Mom-shaming is bad enough, but when parenting is mansplained to me? Yeah, that's when my head is in danger of exploding. Thankfully it hasn't happened too often that I am worrying about the status of my head on a regular basis. Make no mistake, though, all the ways people have tried to mansplain parenting to me still drive me nuts.
Mansplaining, in case you've been living without internet the past five years, is the often inappropriate, always annoying practice when a man condescendingly explains something — as though he's an expert — to a woman who generally knows more about the given topic. Since Rebecca Solnit explained the concept in her 2008 article "Men Explain Things To Me," it has sometimes been used to describe any privileged person explaining, with an undeserved air of authority , something to a person with a marginalized identity who actually knows more about the topic. Enter all parents everywhere being mansplained on parenting by child-free people.
It's no surprise, of course, that parenting is hard AF. What parents need is support (and wine), not lazy know-it-alls, who won't babysit for us BTW, telling us how to get our children to behave, sleep, do their homework, eat their food, take a bath, or, well, pretty much anything else they have no practical experience with. Some of them are hilarious in their wrong-headedness, and some of them are down right insulting, but either way: all the ways people have tried to mansplain parenting to me serve as a reminder that, sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all.
When I Was Given "Friendly Advice"
My brother is an Olympian mansplainer.
Prior to my daughter being diagnosed as autistic, she would have (what we thought were) unexplained meltdowns. No matter what we did she could not be soothed or redirected. My brother, childless at the time, helpfully explained to me that what she needed was to be shown who was boss. Which means what, exactly? Beating her? Sure, autism totally responds to a good whooping. Sarcasm.
When Someone Told Me Being Trans Was Like Cabbage
My father taught my brother how to mansplain. They seriously should have all the Olympic Golds in mansplaining.
I once got a long email from my father mansplaining how, while he would never question my parenting choices, just because my child was saying she was a girl doesn't mean I should support her. He went on to elaborate that just because a child thinks they're a cabbage doesn't mean they're a cabbage.
In fact, he continued by saying monkeys regularly do whatever they're trained to do, so if I just stopped supporting my child's gender she'll stop expressing it. As evidence he was an expert on such matters, he cited his 1970s bachelor's degree in zoological education and his nursing degree.
When People Say My Partner "Babysits"
Random strangers mansplaining to me, a working mother of three, that to get a "break" I should just tell my "husband" he needs to "babysit" the kids honestly make me afraid. I'm terrified I'll roll my eyes so hard they'll fall out of my head.
Hint for all parenting mansplainers: fathers don't babysit, they parent. My particular partner was a stay-at-home-dad for seven years. That's a helluva lot of babysitting costs, guys.
When People Recommend A "Strong Male Role Model"
I won't name names here, but from the posts above you can probably guess I have some overachieving mansplainers in my life. In regards to my child's gender identity, certain family members bemoaned the lack of a "strong male role model" in addition to "confusing" non-traditional gender roles as cause for my child's "gender confusion."
Translation: our husband stays home and you're a feminist, therefore, you made your kid transgender. Um, yeah, that's not how that works.
When People Say "You Have Your Hands Full"
In the grocery store, the auto parts store, the home improvement store, and the random restaurant. It never fails that going out with my three children provokes some man to let me know how full my hands are. Really? Yeah. I know. Thanks.
When People Say "Well, Actually..."
We all know this is the catch phrase of the mansplainer, right? Anything that follows is classic mansplaining. I try not to listen.
When People Warn Of The Dangers Of Co-Sleeping
"You can't have all those kids sleeping in your bed!" says my male friend with no kids. "I'm not!" I say, "Only the littlest."
Besides, is it really any of your concern? When's the last time you had kids? Oh, never? Right. Got it.
When Someone Equates Hairstyle With Parenting Ability
An internet troll went so far as to say that, because I had dyed hair and proudly sported the occasional mohawk, I was incapable of being a good parent. I'll pause here for your incredulous laughter and scoffs of derision.
The reality is, unless someone is asking for your advice on their parenting (or there's actual abuse going on) everyone should keep their opinions on other people's parenting to themselves. Don't you think, dear reader, that the world would be a happier, kinder place if the mansplaining stopped?