I get it, ladies. It'a annoying when society wants to give the father of your child a damn trophy for simply parenting. Worshiping dads for completing rudimentary tasks is a cultural problem, for sure. I'm not saying we should hand out "Changed a Diaper" or "Got Up With the Baby" patches we moms lovingly sew onto the dad uniform (t-shirt and cargo shorts, duh). But I do think the "stop celebrating dads for just being dads" has gotten a little out of control. In my house, I praise my kid's dad for simply parenting, including the times he does something I do every single day.
My husband works full-time as a captain in the U.S. Army. I work two part-time jobs while my daughter is at preschool three days a week. By virtue of the time I spend with our child, I'm the primary caregiver. When my husband is home, however, he fully participates as a parenting partner. Before he leaves in the morning, he unloads the dishwasher and, when our daughter was a baby, he would sanitize her bottles. When he comes through the door in the evening, he takes over childcare duties while I make dinner. After we eat, one of us is usually on kitchen patrol while the other one bathes the toddler. On the weekends, he gets her dressed and fed before I'm even up, and he's diligent about taking her to go potty (in public, too).
Doesn't all of this just fall into the category of being a "good dad," though? My answer is yes, but it doesn't mean it doesn't deserve some recognition. So what if I do the same thing, but backwards and in high heels (thanks, Ginger Rogers)? I'm not going to post all over Facebook about how #blessed I am to have such an amazing father for my daughter, or ever refer to what he does as "babysitting" or "helping." But in the privacy of our own home, you better believe I'm giving him two thumbs way up. Here's why:
Because I Want Him To Keep Doing It
I'd like to think that my motivation is intrinsic, but who am I kidding? I like certificates with my name on them, man. The thing with parenting is there's not a lot of recognition (I know it's about raising upstanding human beings, but I can't help it if I like plaques). My partner gets coins and awards for a job well done at work. I'm not going to give him a medal or anything, but I think a simple "thank you" goes a long way as positive reinforcement.
Because He Doesn't Expect It
My husband is a private, humble person who does not like attention. He also knows exactly who he married, so he doesn't expect me to constantly congratulate him for running a comb through our kid's hair. He's not "pitching in" or doing me a favor; he's just doing what needs to be done. That makes it a lot easier for me to show my appreciation. If he was proudly announcing every time he made a PB&J, I'd probably feel differently.
Because I Don't Think It's Condescending
I have to be careful here. While my gratitude isn't condescending, my actual condescension is. I'm sorry, but when your kid's dad says the underwear doesn't fit and you come out to see that he has both her legs through the leg hole, it's hard not to laugh. But I try not to buy into the trope of "dumb dad making a mistake" and keep my pats on the back genuine without feeding into the idea that dads are "lesser parents." It's a delicate balance, for sure.
Because Challenging Gender Roles Is A Good Thing
We praised the single mom who dressed up as a dude to attend Donuts with Dad with her kid, so why wouldn't we give kudos to the guy running the "Dad Salon"? The fact is, changing diapers, packing lunches, and braiding hair have historically been relegated to the realm of maternal responsibilities. Dads who take them on are on the right side of the battle for gender equality.
If we really want gender roles to be something we eat for breakfast, then we absolutely should be highlighting and celebrating examples of men (and women) who break gender stereotypes.
Because He's Setting A Good Example
Through our examples, my daughter is learning that regardless of who works outside of the home (or in it), parents hold equal responsibility for child-rearing. My hope is that she will expect nothing less from her future partner.
Dads who take on tasks that have traditionally been in mom's lane are also setting a great example for their sons. Men fully embracing the role of parent, even if it's what they're supposed to do, is part of how we take down toxic masculinity.
Because He's Done Stuff I Could Never Do
Don't get me wrong. I think stay-at-home mom is one of the toughest gigs out there. But there's no way I could have spent a year away from my child for work (and, you know, freedom) like he did. Then, to have him come home after 12 months in Afghanistan and jump right back into our battle rhythm (from potty training to grocery shopping) was, in my book, pretty freaking amazing.
Because My Own Father Wasn't Involved In My Life
My parents were separated before I was born. My biological dad never attended a single parent-teacher conference, band concert, or dance recital, much less changed a diaper or fixed my hot cocoa. Because of my experience, I'm all the more grateful for my stepdad, grandpa, and father of my child, and you better believe I let them know.
Because Nurturing Their Bond Is Important
The father-child bond is special (although that role can be filled by any number of individuals, regardless of gender). According to Psychology Today, children with caring, involved fathers are more emotionally secure and have better educational outcomes. My husband's connection with our daughter is different than mine, and sometimes he's able to work a special little magic with her by virtue of not being mom. Encouraging his connection with her is good for everyone.
Because I'm Teaching Good Manners
I don't refuse to say thank you to my barista for my drink because he's just doing his job. Likewise, I'll thank my kid's teacher for her patience, even though she gets paid to do it. So when my husband runs a package to the post office, I say thank you. It's just the nice thing to do, and these days, you can't underestimate the importance of nice.
Because It's So Much Better Than The Old Days
I adore my stepdad, but he told my husband that he only ever changed one diaper and he did it so badly so that my mom would never ask him to do it again. And that was the '90s, you guys.
He might enjoy a cigar or two, but my husband is the farthest thing from Don Draper. According to the Pew Research Center, dads spent triple the number of hours on childcare in 2015 as they did in 1965. They're still behind moms, but it's a move in the right direction.
Because He Celebrates Me, Too
Spousal appreciation is a two-way street. My partner tells me what a great mom and wife I am, how lucky my daughter is that she has me, and that he could never do everything I do. I don't mind returning some words of affirmation when I'm getting my bucket filled.
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