As a mother who thinks a messy bun is an "updo" and yoga pants are perfectly acceptable pants and 30 minutes late is "right on time," I'm a self-identified "hot mess mom." I don't hide my mistakes or my mishaps but, instead, wear them on my stained sleeve and refuse to apologize for not always having my sh*t together. I do wonder, however, why we never hear about hot mess dads. I mean, I can be upfront and honest about my mess of a mom life, but I see my partner doing much of the same and, well, he's not labeled as a "hot mess dad." In fact, as an involved parent who stays at home with his son during the day and goes to school at night, he is labeled the best father ever who is just as rare and magical as a unicorn. Um, what?
I mean, I am very thankful that I have a parenting partner who is in the thick of this whole child raising thing with me, but I can't help but notice how different we're both treated by our society, even though we're doing the exact the same thing. When I forget my kid's snacks when we're at the playground and he's throwing a tantrum and I'm spilling coffee all over myself in an attempt to make him happy and find some toy at the bottom of his baby bag, I'm the "mess." When my partner does the exact same thing, he's adorable and endearing and "just doing his best." As as culture, we're much kinder and understanding to fathers when they make a mistake or simply don't have their sh*t together one hundred precent of the time, than we are to mothers. In fact, we're downright horrible to mothers, and have convinced most moms that making a mistake is an undeniable "failure," instead of a normal, necessary and unavoidable part of simply being a human being.
So, while I'm more than happy to lean into this whole "hot mess mom" label and own it, I do wonder why we don't offer dads the chance to do much of the same. I know that there are involved fathers who are making just as many mistakes and are publicly flailing just as often as mothers and, well, it's time we give them the label the collective "we" seems so hellbent on giving the not-always-perfect mom, too. With that in mind, here's a few reasons why that hasn't happened yet, because you can't fix what you don't know is broken.
Dads Aren't Pressured To Be "Perfect Parents"
The hot mess mom is a direct result of the never-ending pressure put on mothers to be "perfect." As a response to that unnecessary pressure, if a mom "makes a mistake" or "messes up" or just doesn't appear to be 100 percent on top of it all at every moment of every day, she's automatically a "hot mess."
So, of course we don't see or hear about hot mess dads; they're not under the same amount of pressure. If they make a mistake or have some hilarious #ParentingFail, it's normal (and even endearing). If a mom does the same, she's automatically a mess who clearly doesn't have her sh*t together.
Dads Are Considered "Secondary Parents," And Aren't Pressured To Be As Involved
When the collective "we" observes a dad making a mistake or a dad that looks like he's struggling or maybe just a dad that doesn't appear to be "put together," he's praised for just being involved. He's not considered a mess, he's considered a wonderful father because he's just, you know, there. Simply being a parent trumps any mistake he may or may not make while he's actually parenting.
Mothers, on the other hand, aren't praised for simply showing up. Our culture has made that a no-brainer — a "duh" — and much more is required of women who choose to procreate if they are to "earn" the title of "good mom."
Dads Are Praised For Simply Showing Up...
Because fathers aren't pressured by society to be as involved, they get points for simply showing up and doing basic parenting tasks. How could they possibly be considered a "hot mess," when they're (usually) not doing the tasks as frequently as mothers are?
Even if a father (say, a single father or a father that just doesn't buy into ridiculous gender stereotypes and sexist double standards) is as involved as a mother, it's considered such an anomaly — so "unheard of" and so "different" — that he's praised and given somewhat of a "pass" for any mistakes he may or may not make. "That super-involved dad is just doing his best," instead of, "Wow, that super-involved dad is a hot mess."
...And Doing The Basic Things Moms Do Every Day
You've seen the social media posts and the public declarations of amazing fathers killing it at the whole fatherhood thing. A dad will do something simple — something that a mother probably does a million times a day — and he's instantly slated as the best father ever. He changed a diaper or he "babysat" the kids while mom had a night out with friends or he made dinner one night in the previous month. Even if they make a mistake during any one of these instances, it doesn't matter. They're "doing it," and that's all that matters.
A mother, of course, must do more than just the necessities, and if she doesn't she's a "mess."
Most Don't Think Dads Are Capable Anyway...
Our culture has done a bang-up job of patronizing fathers by convincing them they're just doomed to "mess up" when it comes to parenting. It's not uncommon to hear people talk about a dad's capabilities as laughable at best, so there's no room for them to be "hot messes," as society has already convinced men that they're naturally bad at the parenting thing.
Of course, the opposite is true of mothers. Motherhood is held up to be this "innate" thing that every woman should want to experience because it's "natural" (false and, you know, ugh) and, so, if a woman struggles at being a mother (and by struggles, I mean makes a mistake) she's a "mess."
...So They're Not "Messes," That's Just "Normal" Dad Behavior
You can't make a mess of something you were never expected to be that good at in the first place.
Because our expectations of fathers and their capabilities are so low, as a culture, they don't have any room to mess up. They're given an automatic pass — like a condescending pat on the head or an "A" for effort — instead of being criticized the way mothers are.
Dads Just Aren't As Involved
There's an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the United States today. However, while men are doing more around the house and are more involved in parenting responsibilities — and women are waiting longer to have children and are returning to work after having children more frequently — women are still doing more of the household work and child rearing than men. In fact, a new study found that while men and women both work an average of 40 hours a week, women do 15 hours a week of housework and an average of 22 hours a week of child care.
So, if we — as a society — don't see too many "hot mess dads," it's because they're simply not around. It's not uncommon to see more mothers at the playground than fathers, for instance, and when you see more mothers in a parenting role than fathers, you're bound to see more hot mess mothers than you are to see hot mess fathers.
In Other Words: Gender Stereotypes
I mean, outdated and unnecessary gender stereotypes are really to blame. Our culture has marketed motherhood as the end-all-be-all for women, while fatherhood is a "choice" and a "secondary" part of a man's overall existence and identity. Mothers are held to an unrealistic standard and ridiculous expectations, while fathers are praised for simply showing up and changing a diaper every once in a while.
So, trust me when I say that there are hot mess fathers out there. There are fathers who know gender stereotypes are for the birds and they're involved parents and, as involved parents, they're messing up and making mistakes the way any parent inevitably does. They're not messing up because they're men and "men don't know how to parent," they're messing up because they're humans. You know, just like mothers.