First of all, let’s just abolish this “perfect” language when it comes to parenting. Perfect is unattainable and we’re all wasting too much time and energy living up to impossible standards. With that nonsense out of the way, we can focus merely on the different expectations society has for moms and dads, as in, moms are expected to be perfect, but dads aren’t. I understand where this comes from; until this century, most women were the designated primary caregivers and exclusively so, since they didn’t work outside the home. But women are working now, in numbers greater than ever, and there are now more working moms than ever before. Still, society’s perception of what responsibilities moms have to retain, while simultaneously working outside the home, is grossly different than how involved they think working dads should be in their kids’ lives. In other words, hello sexism and thank you for being the absolute worst.
Since the home had been a "woman’s domain" for so long, society seems to be having a hard time coming around to the idea that men can raise families, too. I’ve noticed that we are pushing harder than ever for women to lean in, but how can they lean in if men aren’t willing to lean out and take on more domestic responsibilities. Studies show that working moms still take on most of the household chores (including childcare). Women will never be able to gain parity until they can unload some of their tasks to their male partners for a more balanced distribution of all kinds of work.
Until that happens, we’ll continue to witness how moms are held to higher standards than dads, especially in the following (and rather infuriating) instances:
Volunteering With Your Daughter’s Girl Scout Troop
I have very mixed feelings about Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. My daughter has been with her troop for the last five years, since she was a Daisy. My son, at age six, is dying to be a Boy Scout just so he can do something his sister has been doing. However, dividing a program that is meant to cultivate leadership and a strong sense of community among kids, according to gender, feels antiquated in the year 2016.
These days, the family unit doesn’t always comprise of one mother and one father. Chaperones on Girl Scout sleepovers have to be female, which means my husband is limited in his potential involvement with this daughter’s troop activities. The only activity it seems like the male caregivers are encouraged to participate in is the troop outing to a baseball game. Ugh.
Searching Pinterest boards for school lunch ideas and I see no men represented in any of the photos. Every hand arranging cheese slices into the shapes of woodland creatures appear to be female. What’s up with that? The lack of male representation in portrayals of domestic tasks is way too retro for me. Dads should be very upset that mass media doesn’t have faith in their lunch-making abilities.
Locating Random Stuff
Why do kids just ask their mothers where things are? It doesn’t matter if it’s a pencil, a misplaced toy, or their own heads; my children never seek their father out for help in finding anything. Do people think motherhood comes with GPS for all the things?
Cleaning Schmutz Off Their Kids’ Faces
See a messy kid with their dad and you might shrug and dismiss the dirt. See a messy kid with their mom and, well, the judgment starts.
I saw the faces people made when my runny-nosed kid was running around the playground, having fun despite having a cold. I felt the chill of a disapproving look when my child traipsed home from a soccer game, covered in grime and glee from victory. How come dirt is permissible with dads in the mix, but I’m a terrible mom if my kid’s got some pizza sauce on his face?
Keeping Their Kids Quiet
Boisterous kids playing with dad are adorable. Same kids with mom are somehow less tolerable. Look, I get annoyed too when I go out to eat and kids are screaming and running amok. But for some reason, guys with noisy kids get cut a lot more slack than women.
Is it because society expects women to be innately better at keeping children quiet (even if the child in question is a 3-month-old baby yammering for her bottle, which her mother is frantically trying to get ready)? We need to treat all parents with the same respect. We have to do better than roll our eyes at other parents, especially at moms. No parent — male or female — wants to be the one with the disruptive kid. Trust us.
My husband does the kids’ laundry. He doesn’t do it how I would do it (as in, he doesn’t separate light clothes from dark), but it gets done. Except for the folding part. I do that part. I admit it, I can’t let go of that. There is just something about how he folds, or rather rolls the clean clothes, that irks me. So, yes, I am putting this pressure on me, the mom, to be a better folder than my husband, the dad. I am the problem. (But I’m really, really good at folding and I need to cling to that.)
There’s a reason why my husband is always asking me to remind him of the names of our kids’ friends. He has no clue. “The one with the, um, hair?” he’ll prompt me. He’s surprised when I get annoyed, like it was never expected that he remember any of the names of the people our children spend time with.
When I’ve talked to dads about teachers or mutual friends our kids have, they draw blank looks and often defer to their wives to fill in the missing information. Do people’s names just take up too much space in the male brain? Or do we, women, put too much pressure to know all the things that our male partners figure there is no sense in two people being saddled with all that info, which kind of makes sense.
Tracking The Family Calendar
Ever see a commercial featuring a dad in the kitchen, serving a nutritionally balanced snack to a couple of sweet, cooperative kids, with a huge chalkboard calendar behind him that he consults to plan his family’s day, before herding them into a sensible minivan for an afternoon of soccer practice and dance class?
Signing Permission Slips
My kids come only to me with these things. I don’t know if their dad has signed any school form in his life. Why is this? My handwriting is worse than his.
Picking Out Gifts
Moms aren’t better at gifting people with valuables or thoughtful, home-made gifts than dads. We’re just maybe better at hiding them because our closets are typically a little, um, fuller.
It may be news to a lot of people out there, but mothers do not have an innate ability to wrap presents. Maybe we volunteer to do it because we are more judicious with the tape and waste annoys us, but the art of gift wrapping should be reserved for department stores (who charge a fee, coincidentally). In fact, the next person who asks me to wrap a gift since “I’m a mom” so I'm somehow better equipped than dads to do this, should be prepared to pay me.
Any Time There Is Crafting Involved
I am the least crafty person I know. If I can’t fix it with tape, it stays broken, ripped, or loose. So I take the pressure off myself when it comes to Halloween costumes and school projects. Invariably, though, people will ask me, not my husband, how I made that Maleficent headpiece or how I’m adhering my daughter’s Girl Scout patches to her uniform. They are definitely unimpressed when my response is always “tape.” So I’d like to think I’m helping to topple the patriarchy’s biased expectations of moms and dads when I own my non-craftiness.