People in our culture have different expectations of dads than they do of moms. It can be so frustrating when dads are praised for completing even the most basic parenting tasks, while moms, who do these things (and more) every damn day, receive no credit or are criticized when they don't do them perfectly. It's easy to blame dads for this power imbalance, because they are often easy targets but, honestly, there are things dad shouldn't be blamed for.
Hear me out. While it's easy to blame them for being off the hook for (and, let's face it, occasionally incompetent) at the things moms are expected to be awesome at, dads are not personally responsible for outdated and unfair social norms and constructs around gender and labor within relationships. The patriarchy may benefit men, but it can hurt them, too, and we need men who are willing to change, to fight it.
I'm lucky to have a partner who doesn't really care about traditional gender roles. We divide tasks in our household pretty evenly and not always in a gender normative manner. People are constantly surprised by things we take for granted. For example, I recently had a baby, and my husband's employer was shocked when he said he was tired from being up early with our newborn. "Isn't that your wife's job?" Yuck.
We need to start giving dads credit where credit is due and stop blaming them entirely for the imbalance of labor that exists in modern families where moms are expected to do it all and dads often get a pass. If we want dads to take on more physical and emotional labor in families, we need to help them learn new ways of being a partner and being a parent that is often way different from how they were raised, and that takes more forgiveness, and less blame.
Society's Low Expectations Of Dads
While dads aren't expected to be good at "mom jobs," like kissing bumps and bruises or feeding babies, that is partly because they never learned how to do these things. That is, until they were forced to learn how by an unhappy partner in need of a break or baby in need of a diaper change. As much as I hate the trope of the nagging, overworked wife, I also hate the trope of the clueless, idiot husband. Both of these stereotypes are harmful to men and women.
Not Understanding How Our Bodies Work
Until we have better sexuality education in this country, most men are going to have to learn from their partners, wives, and daughters with uteruses how their bodies work and how to be "understanding" when we have to deal with things that they can't possibly understand. When it comes to things like PMS, period poop, and pregnancy hormones, there's really no way to describe these things for the uninitiated.
Not Knowing How To Change Diapers
Before my daughter was born, my now ex-husband had never changed a diaper. It was shocking to me, having changed diapers since I was 5 years old. If we want men to know how to be dads, we need to start teaching boys how to change diapers (and a myriad of other things) that we seem to teach automatically to girls.
Not Understanding What It's Like To Be Pregnant
Just the other day, my husband was carrying our newborn in a sling and marveled at the fact that I grew him in my body and couldn't set him down when my back hurt. See also: vomiting, nausea, round ligament pain, pelvic pain, cervical pain, itching, sciatica, labor, and delivery. He can't possibly understand what it was like for me to be pregnant.
Having Different Expectations Of Parenting Than You Do
Again, I am not saying that dads shouldn't be expected to learn and change when their partner asks for help or wants things to work differently, but when society constantly tells men that should take a back seat in parenting, they may not know what they are in for. That's why it's so important to have these conversations before you have kids together.
Being A Little Overprotective
The stereotype of overprotective dads is pervasive in our culture, especially when they have daughters. The stereotype is yucky and being too overprotective can be harmful. However, given how dangerous our world has become, can you blame them for wanting to be a little overprotective of all of their kids (not just their daughters)? Our kids are bullied, not just on the playground, but on the internet, which is, by the way, full of adult content, and people who may not have their best interests in mind.
OK, now I am feeling overprotective, too.
Freaking Out A Little When His Daughter Grows Up
Speaking of father/daughter relationships, while they may look different than they did when I was a little girl, I think it's normal to feel a bit sad as that relationship changes. As long as dads aren't threatening their daughter's dates, that is, because that is super gross.
Buying The Wrong Thing From The Feminine Hygiene Aisle
Seriously, send them a picture. Even I get overwhelmed by all of the choices and I have been menstruating for decades.
How People React When They See Him Parent His Kids
My husband is an amazing dad, but even he gets tired of being praised for it. How do we change this double standard? Expect more from dads and cut moms some slack.
Wanting His Kids To Be Like Him
I don't blame dads for wanting their kids to share interests. Heck, I hope at least one of my kids wants to play music, go to plays, or go running with me. As long as dad's desire for a kid to be involved in an activity doesn't override her interest in that activity, there's no harm in wishful thinking.
Rejecting Traditional Gender Roles
Dads don't have to limit their roles within families because society tries to put them in gender normative boxes. I definitely don't blame men when they want to challenge social constructs and gender roles. Men can be stay-at-home parents, can cook dinner, can snuggle babies, can read bedtime stories, and can even cry at the end of Frozen. I don't blame them a single bit.