I'm a big fan of dads. I love mine, all my grandfathers are dads (funny how that works!), and I'm married to a really good one. The role a dad can play in the life of his children is as immeasurable as it is beautiful. But, sometimes, you dads bother me. Well, I guess it's less you and more the way society treats you. Your bar, quite frankly, is pretty low. And that's not to say many of you don't soar above it, but you don't get a medal for being a dad.
Unfortunately, for everyone involved, so much of what dads are supposed to do is seen by society (and a bunch of dads, if we're being honest) as "optional." Even the really super important stuff. Why? Well, because mom will handle it! Duh! When mom is seen as the parent who's really responsible for the wellbeing of baby and the home — as the default parent — anything dads do is helping her instead of helping their baby.
(And, of course, any parent arbitrarily labeled the "default" parent is treated this way, so it's not just straight couples who can experience this kind of inequality within parenthood. But, you know, more often than not it's moms who're getting the short end of the parenting stick.)
Every parent should be appreciated. Hell, the most meaningful thing we can say to our partner is "thank you," even for stuff that they're supposed to do. It's always nice to acknowledge everything our person does to help make family life run smoothly (or, like, less chaotically, depending on the day). But let's be real: none of the following should earn dads a major award:
Taking Time Off Work To Care For A Child
Whether we're talking about taking parental leave after a child is born and/or adopted, or taking a day off work to care for a sick kid, this is just part of the gig. You're not doing your partner a favor, here: you're being a parent. This is something you're doing for your child. Suggesting this is something you're doing as a benevolent act of kindness suggests it's optional because it's not really your responsibility.
Are diapers gross? Do you hate doing it? Do you gag as you wonder how such a tiny human could create such an otherworldly, awful smell?
Yes, hello, hi! Welcome to this super small club called Absolutely Everyone.
You knew kids weren't potty-trained when you decided to have one. Suck it up and clean that kid's butt without expectation of a parade.
Taking A Child In Public By Themselves
This one drives me up a goddamn wall and, honestly, I can't necessarily blame some dudes for thinking this is an award-winning endeavor. Why? Because so many people who aren't used to seeing a dad alone in public with his child or children act like it is.
It's not a big deal, people. This is something moms do all the time, often under intense scrutiny. When a dad is out in public with his child he's applauded. When a mom is out in public with her kid someone comments on how often she looks at her phone, whether or not her children are behaving, and/or how full her hands seem to be as the result of her children simply acting as children.
Playing With A Child
Once you have a child you're supposed to interact with them from time to time.
Shocking, I know.
I'll admit, I don't see a ton of dads babywearing, but that doesn't mean the ones I do deserve some sort of kudos. It just means that they've caught on to the idea that it's convenient and comfy as hell (and often a great way to get a little one to settle down). So you don't get a medal, but you do get a knowing nod and, probably, a conversation about the best carriers and exchanging wrapping techniques.
It's rare that I've heard women talk about getting up with the baby as primarily being a favor they're doing for their partner. "Oh, let him sleep for a change! I'll get up with the baby for him. He's earned it."
So why, why, would you think that you getting up with the baby is primarily a favor you're doing for your partner? This is something you're doing for your baby! And, yes, any partner who gets to sleep while the other gets up should be grateful, but it shouldn't be such a rare event that one person feels heroic about stepping up to that particular plate.
Showing Affection To A Child
Is the alternative not being affectionate? Kids need cuddles. Don't believe me? Just look at apes in the wild: they're all over each other and that's how humans are inclined to be with their little ones. Hugging a kid shouldn't be noteworthy.
Dressing A Child
This one always makes me chuckle. I actually don't think dads expect a medal for this, but that doesn't stop people from fawning over any dude who flung together an mismatched outfit for their kid.
"Awwww! Did you pick out her outfit today? What a good daddy!"
It's so condescending. Presumably dudes have been dressing themselves for several decades, largely without incident. Why is it so astounding to people that they can apply the same concept to their children.
Paying Child Support
All hail the conquering hero! Who so generously gave his kid... money for a doctor's appointment and breakfast cereal. Is the Nobel committee still taking nominations? Because wow.
Are you kidding me? No. Seriously. Are. You. Kidding. Me? You want special recognition for paying for the material wellbeing of your children? You're legally obligated to do that until they're 18, whether or not you're partnered with their mom.
Doing Household Chores
You are an adult, sir.
Making & Keeping Appointments For A Child
This sort of thing often falls upon the so-called "default parent." You know, the one who takes on a lot of the invisible labor that keeps the household running smoothly and everyone healthy. Dads taking on invisible labor isn't noble: it's fair.
Handling Kids While Mom Is Out
This is just parenting solo for a bit. And, of course, it's totally reasonable for mom to express appreciation (especially if she's going out for a night on the town or something), just as it would be for a dad to thank a mom if she's keeping the kids in order while he spends the evening with friends or something. But let's not act like this is some enormous sacrifice or grand gesture. You're being a parent.