Dads — stop trying to be mom. There, I’ve said it.
I can hear a whole lot of browsers closing right now, especially those used by you at-home dads. I feel those eyerolls. Who the hell is this guy? Is he trying to piss off everyone?
But here’s what I mean.
Moms are awesome. I have one and I’m married to one. They are good Ford people, salt of the earth women who should be put up on pedestals. They should be celebrated and acknowledged for all the truly heroic things that they do. If you haven’t called your mother in a while, then stop reading and do that.
Moms worry all the time. Seriously, all the fucking time. It comes with the pregnancy hormones in the first trimester. They were carefree before kids, then the change happens, and worry is born nine months later. So pick up the phone and call your mom, she’s worried about you. It’s Monday, mom is always worried on Mondays. Help the lady out, don’t be a douche bag.
However, that doesn’t mean that we dads have to be mom. And if you are trying to be mom, fucking stop it. You can’t compete on that level, my man. It’s a losing game. You don’t have the skills for it, you are ill-prepared to roll in that game. They will be doing deep corner routes while you are trying to figure out where the first down marker is.
Nine years. I have spent nine years doing the stay-at-home dad thing. I’ve joined “moms’ groups.” I’ve done the mall playground thing. I’ve died a little bit inside when I get the side-eye at the outdoor playground. I’ve tried to craft things out of flowers, devoured Pinterest to come up with ideas about what to buy at Micheals. I’ve hot glued my fingers to paper plates.
And then I stopped trying to be mom.
It doesn’t work, can’t be done.
The mom standard is so ridiculously high that it’s a goal that we will never reach, nor do I want to anymore. I would love to have the respect of moms, that’s about it. I would love to never again hear, “Are you babysitting, today?” It’s not going to happen. So let’s be dad. Let’s do the kid-raising thing the way we want to, the things that we are good at.
Put down the scissors and grab a fucking hammer. Go build something majestic. Want to know how to build a real trebuchet? Leave a comment, I’ll tell you how it’s done. Then do the ballista with flaming arrows. Some dad around here knows how to craft a bitching robot that throws marshmallows. Go find that guy and ask them if it’s cool to light the marshmallows on fire.
Ever go to the library and find your the only man there? Embrace that shit. You know what you are doing and fucking have confidence in it. Maybe your kid likes reading about purple dinosaurs — fine, cool. But maybe your 6-month-old also wants to listen to you read a book about the dangers of the Galactic Empire and the importance of Do or Do Not. Grab that book, be that guy.
A shop vac is better than a regular vacuum cleaner. “But those belong in a garage,” people will say. Bullshit. Those belong near the dining room table next to the entire box of cereal that your kid has just dumped over. Get a shop vac, let the kids decorate it. Give it the name Mad Max and tell your daughter it’s time to rev the engine.
If you are going to the mall playground, stop it. Sorry man, I know it’s easy but we all know that you are there because something is dying inside of you. What is going to happen is that you are going to be sitting there all alone. And a guy all alone is going to freak people out at those types of places. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. You know where it’s cool to be alone with your kid that also won’t shrivel your soul up? A civil war museum. Your kid doesn’t care where you go. They just want to be with you. So take them to places you actually want to go to. And that is not the mall. Maybe it’s a tour of the local major league baseball stadium. Get it done.
“Oh, he’s just a dad.”
I swear to all that is holy if you hear this, you better correct it immediately. Your kid shows up to preschool wearing a tutu with a clashing red top. Fuck it, the kid wanted to wear a tutu with a red top. Own that. If it’s a dad thing to let your kid be himself, then be a fucking Dad with a capital D. If your kid is screaming and someone (in-laws, looking at you) tries to take them out of your arms because “you’re just a dad,” you put that kid in a football hold and don’t give the ball up. You have the ability to comfort your kid. You know this, don’t be pushed aside because you have a dick.
Don’t wait to be invited
Look, it’s your kid and no one else’s. If they need a bottle in the middle of the night, volunteer for that shit. Feed your kid, watch some Star Trek while you do it. Don’t wait for someone to ask you, do it. We other dads expect that shit out of you. Don’t be passive.
Teach your kid how to grill a steak
Pretty self-explanatory there.
None of us carry diaper bags. We carry backpacks of awesome. Most times that bag does have diapers and wipes. Sometimes that bag has duct tape and pliers. Because we all know your kid is going to break shit and it’s your job as dad to fix it. And for the love of all that is holy, your bag should never be “mauve, maroon, or burgundy.” It’s either green, red or a different red and the color completely doesn’t matter. What matters is if it has a cooler section for breast milk and beer. Go to the camping section of your local store and gear up.
I hear it all the time: “Look at that dad, he’s such a good dad for spending time with his kid.” No, I’m not a good dad for being with my kid. He’s my kid, why wouldn’t I want to be with her? No one else is going to teach her to put her thumb on the outside when she punches so she won’t break it. I’m not a good dad, I’m just a dad. Don’t let other people hold us to their lower standards. If it is unusual for a dad to spend time with their kid, well, that’s fucked up.
Acknowledge and embrace the fear
We are going to have some bad days. Some bad days will turn into bad weeks. Then that shit gets in our head. We start to wonder if we are good enough, that maybe we suck balls. Hello, depression and a feeling of poor self-worth. You don’t have to face any of that shit with a stoic outer appearance. It’s OK to feel less than awesome sometimes and it’s OK to talk about it. I know dads are supposed to be these rocks who aren’t afraid of anything. But you know what, sometimes when I hear a weird noise downstairs, it freaks me out too. I make the dog come with me because he’s way braver than me. And it’s OK to let your wife or your kid know that sometimes your head gets a little messed up. We aren’t John Wayne. John Wayne wasn’t even John Wayne and it’s OK to talk about it.
Finally, have some confidence in yourself. Being different does not mean being worse. Don’t worry about the perceptions out there, I know that it can be tough. This is not a competition and we don’t have to do things because that’s how it has been done. Don’t care. Be a dad, be the guy you would want to hang out with. Don’t get sidelined, don’t get caught up in expectations.
Because the only person’s opinion that should matter to you is that little two-foot individual who sits in your lap and occasionally hits you in the balls. Take care of that person and the rest of the world will fade away.
A version “Stop Trying to be the Mom” first appeared on Hossman at-Home. Photo: © gstockstudio / Adobe Stock.
Andy Hill says
Hear, hear! You be you Dad. No one else is uniquely like you. Carry that backpack of duct tape, breast milk and beer with confidence.
Your confidence in yourself will be the best example you can give your kid.