I sometimes feel I write ad nauseum about how much tougher at-home dads have it compared to at-home moms.
Not because of the difficulty with the job itself, although I guess you could say women are still often “groomed” for it in a lot of ways from a young age whereas men typically have a much steeper learning curve. Rather, I mean in regards to what sorts of resources are available, and how much support and understanding one gets in choosing to stay home with a child. At-home dads have come a long way, definitely, but we have much further to go.
However, today I’d like to talk about another of the Great Untold Perks of daddyhood (the first perk being naps):
Dads get far more praise for doing far less than moms
Stay-at-home dads certainly see and experience this most often, but really it’s true of all dads. If you’re out in public, taking an active role in caring for your child (particularly an infant or toddler), someone is watching and thinking you’re awesome.
It doesn’t even have to be anything particularly above and beyond the call of duty, either:
- Have your baby strapped to you in a sling or carrier? Adorable.
- Patiently feeding applesauce to a squirming toddler? You rock!
- Offering to change a poopy diaper? Someone is likely to ask your wife if you have a brother.
While it’s true that seeing a dad in a restaurant tote a stinky baby off to change a diaper can seem like a rare (and praiseworthy) occurrence, dads are as likely to get an approving smile for simply kissing a boo-boo in public.
When I take one of my sons grocery shopping with me (which is pretty much every time we buy groceries), I constantly have people who see us and tell me they think it’s great how I’ve taken on this extra burden to give my wife a break. Or they’ll comment on how I’m “babysitting,” but that’s another blog post …
Appreciation is nice, but a bit condescending
It’s great someone appreciates me being an involved parent or doing things many are happy to take a pass on, but it can feel like it only comes because, frankly, so little is expected of dads. These compliments are a double-edged sword, because the truth is we only get this easy praise because the bar has been set extremely low.
I don’t just mean that in regard to the legitimate epidemic of absent, distant, or uninvolved fathers, either. My own father is and was always a wonderful dad, but I probably changed more diapers in the first week after my first son was born than he did in total after raising three kids. It just wasn’t expected of him. Now, I’m happy to do it, but I won’t pretend there are not times my nose becomes particularly poor at what it does in hope my wife will deal with a poopy diaper. (Let it never be said guys are not excellent at gladly passing on the opportunity to do something if we think someone else will do it instead.)
For millions of hard-working moms, on the other hand, the day-to-day work of taking care of both the kids and the home is simply assumed. Breakfast in bed and a card on Mother’s Day is sometimes as close to being really appreciated as they are going to get, much of the time. Random comments from strangers are less likely to be praise for a job well done because they tend to see a mom being a mom. Even though there is a definite understanding among moms about how hard their jobs are, I’m sure meaningful encouragement and recognition of a job well done are far more rare than you’d think.
No parent is in it for a trophy, but let’s face it: the bar for being a “SuperDad” is pretty low. The bar for being “SuperMom” is set really, really, impossibly high.
So, next time you see a dad doing something that strikes you as going above and beyond, certainly feel free to praise him for it. Encourage him to keep on being a great dad. But save some of that praise for the moms who do it every day with little appreciation.