Fathers are incompetent man-children who may be able to keep their kids alive (in a pinch) but not much else. Mothers are incessant nags, who wouldn’t know a good time if it tickled their collective behinds, but they do know to take care of business … around the house, anyway.
It seems impossibly outdated, yet somehow this view of parenthood persists.
If you’re on Facebook (and who isn’t?), you’ve probably seen this meme:
Give me a friggin’ break.
I know my situation is different than the norm. I’m a stay-at-home dad. So, should I reverse the above graphic? When my children go to my wife for help, do they look around and ask, “Where is dad?” No. They ask her for what they need. When we’re both home, do we magically revert to old stereotypes, that she knows everything and I’m just a dumb lug who scratches himself all day? No! We are partners in this whole parenting thing.
I’ve seen the above meme, and others just like it, countless times. For each one, there are a host of women commenting “oh, yeah!” and “preach it, girl!” I usually just roll my eyes and make a mental note of which of my friends is an idiot that day (or who is getting really annoyed at this silly B.S., which can also be amusing).
These moms are probably mostly joking or venting, maybe thinking back to particular instances when dad could have done more … or maybe these moms just weren’t thinking at all. Totally understandable. I’ve encountered my share of arguably sexist memes and, for an instant, saw a grain of truth in them or just wanted to empathize or bond with the dude who posted it. Then I think about the message I’d be sending to the world – about my wife in particular and women in general – and I keep scrolling. There are better things to like on the internet. But I’m not mad at the women who click “like” and leave messages of support for this view. I feel sorry for them. Their “partners” are not holding up their end of the implicit parental bargain.
I’m willing to bet, however, that most parents recognize how valuable their significant other is. If not, something is wrong in that dynamic. It’s possible that dad IS slacking and needs to get his act together. Maybe mom is stressed because dad feels his role as a parent is to provide for his family, and not much else. It’s also possible that mom won’t let him participate as much as he’d like to, because he doesn’t fold the laundry the “right way” or cook a “perfectly balanced” meal the way she would. Partnership requires some give and take, particularly the giving up and taking of control.
As a stay-at-home parent, I absolutely depend on my wife. Just like she could not put in long hours at work if I didn’t stay home with the kids, I could not take care of the kids all day if she didn’t share those responsibilities when she is home. I would lose my god damn mind!
By the time we pick my wife up a the train station, I am ready to hand over the reigns. I am all too happy to take on some of those household responsibilities I shirked during the day. After a long day at the office, every minute with the kids is precious for her. Yes, she’s exhausted, but in a different way. What is something of a break for her is the very thing that threatens to break me…those crazy kids and all their questions!
Upon further reflection, maybe the meme isn’t as far off as I originally thought. If the moms who liked it are anything like me, they’re probably hiding in the kitchen once their spouses get home. The kids aren’t asking dad where mom is because dad is a useless idiot, they’re asking because there are times when mom doesn’t want to be found! It’s a good thing that, like me, she has a partner in this whole parenting thing who is ready, willing and able to take on whatever questions, requests, and demands are thrown his way.