I think that woman just called me a pedophile.
I was once part of a panel of dads answering audience questions on a syndicated talk show when the very first question (more of an outlandish statement than a question) came from a mother who said she would never leave her daughter alone with a dad. She was afraid a man helping her child in the bathroom would not be able to control himself. You know, because we can’t be trusted around a prepubescent vagina. She had seen some bad stuff go down … on Law & Order.
As crazy as this woman sounded, it made me think: she can’t be the only one who feels this way. Other issues raised by the audience were less controversial, but no less ridiculous. Even before the first question was asked, however, the theme of the show, which pitted stay-at-home dads vs. moms, missed the mark.
Based on that experience, here are five myths about stay-at-home dads (SAHDs):
1. You can’t trust SAHDs with your children.
One of my fellow panelists answered the pedophile implication with the retort: “that sounds like a ‘you’ problem, not a ‘dad’ problem.” A great line and fantastic for television. The audience ate it up!
We were not talking about dropping your child off with a stranger or even with a father you had only talked to a few times after school or on a playground. I wouldn’t leave either of my children alone with someone I was not completely comfortable with. Man or woman. Furthermore, I wouldn’t leave my children alone with anyone THEY were not completely comfortable with.
The audience member was right that sometimes kids need help involving the utmost level of trust. She was dead wrong in her belief that dads cannot be deserving of that trust.
2. SAHDs can’t have as special a bond with their children as mothers can.
I hear this time and again: Sure, dads can be great parents, but they can never have the same relationship with their children as mothers.
I don’t deny the hard work and heroic efforts women endure during pregnancy and childbirth. A sincere “thank you” to all of mothers. You brought us dads the greatest gift in the world. (So stop with the ties on Father’s Day: they’re ugly and we don’t like them.)
But now the children are ours, just as much as they are yours.
I felt a bond with my children the first time I laid eyes on them. And they knew who I was. My daughter was a daddy’s girl from day one, often to the exclusion of my wife. (Something that caused tears on more than one occasion.) These things ebb and flow, and mommy is the favorite these days. Not, however, because of some bond that I was not privy to because I have a penis.
3. SAHDs are not nurturers.
I am physically unable to pick up my 2-year-old son without kissing and hugging (and usually tickling) him.
There are certainly times when he prefers his mommy, but bedtime is dad-time. When he knows he’s tired, he crawls into my arms. And when he’s tired, but does not know it, I can calm his screams and get him to fall asleep far quicker than my wife can. I think my scent soothes him. I know his scent soothes me.
Nurturing, it should be said, goes beyond all the hugs and kisses I give my kids. I nurture their spirit, confidence, education, and sense of fun (and sometimes mischief). Anyone who doesn’t think stay-at-home dads nurture has not seen a stay-at-home dad in action.
4. SAHDs are trying to be better than moms.
Are dads better stay-at-home parents than moms? What a dumb, meaningless question. But that is what the talk-show producers wanted us to argue. Dads are not better than moms. And moms are not better than us.
Parenting is not a competition!
I don’t work against my wife to raise our children; I work with her. The fact that we parent differently is a benefit to our kids. They get the best of both worlds.
5. SAHDs are the only dads you should be paying attention to.
Stay-at-home dads are so hot right now! But we are still in the minority. Not only compared to stay-at-home moms, but compared to all the active and involved fathers that go to work (or work from home) every day and are co-equal parents every night. Why are they being ignored by the media?
Stay-at-home dads are at the forefront of the changing image of fathers, but working dads deserve our attention, too. Like working moms, they are trying to have it all and should be lauded for their efforts. It is not being done enough, so I’ll do it here. You guys are defeating the stereotype of the lazy, bumbling dad who doesn’t know his way around a diaper. Keep up the good work, at the office and at home.