As a feminist and a mother, I've always been curious about the relationships between fathers and daughters. Too often I feel like I'm weirded out by some deeply sexist, often creepy expression of paternal love. ("No man is ever going to touch my little princess!") That said, even the creepy kind of love generally comes from a place of deep, genuine care, and when dads and daughters have a good relationship there's something uniquely beautiful about that bond. I reached out to some of my dad friends to ask how having a daughter changed their life for the better. Turns out I know a lot of really great, eloquent fathers and no I'm not crying, you're crying.
By and large, having a daughter seems to have expanded these dudes' worlds. I know there's a well-deserved derision about men who only seem to grasp the concept that women are people after having a daughter, but I think there's a sliver of that idea that can be merited and useful. While no man should have to have a daughter to internalize the idea of female humanity, a parent child relationship is, in many respects, the most profound relationship you'll have in your life. So when the parent and child are of different genders, I think it's possible to think about the other gender (and other people of that gender) with fresh eyes.
And, in some cases, guys can be colossal jerks who don't respect women until it hits close to home. It's annoying that it took something as close to home as having a daughter to begin to get on board, but at least they're on board now, right?
I talked about this phenomenon and more with 11 dads, and their obvious love of their little girls melted even my dark, jaded heart.
"I'm less hung up on looking cool now. My daughter can get me to do anything and she loves me so much I don't care if I look like an idiot. So if she wants me to wear a tutu and play ballerina with her, I'm going to do it."
"This is going to make me sound like one of those assh*les who say 'Now that I have a little mini-me who's a girl I respect women,' but...
... I've always considered myself a feminist, but it wasn't until I had a daughter that I realized how young sexism starts for them and all the ways society reinforces it and how much harder of a start girls have from day one. It sucks to know, but I feel like I'm better for knowing it because now I can try to help."
"She's my little badass. Some people assumed I couldn't do any of the 'boy stuff' with her, like comic books and superhero movies and football, but she's super into all of it... she just wears a Snow White dress while she does it, which is the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life."
"Honestly, I was really nervous to have a daughter. Up until she was a couple months old I was worried that I wouldn't be able to bond with her because she was a girl. But once she hit the age when she started becoming more of a person and smiling and I saw how she looked at me, I had this epiphany that she didn't really have any sense of being a little girl. She just wanted me to be her friend. Now she watches cricket with me and I know all the names of the characters on My Little Pony."
"That's my princess. She makes everything better: not just my life but the lives of everyone who so much as looks at her. She's sweet and funny and sassy. She's sunshine."
"She's made me less selfish. You can't be a good father if you're selfish and my biggest fear in life is to be a sh*t father. So everything I have — not just money, but time — belongs to her, and she lets me use it from time to time for things like work or sleep."
"She's dizzying in good ways and bad. She was a preemie, so I'm extremely protective of her, more so, if I'm being honest, than I am with my other kids. It's hard to shake that when you spend months wondering if they're going to make it through. Anyway, for as protective as I am she's determined to show me that she's not going to tolerate me holding her back. She's a 28-pound peanut, but she's also a tank. She's the strongest person I know and she makes me better."
"Don't kill me, but I used to say women are naturally less funny than men. I see now how stupid that is because my daughter is hilarious. Seriously. She's 4 but she's straight up professional comedian level funny."
"I learned how to do a braid. Other than that, having a daughter is a lot like having a son. We do all the same things together. Maybe it'll be different when she's older — she's 5 now — but so far it's been pretty identical to having a son and vice versa. They're interested in all the same things and I treat them the same way. So having kids has enriched my life, but I don't think there's anything I could pinpoint that's gender specific."
"I've never been required to understand a 'female' the way I've had to understand her. Obviously you want to do right by all women, or as many as possible, but having a child means you have to, like, mind-meld with them, basically. I have to understand the world through her eyes and explain the things she can't comprehend in a way she will understand. I'm not saying I know what it's like to be a woman, but I'm saying that my daughter is opening my eyes to a wider perspective because she's a girl and I want to guide her as best as I can. Does that make sense?"
"I owe everything to her. My marriage. My sobriety. My second chance at a real life. Intellectually I know she was just a baby and she inspired me to do better, but I swear to God she had these eyes that saw through you, even after she was first born. They were loving and compassionate but also stern and letting me know that I wasn't allowed to f*ck this up. She was born demanding I stand and deliver, and I'm grateful for that every day."
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