Like many families, the weekends are all about fun activities to do together. This Saturday was no exception. Thanks to a mommy friend, I decided to take my brood to an art class where my three-year-old could get as messy as he wanted and I wouldn’t have to clean up. It was a serious win in everyone’s book. The place wasn’t crowded and my son had a blast. My husband helped him make spin art and paint while I held the baby and took copious amounts of photos.
When we were getting ready to leave, the lovely attendant said how great it was that my husband tagged along.
Um, okay… She continued that she rarely sees dads interact with their kids and that it’s mostly moms. She proceeded to gush about how amazing it was that my husband was there and was involved in the activities with our son. Like he deserved a gold medal for being present. This prompted a whole series of thoughts and emotions that I have of course ruminated on for days and the end result is a mix of anger and sadness.
Why is it that the bar is set so incredibly low for dads? Society seems ready to give them awards for their mere presence in their children’s lives. We even call it “babysitting” when a dad watches his own kids so mom can go off and do something for herself alone. Excuse me? It’s not babysitting if it’s your own offspring. If a dad shows up for school drop off, sporting event, or even doctor’s appointments, he’s lauded as being “so involved” by everyone around him. And if he baby wears or plays with his kids, people will literally stop him on the street to commend him.
When I see this, I think to myself, “I babywear every damn day, and I keep my kids alive, take them to their events and appointments, and I even feed them! Where’s my prize?!”
Truth is, there isn’t one for moms. While the standards for dads are so ridiculously low, the standards for moms are damn near unattainable. They need to be superheroes who do everything to Pinterest-perfection or else they are criticized relentlessly. As the mom, I have to have perfectly well-behaved kids who are enriched daily through activities and education, and if I have a job, I have to juggle both seamlessly while not looking terrible doing it. If I, Heaven-forbid, drop the ball and give my kid a Cheeto or let him watch Disney Junior for a few hours while I decompress, I’m failing him and he will obviously need therapy. It’s so. Damn. Exhausting.
So these double standards do basically two things, and both are equally bad. They give moms no wiggle room to just be human, and they don’t expect enough from dads and respect their roles in their children’s lives. Moms deserve a break and we need to let them parent without scrutiny. And dads would likely want to be more involved in egalitarian parenting if society would allow them that role. We need to expect involvement from dads as the new rule, not the exception. And we need to let moms parent without so much judgment.
Maybe when we even the playing field for everyone, we can all get a prize.