When my partner and I found out we were pregnant and decided we were ready, willing and able to be parents, we started talking about our parenting plan. We weren't sure how we would fair, as parents, but we wanted to be as prepared as possible. While our finances, our one-bedroom apartment, our careers and the fact that we were far away from our families shaped our parenting choices, one thing most certainly didn't: gender stereotypes. That's why I don't thank my partner for simply being a dad when he does the dishes or cooks dinner or changes one of our son's many diapers or completes his part of the parenting tasks we've divided between us. I don't write some ridiculous Facebook post or upload a video of my son's dad simply being, you know, a dad.
Now, that isn't to say that I never say "thank you," ever. In fact, I try to be cognizant of all my partner does to help our family run smoothly through our day-to-day activity, and thank him accordingly. I know that for me, personally, I appreciate it when my efforts (even the simple, necessary ones) are taken into consideration or at the very least, acknowledged. I don't want my son's father to think that I take him for granted or don't care, because I don't like feeling that way, either.
However, I am not going to endlessly thank him for being a parent, simply because he's a man who happens to be a father. I don't think that basic parenting tasks require a parade of sorts, as I don't think it's any harder for him to do them just because he's a man and our society doesn't think of men as active and involved parents, as much as they think of them as financial contributors to their families. I am not going to reinforce gender stereotypes by thanking my son's dad for doing things that, for far too long, our culture designated as a "woman's job." Nope, not going to happen. So, while I am thankful that I have a wonderful parenting partner, I am not going to endlessly thank my son's dad for being a dad and here are just a few reasons why:
A Man Being A Paren't Doesn't Require More Effort, Simply Because He's A Man
Celebrating my partner for doing something he's completely capable of doing, reinforces some fictitious social ideology that claims men aren't "built" to be parents. That, unlike women, being paternal or nurturing doesn't come "naturally" to them and, as a result, they have to work harder to do the normal things that are required and expected of parents.
Yeah, no. My partner is just as capable as I am, and he is naturally nurturing and loving and caring. In fact, he fell into the parenting role with grater ease than I did. There is no "parenting gene" and women aren't made to be mothers any more than men are made to be fathers. In the end, procreation is a life choice and one that requires adjustment from everyone involved. My partner doesn't get extra praise because, well, he's not putting in any extra effort.
Going Against Gender Stereotypes Should Be The Norm...
I feel like celebrating my partner for going against outdated and hurtful gender stereotypes shouldn't be a thing. Sexism is laughable at best, and he knows better than to buy into the idea that raising children is simply a "woman's job," while the man goes out into the world and only contributes to his family financially.
So when he goes against those tropes and does what is required of him, as a parent and a grown-ass adult, I don't think it's worthwhile to start planning some parade or preparing a long-winded, "my partner is the best" Facebook post. Like, this is the bare minimum we're talking about, here, and just because our society decided to gender certain actions (like cooking vs changing a tire, raising children vs entering the work place) doesn't mean my male partner isn't responsible for being, you know, a partner.
...And Celebrating Men When They Do Reinforces The Idea That They're Doing Something "Women Are Supposed To Do"
Furthermore, if I celebrate my partner or endlessly thank him every time he does something as simple as changing a diaper, I'm reinforcing the idea that changing diapers isn't necessarily his "job." I'm basically saying, "You're helping me out, because this is primarily my job," instead of saying, "This is our job."
The only way we put sexism, gender inequality and gender stereotypes to bed, is if we stop reinforcing them. Easier said than done, for sure, as not everyone is raised in progressive environments or even believes in gender equality, but I am one of those people. I'm not going to say "thank you," as if I owe my partner an endless amount of gratitude for simply being a decent human being.
He's An Adult
I thank my toddler son for doing simple and otherwise "normal" every-day tasks, because he's a toddler and he's actively learning how to do said tasks. I thank him for putting his shoes away and for eating and for not, you know, throwing toys at people's faces, because he's a child.
My partner, on the other hand, is not a child. So, as a result, I'm not going to treat him as such. I won't be thanking him for doing the simple things, because he's already learned how to do the simple things. He doesn't need me to reinforce good behavior, as he's a grown-ass human being who knows what is expected and required of him.
Honestly, It's Not That Hard
Let me clarify: parenthood is hard. I mean, it can be the most hard at times. I'm not going to downplay how difficult it is to take care of another human being. When you're sleep deprived and overwhelmed and anxious and someone is depending on you every second of every day, even the simple tasks seem daunting.
Still, certain parenting tasks aren't impossible, either. Hard? Maybe, depending on the situation. But not impossible. I don't need to feign amazement when my partner does something simple (like cook a meal or clean up a mess or change a diaper or give a bath) as if he's summited Mount Everest and we should all bask in his awesomeness. This isn't rocket science and no one is curing cancer and millions upon millions of people have successfully raised children before we decided to give it a try.
It's His Kid, Too
Our child is not my sole responsibility. Nope. Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm the primary caregiver, and my partner is just the secondary "helper." Not how it works. Our son is his child, too, and he has just as much responsibility to our son's life and wellbeing, as I do.
I'd Rather Thank Him For Stuff That Actually Warrants Praise
Of course, none of this is to say that you shouldn't take the time to thank your parenting partner, even when they do some of the mundane things or little things or simple things. In the end, it's usually those little things that make the biggest difference and I am thankful that I can share parenting responsibilities with someone.
So, yes, I will stop and take the time to thank him for certain things. It just isn't going to happen all the time and it definitely isn't going to happen for things that he should (and does) instinctively do. I want him to feel appreciated, yes, and I want him to know that his efforts are meaningful to both my son and myself. I also want to reinforce the, sadly, somewhat nuanced idea that men are just as capable of being parents, as women.
Honestly, It's Patronizing
If I took the time to praise my partner for doing something as basic and effortless as changing a diaper or putting clothes on a toddler (OK, sometimes both require effort because damn those little buggers are squirmy), I'm essentially telling him that I'm surprised. It's like, "Whoa, you were actually capable of doing something particularly simple. That's amazing, because for a second there, I really didn't think you had it in you." It's patronizing.
Dads aren't these hopeless idiots who can't figure out how to put on a onesie. They're not "clueless" and they're not in need of "training." They're capable, and we need to treat them as such. I'm not going to thank my partner for doing something he should be doing as the father of another human being, because I know he is capable. He doesn't need to hear me talk down to him in the form of "gratitude," as if I'm just naturally better at parenthood but grateful that he's willing to put in some "effort."