Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

This "Joke" We Make About Dads Is Not Funny & Seriously Harmful

Spend time in any mom group on social media and you're bound to come across a few jokes about dads. You know what I'm talking about: half-hearted attempts at comedy that make dads out to be clueless, lazy, and hopelessly inept parents. I’m over it. There are so many reasons why, as moms, we need to stop joking about clueless dads. These jabs aren't funny, are often untrue, and always perpetuate undeniably harmful stereotypes about gender and parenting.

Now, I’m not saying that dads don't deserve our criticism. There’s a reason these problematic jokes exist, and that reason is valid. Generally speaking, moms shoulder more parenting responsibilities than dads, even when they also work outside the home. A study published in the journal Family Relations found that while dads are more involved parents now than they have ever been before, new moms devote twice as a many hours a week to parenting tasks when compared to their male counterparts. I would like to believe that my husband and I do things equally, but we don't and regardless of how hard we try to keep things fair. There is a very real labor disparity, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't hinge on gender.

The problem of gender inequity won't end if we simply stop telling jokes about clueless dads. But it's a step in the right direction, and one we should all be willing to collectively take. Reducing gender inequality to something we all just laugh at does nothing but normalize the idea that dads shouldn't be involved parents and, when they are, they gets points for simply attempting to be present or responsible. We continue to perpetuate the notion that dads can't be equal parents, because as dads they literally don’t have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to do it. That's the kind of messaging we should be combating, not fortifying.

Of course dads can do things like cook meals, change diapers, do their daughters' hair, and stay home with their kids. And we shouldn't give them a trophy when they succeed at the most basic parenting tasks. Do I think that fed up moms deserve to blow off steam once in a while? Absolutely. Hell, I need to vent on occasion. But instead of joking about how acceptable it is for your co-parenting partner to continue to suck at the parenting tasks he is fully capable of doing, I suggest we start demanding more from our parenting counterparts. Our male partners, our kids, and we, as moms, deserve better.

Because It Perpetuates Harmful Gender Stereotypes

In our culture women are almost always expected to become moms. We are handed dolls before we can walk and learn how to care for babies by immersion. Then, if we do have kids, we are expected to be great parents immediately, love every single aspect of parenthood lest we "miss the small moments," and sacrifice every part of ourselves in the name of motherhood.

Men, on the other hand, aren't expected to procreate the moment they become adults. And instead of being accused of becoming bad parents, their mistakes make them funny, sweet, or silly... like a sitcom character who just can't figure things out. Joking about that one "clueless dad" perpetuates the idea that parenthood is innately "woman's work" and men lack the natural ability to care for another human being.

Because It’s Not Funny

Jokes about clueless dads are, to me, just sad. I’m not saying that we don’t need to make jokes once in a while to keep from crying, but it’s sad AF to make jokes about men being too dense to figure out basic parenting tasks. Men literally run the world, and I’m not saying that women and people of other genders couldn’t do just as well or even better, but if you believe that being a dude means you can’t learn to change a damn diaper you’re just plain wrong. Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it’s not beyond most dad’s abilities to learn or figure sh*t out.

Because It Lets Lazy Dads Off The Hook

These jokes have let men off the hook. Like, even the most basic parenting tasks — like dressing kids for the day, making dinner, or changing diapers — is too hard for them, so why try? Right? After all, they're dads, it’s not their fault they don’t know what they are doing.

Because It Sets A Bad Example

Do we really want to normalize clueless dads and teach our children that only one specific gender should be in charge of parenting? Is everyone OK with the stereotype that dads are not adults who are fully capable of caring for and cleaning up after children?

When we joke about a ridiculous outfit some dad picked out, or the fact that he forgot to pack school lunches or change the baby before nap time, our kids are listening. They are learning by our example.

Because It Makes Moms’ Lives Harder

So, if we just throw our hands up in the air and accept that dads can't be effective parents (or housekeepers, or caregivers), who is gonna pick up the slack? Moms. The answer is always moms. In our culture moms do more than their male co-parents, regardless of whether or not they work outside of the home. These jokes cast moms as the heroes who simply have to step in and rescue their kids from their father's natural ineptitude.

Because They Don’t Deserve It

I know stay-at-home dads who are the primary parent for their kids, dads in same-sex relationships, and single dads who parent without a women to guide them or laugh at their mistakes. So many dads are doing just fine, and they certainly don’t deserve to hear jokes about “babysitting” or putting diapers on backwards.

Because It Doesn’t Change A Damn Thing

Perhaps the biggest reason I think we need to stop making jokes about dads being clueless is that those jokes won't change a damn thing. If we want more men to step up and play a equal part in parenting, we need to give them opportunities to do so instead of constantly critiquing their every move. We need to hold space of them to fail, and hold them responsible when they do.

Our kids won’t really suffer from an ice cream breakfast, a too small toddler shirt, or a crooked braid, but they will certainly be negatively impacted by a culture tells women they have to shoulder more than their fair share of parenting tasks while men are let off the proverbial hook.