The narrow view of fatherhood

One of the first things you learn as a new mom, besides how to dodge jets of baby urine like Neo in “The Matrix,” is how much society hates you. Oof, and man, do they hate you. And me. And anyone whose uterus used to have an occupant.

It doesn’t matter if we work or stay at home, breast or bottle feed, wear yoga pants or fancy tailored lady trousers with actual working buttons. Moms are just the worst. Because keeping tiny psychopaths with a death wish alive and molding them into decent people who don’t think smearing poop on the dog is a ripping good time is apparently easy and therefore deserves no respect. Or really deserves anything other than your anger and utter contempt.

(This is mostly because no one really notices the million different wonderful and difficult things that you do as a mom until you accidentally blink one day for the first time in three years and an alligator or a gorilla snatches your kid. In which case, they suddenly have all kinds of opinions about your parenting skills and decide the best way to express those opinions is to send you death threats.)

*Daintily steps down from soapbox*

ANYHOO, as I was saying, tough as it is to be a mother in this day and age, what tends to get lost in this tsunami of collective maternal hatred is the smaller, yet still potent, wave of what I call “daddy disapproval.” Because see, we don’t hate dads. Oh no. The complete opposite. We love them. Absolutely adore them, in fact.

Just as long as they never stray outside the very rigid perimeters our society has laid out for them. Perimeters, I should add, that that same society is constantly changing on a very rapid basis (which is why wearing matching princess dresses with your daughter during a trip to the grocery store will earn you the title of “Father of the Year,” but only buying her pink, girly toys will earn you the title “Male Chauvinist of the Year”).

For example, we expect dads to earn good money to provide for their family. However, he’s not supposed to work overtime or ever put work before his family because he also needs to help take care of the kids. And unload the dishwasher. And show up to all the soccer games (even though soccer is quite literally the worst invention mankind has ever come up with). Granted, working moms are also expected to do all this, but at least society allows them to bitch about it. Whereas if a man dared to complain about the unfairness of it all, he would swiftly be drowned out by a chorus of enraged and exhausted women, and would then be beaten to death by a barrage of overstuffed diaper bags.

And never you mind that men are more involved than ever in the day-to-day operations of childcare. Dudes are not allowed to talk about how hard it is to be a dad. Ever.

On the positive side, dads can still be the strong type if they want. Just not the silent type. Because the evolved male is no longer allowed to be emotionally distant from his children.

However, he also can’t get too emotional with his kids. One of the few freedoms we still allow moms, wretched creatures though they are, is that they can get mad at their children. They can yell at their kids in public and make veiled threats of bodily harm without raising any red flags. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hollered “you do that again I’m gonna beat ya’ ‘til you’re dead!” to my 2-year-old on the playground and not only did no one bother looking up from their phone, they most likely couldn’t even hear me over all the other women screaming things like “knock it off, Kolby, or so help me I will rip your arm off and then smack your face with your own hand.”

Now imagine a dad doing that.

Yeah.

Speaking of red flags, as a woman I can sit in any park or playground regardless of whether I have children with me and no one will think anything nefarious about my presence. And I mean even if I’m sporting a trench coat, sunglasses and a giant telephoto lens on my giant camera. Meanwhile, a dad who dares to try to breathe air that close to other children without a kid velcroed to his own body needs at least two forms of identification, a copy of his paternity test signed by his doctor and a note from his wife giving her permission for him to be there.

And chances are good several concerned citizens will still call the fuzz on him.

I could go on and on. We judge dads if they are horrible at sports. Or if they can’t teach their kids how to fix a flat tire. And then there’s the super fun dilemma we put them in regarding the lack of changing tables in men’s rooms.

It’s a very thin tightrope that we make modern dads walk (I suppose to match the tiny, little boxes we try to stuff moms into). And what it ultimately comes down to is that our refusal to value child rearing ends up hurting everyone. Dads are doing more than ever but rarely get noticed or praised for it. Mostly because when you’re both overworked and exhausted, like pretty much every set of parents I know, it can be hard to acknowledge the other’s contribution.

So, perhaps instead of expecting parents to be perfect in the face impossible odds, we could, oh, I don’t know, make it a bit easier to raise a family in this country. Starting with paid maternity AND paternity leave. And maybe affordable daycare, or even almost affordable (as opposed to our current model of “only affordable if eating is not vital to you”). And perhaps, hey, everyone could chill with the pitchforks and torches and death threats for awhile.

And that is my very awkward and long-winded way of saying Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there. We love you and you deserve better.

We all do.

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