Three times a week, the whole family, plus the German shepherd, go to a local park. I run with the dog while my husband supervises the kids when they're on their bikes. While I’m sweating it out on a two-mile jog, people approach my husband. They smile. And they proceed to compliment his parenting.
“You go, Dad!” they say.
“What a great dad!” they say.
“Must be Daddy day!” they say. “Is Mommy at the spa?”
I often take my kids to the same park, alone, wrangling three kids, a dog, and a jogging stroller. No one ever says a word. I'm never applauded. I never get a second glance. I’m just one more harried mom trying to get her run in. My husband, on the other hand, is a great dad simply because he stays off his phone and makes sure the kids don’t kill themselves. As long as he's not actively berating his children, he’s doing a great job. If he does the bare minimum, he’s praised to high heaven. And I am so tired of watching him be applauded for doing the same thing that I do every day, simply by virtue of his gender.
It’s even worse when we go to Target. Often, I'll take Sunny, who is 3, August, who is 5, and Blaise, who is 7, to the big-box store without my husband in tow. If the kids are behaving well, I get some indulgent smiles, but as soon as they start acting up, I receive glares and stares until I hustle my butt out of there.
No one comments on my parenting. People do not approach me simply to say that I’m a good mother and that I should “keep up the good work."
With my husband, however, it’s a different story. If my kids start acting up in a department store, total strangers go up to him and say, “You must have your hands full, Dad." He says it’s intended as a subtle way to insult our children. I say it’s an acknowledgement that parenting is hard, and he’s doing a good job at it.
My husband is a great dad, and in itself, I don't mind that people recognize how awesome he is at parenting. Yet when total strangers fall over themselves to compliment his parenting skills, it's nauseating. Sometimes, people will ask him if it’s "his day to babysit." (News flash: dads who take care of their kids on a full-time basis aren't "babysitters," they're just dads.)
Others will say, "I love how you talk to them," referring to him nattering on to our kids about dinosaur hip bones or Legos. I have conversations with my kids about these subjects all the time, simply because we both believe we should talk to our children like they're people. No one comments on it. People do not approach me simply to say that I’m a good mother and that I should “keep up the good work."
This blatant double standard just goes to show how despite the advances we've made in terms of gender equality, childcare is still viewed as women’s work, and women are expected to do it. No one bats an eye when I take the kids to Target, because I’m a mom; I’m supposed to take the kids to Target. My husband, on the other hand, is some kind of extraordinary beast. He’s “giving mom a break.” He’s “babysitting.” He’s not seen as a primary caregiver, but a stand-in for me, and a stand-in who deserves to be applauded for stooping so low as to take on what's largely considered a "woman's role."
No one bats an eye when I take the kids to Target, because I’m a mom; I’m supposed to take the kids to Target. My husband, on the other hand, is some kind of extraordinary beast. He’s “giving mom a break.” He’s “babysitting.”
Going to the grocery store is the worst. My husband frequently takes all the kids to Food Lion or Publix, because I hate the grocery store, and he does all the cooking. He sends the kids on little errands to pick up food, talks to them, and asks them for their opinions on what we're getting. “Oh, weekend out with Daddy!” people say, as if the only reason he’d be with his kids at the grocery store is because I was somehow unable to be there. “You’re doing such a good job."
Once, when August was smaller and Blaise was in the cart, people asked my husband if he needed help carrying his groceries. I go to the grocery store with three kids, and no one says a word. Even when I could use some damn help getting those groceries to the car.
I’m sick of my husband getting all the accolades for basic parenting, while I just blend into the background of struggling moms. I'm sick of him being considered a hero and a great dad just for existing — because while he truly is a great dad, there is so much pressure on me to parent extraordinarily, while he does the bare minimum and gets a cookie for it. It’s one more way that female caregiving is devalued in our society, while a male taking on that traditionally feminine role is viewed as the height of love and devotion.
My kids are indeed lucky to have such a great dad, and truly, he deserves all the praise he gets. But so do I — and I can wait as long as I like, but that praise never comes.