It was a relatively normal day. I came home from work to a happy toddler and a doting father. My son was well-fed, well-dressed, happy and playing with his dad, just like any other afternoon. After a particularly well-known smell permeated the room, my son's dad found a diaper and changed my son. It happens regularly, but I decided to grab my phone and document this run-of-the-mill situation. Little did I know that my kid's dad changing a diaper would make him internet famous. That relatively normal day changed our lives forever, as my son's father is now revered as the "best dad in the entire world" and just "so sweet" and "so loving," and I couldn't be prouder to be the partner of someone who goes against his natural man-instincts on the regular and actually cares for his child. I mean, he's a dad, so it's not like the basic necessities of parenting are at all his responsibility.
If I'm being honest, the first time my son's dad changed a diaper (mere hours after our son was born) I was shocked. I know that my son's dad, because he's a man, lacks that quintessential "parent DNA" gene that we women are automatically endowed with, so he must have really scrambled to change on a molecular level (and so damn quickly) after he became a father. I think it was the knowledge that I was witnessing another miracle of science that caused me to grab my phone and document a moment I've seen countless times before and, I'm sure, was starting to take for granted. A man changing a baby's diaper regularly. Astounding. Groundbreaking. Definitely worth memorializing. Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson will probably have their hands full in the coming months, so I was more than happy to capture something so mundane, ignoring the fact that I've changed thousands of diapers without so much as a "thank you." I had a duty to let the world know about this bizarre, heroic and, let's just call it what the internet called it after: "awwwww," behavioral aberration. This is science we're talking about.
Plus, I knew that posting a video of my son's dad changing a diaper gave me the opportunity to brag about what a fantastic father he truly is. Throwing a parade would have been time consuming, expensive, and somewhat unrealistic, as I am a working mom with numerous responsibilities and only so many hours in a day to accomplish them. Plus, unless it's Thanksgiving and I'm parked in front of a famous department store, I'm not sure people would attend a parade and, therefore, I wouldn't be able to point to my son's father and say, "He's helping me parent, isn't that great!?" But a video of an actual man changing an actual diaper on an actual child? That takes seconds to upload, moments to share and a few hours before thousands upon thousands of people know that my son's father can change a single, solitary diaper.
I asked my son's dad if he felt embarrassed, now that he's known as a "Mr. Mom." After all, taking care of a child is considered "feminine," and feminine is considered "weak." I don't know very many dads who want to be known for their parenting abilities when they coincide with what society has deemed a "woman's job," but he seemed to really enjoy the positive attention.
"This is wonderful," he said to me a few days after the video went viral, re-watching it for the twenty-seventh time as he marveled at the millions of views it had already accumulated. "You've changed diapers a thousand times and I've changed diapers a thousand times, but you capture me doing it once and I'm an internet star and the absolute best parent to ever parent. I mean, it's just a diaper."
"I know," I said. But, there's something to be said for his constant efforts. After all, the parenting responsibilities default to me as I am the woman and parenting just comes naturally to me, so I'm thankful that he's always willing to "babysit." I'm not one to complain when I know things are good and, you guys, things are good.
"I wonder if dads are aware that if they just change a diaper or feed a kid once, they can get this kind of notoriety, too?" my son's dad wondered aloud, looking up before hitting replay on the video. "All this praise is just astounding, so maybe a dad should babysit more often, you know? I mean, you never hear about how hard parenthood is for dads. All we ever hear about is moms being pregnant, being in labor for hours on end, giving birth, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, and either staying at home and keeping everything together or going to work and balancing a career and motherhood. Dads definitely deserve more recognition."
"Definitely," I said, because hey, at least I get to say that I'm my son's dad's partner. I'm getting internet famous by association, and I'm all for friends, family members, and strangers telling me how lucky I am that my kid's dad helps out on occasion.
In fact, the constant admiration from other mothers that my kid's dad now experiences and that I now get to enjoy by association, is easily the most substantial life change we've appreciated as a result of the video. Now everyone knows he shares the day-to-day parenting responsibilities and that clearly goes against what is expected of him. Women are constantly telling me that I'm just so fortunate, and I get to boast about my son's father; smiling through so many mothers' stories about uninvolved dads who won't even change a diaper. I'm able to witness countless diaper changes at the hands of my son's father and, well, I just feel so terrible for the women who can't grab their phones and show the world that for a split second, their kid's dad was a dad.
"Maybe you can video tape me again?" my son's dad continued, pulling me back into the moment. He can tell that I've been spending more and more time thinking about how blessed I am, and less time actually listening to him. "I could tell other dads just how easy this all is."
"Well, sure," I responded. "But, aren't you afraid that if other dads do this, you won't be 'father of the year' anymore?" After all, I didn't want this gravy train to end. We already had a slew of online publications contacting us for interviews. In fact, one popular parenting site wants to ask my son's dad how he learned to be such a great parent, and I don't want these wonderful PR opportunities to just go away when another Joe Blow steals our internet spotlight.
"Good call," he said. "I'm the one and only Mr. Mom, now."
I nodded, while simultaneously plugging my phone into the wall so make sure it was, and would remain, fully charged. Now that our entire life had changed and my son's dad realized what could happen if he got caught doing parenting tasks, I never knew what he was going to do next. Maybe he was going to pick up my son's toys, or change his clothes, or give him a bath, or cook him a meal and take the time to sit with him and help him eat. Maybe he was going to read him a book, even. No matter what kind of parenting responsibility he decided to engage in next, I wanted to make sure that I had a fully-charged phone, capable of capturing that moment on video and posting it for all the internet to see.
Note: contrary to stereotype, men are just as capable as women of nurturing children. More and more dads are stepping up and taking on 50 percent or more of household and parenting responsibilities. Still, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center shows that women will still spend 9 more hours each week on child-related and household responsibilities, than men. Another study found that men think they are spending much more time on child-related and household responsibilities than their female partners say they are. And we've seen countless examples of dads praised on the internet for tasks women do every day. Think how different women's (and men's) lives would be if dividing these responsibilities equally were the norm.