, worrying about the baby when you're away, choosing to work after you've had a child or wondering about a stay-at-home mother's daily routine, mothers are constantly subjected to condescending questions and statements that dads simply are not. It's annoying and wrong and indicative of a sexist culture that still doesn't view all genders as equal, but the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one. So, with that in mind, here are 10 things people say to moms that they just don't say to dads. It's time to change the way we speak to and about parents, regardless of their gender.
"Do You Feel Fulfilled Without A Job?"
If you're a stay-at-home mom, chances are you've been asked the extremely patronizing question about your ability to feel fulfilled, or lack thereof. While stay-at-home dads are often praised for their "sacrifice" and willingness to go against a cultural, gender-specific standard, stay-at-home mothers are often treated as lazy individuals who must have given up on their dreams in order to raise their children from the comfort of their homes.
The implication is not only that women are more expected to take care of kids (and men are more expected to work outside the home), but that somehow childrearing is to "natural and instinctive" for women that it's effortless to the point of laziness to be a stay-at-home mom; and that dads, on the other hand, are so grossly disinclined toward being domestic and nurturing that staying home with kids is, like, the greatest and most admirable challenge a human could possible take on. It's offensive all around.
You Should Get Yourself A Hobby
Which is why stay-at-home mothers are often told they should "get a hobby," because really, how busy could their days really be? You won't hear people telling fathers to get a hobby, because most assume they're busy engaging in the work force and contributing financially and raising their children when they have time and feel like involving themselves.
"When You're Working, Do You Miss The Baby?"
Why are women constantly asked if they miss their children while they're working? Are we still operating on the assumption that a woman's brain is transformed into something that is incapable of focusing on nothing other than her offspring? Dads are rarely asked if they miss their children when they're away working, usually because our society tells them that working is their job, and raising the children is the "mom's job." And also because feelings. You really can't ask a man about his soft, mushy, love-feelings because that might imply that he has some, which clearly makes him less of a man. Like, don't be insane, guys.
"It Must Be Nice To Get Away"
Working mothers are often treated like selfish social pariahs who must enjoy the ability to get away from their children because, hey, not everyone has that ability. Dads are rarely told that it "must be nice" to parent and work, because for fathers, that isn't seen as a luxury. Also, it's like, are you challenging us to admit that, yes, it definitely is nice to be away from our kids sometimes? Because obviously that's true. It's not why most of us work, but of course there are days when it's like, "Man, I'm glad I don't have to see my child today because he and I were totally in a funk with each other all weekend and I'm thankful for this space to not deal with each other and think about other things and maybe go home and be really excited to see him." Except that if we do admit that being away from our kids is really good and important sometimes, then we're "bad moms." There's no winning.
"Are You Trying To Have It All?"
Honestly, what does that even mean? "Having it all" is just being a complex, multi-faceted human being who is capable of doing multiple things and finding joy, self-satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in numerous places? Is that what you mean? OK, yeah, I guess I'm trying to do that, but I mean, aren't you? Aren't all of us? Well, not moms. Moms are supposed to be only moms, and furthermore, are supposed to be completely grateful and fulfilled by being that one thing; once you have a kid, "being a regular-ass human with regular-ass varied interests and pursuits" turns into "being a greedy unicorn for whom the magical gift of motherhood isn't enough." Meanwhile, dads are automatically granted the silent social permission to work and be fathers and be lovers and be anything else they identify as, all simultaneously, without question. They never stop getting to be people.
"Your Body Will Never Be The Same Again"
For reasons only our shallow society — usually hellbent on sexualizing women's bodies, whether they like it or not — can explain, mothers are constantly being told they need to worry about what pregnancy and labor will do to their bodies. Parenthood does change you in a number of ways, some of those being physical, but fathers' bodies change during their course of fatherhood as well. Still, they aren't bombarded with the constant culturally constructed fear of how parenthood will make them look. In fact, the "dad bod" is praised as endearing and cute, while a "mom bod" is a problem that women should be embarrassed about.
Not only is all of this offensive and sexist and basically the worst, but it's dumb. Because everyone's bodies change, whether or not they have kids. It's called gravity, kids, and it's coming for all of us. Deal with it.
"Is Your Partner Babysitting?"
When a dad is away from his family, no one asks him if the mom is "babysitting," but when a mother is away from her family, she is constantly and consistently asked if the dad is "babysitting." Fathers are often viewed as secondary parents, like they're glorified babysitters who get to choose if they're involved in raising their child, rather than equal participants in parenthood.
"How Can You Be A Mom And A Feminist?"
Fictitious stereotypes surrounding feminism are often projected onto mothers, much like how the overwhelming bulk of all of society's nonsense is projected onto mothers. It's cool, we're used to carrying heavy bags. A lot of people assume that being a stay-at-home mom makes you a bad feminist...which it doesn't. Others may suggest that motherhood in general makes a woman a bad feminist; it does not. But then if a dad is a feminist, it's somehow progressive and his role as a parent doesn't negatively affect his feminism. In fact, when a man is a feminist, being a dad somehow makes him seem more feminist. A woman, on the other hand, is basically told she's just handed over her body to the patriarchy (rather than, you know, made an empowered choice about what she wants for her own life).
"Is That Outfit Inappropriate For A Parent?"
The de-sexualization of mothers is astounding and, sadly, very real. As soon as a woman becomes a mother, she's forced to stifle her sexuality, more so than society already requires of women. ("Be sexy when we want you to, whether you like it or not...but don't be sexy at literally any other time, whether you want to or not!" – the Male Gaze-defined rules for being a woman.) Fathers, on the other hand, are still seen as sexual beings, and are praised for their willingness to be open about who they are while simultaneously parenting. For example, Channing Tatum, a father of one, can provocatively dance half-naked in a featured film, and no one questions his parenting. But when Kim Kardashian posts a naked selfie, the first thing she's asked to think about is what her children will think. No thanks.
"Your Kids Always Have To Come First, Of Course"
Mothers are constantly told that self-sacrifice is the key to great parenting, and that if you're to be a "good mother," you must put yourself absolutely last in all areas of life. Fathers, however, are not told to constantly sacrifice their time, their careers, their friendships, or anything else, for that matter. Anything they do change about their lives to accommodate for the needs of their family is seen as damn near heroic and saintly. The smallest gestures of selflessness (or even basic consideration, like occasionally taking a day off work instead of mom when the kid is sick) earn dads a parade, while anything less than complete and total resurfacing and reshaping of a woman's life in accordance with her child's needs is considered monstrously selfish (and even if she does that, there's no parade for her. Merely a momentary reprieve from scathing criticism).