Monday, May 14, 2012

Hooray for Stupid Dads!

Here we go again.  Just when I thought we'd started to really turn the corner and recognize that any parent, male or female, can be great at any aspect of parenting, a "daddy blogger" goes in again for the easy "bad daddy" jokes about why women are better.  The last time I got pissed off about this, it led to a lot of great discussion, and I hope some attitudes even changed.  

Here's the thing: whenever someone goes and makes sweeping generalizations about EITHER gender, it does all parents a disservice.  We wind up with society thinking women HAVE to be the parents because all men are boorish dirty idiots without the brain power or focus necessitated for child rearing.  That dads are just not as good as moms at doing the day in and out of child care. 

Each time someone writes that women are better at X, or men are bad at Y, it reinforces the idea that it's ok to just accept incompetence.

Which brings me to THEYCALLMECODY's post on Babble from lastweek, "Top 10 Things Mothers do Better than Fathers."  Ok, I get it was a pre-Mother's Day fluff piece.  I get that the title is to catch eyeballs.  Really, had he entitled it "10 things my wife is better than me at" it would be almost reasonable.  However, reinforcing stupid stereotypes is, well, stupid.  Here's his list, succinctly. 
  1. Hugging
  2. Injuries
  3. Changing diapers
  4. Preparing healthy food
  5. Keeping Kids Clean
  6. Snuggling
  7. Cooking
  8. Going Out and About
  9. Expressing Emotion
  10. Making sick kids feel better
For starters, it is at least encouraging that he was so strapped for 10 items, that he actually repeated some, as 1 and 6, 2 and 10, 3 and 5, and 4 and 7 are essentially the same things.  That said, let's look at these a little closer.

First let's take those that are just straight up BS, 1,2,3,4,6,7, and 10.  Unless breasts are a requirement for a good hug or touch, there is literally nothing that inherently makes a woman a better hugger or snuggler.  He uses anecdotal examples that are effectively meaningless.  Maybe he's just crappy to hug. Sick or injured kids can be completely cared for by a dad.  My wife passes out at the sight of blood.  Does that make her less of a mom? Does the fact that I don't get all emotional, but calmly clean up the child and treat them while soothing them make me less of a man?  Really, if you are a guy and still saying "rub some dirt on it," you are a douchebag, not a dad. 

Changing diapers is something I pride myself in.  Recently, at a family event, I changed a foul diaper one handed while carrying on a conversation with several other people.  I wasn't even looking at the butt.  All the women in the room clapped when I was done.  I even got to flex.  But it was just changing a diaper.  I got credit because I was expected to be bad at it, and I wasn't.  Nice for me, but maybe those expectations should change.   

As for cooking, I find it stunning that given the proliferation of celebrity chefs of both gender, anyone could make an argument for gender basis of culinary skills, healthy or otherwise.  That's just dumb.  There are a lot of guys who can't cook.  There are a lot of women who can't cook.  Maybe Cody is just one of them. 

This guy is clearly an adult version of Pigpen.  In the section on keeping kids clean, he writes, "I'm pretty sure I have mentioned that I once forgot to have the eldest daughter bathe for an entire week while Casey was gone recently."  Really? Hope you are kidding or you're going to wind up with a visit from child services if she ever goes away for two weeks.  This section is more than just reinforcing gender stereotypes though.   

It's parenting philosophy.  I WANT my kids dirty.  I want them to go out and get filthy.  I will, without a doubt, clean them up afterwards, but the experience of learning what makes messes is all part of being a child.  As an added bonus, he throws in the "boys are just dirty as kids" line.  I have a 7 year old that begs to differ. 

His going out and about section reinforces for me that he's either so incompetent that we should be applauding him for managing to tie his shoes, or that he's disorganized because his wife covers for him.  "I don't know how many times I have taken the kids to the store only to realize I forgot the diaper bag or that I had forgotten to pack the diaper bag."  His penis didn't forget to bring it, his laziness did.  I guarantee that if his wife rode him a bit about it, he'd start to make it part of his routine.  

Finally, he's all anecdotal about how robotic he is emotionally, while his wife is great at it.  Maybe his father was distant.  Maybe he just buys in to the idea that showing emotion makes you a "wuss."  Maybe he's Mitt Romney (I keed, I keed).  As a dad, you need to show your kids how you feel to teach them it's ok to feel and set an example of how to express those feelings positively. 

This guy is probably a fine parent, exaggerating for comedic effect. That said, if you or your partner is a bad parent, that's on you.  Anyone who tolerates their partner's crappiness at parenting is also a crappy parent.  This isn't the 50s anymore and child-rearing is a shared responsibility.  If you allow your partner to get away with being bad, you're also short-changing your child.  Straight or gay, modern parenting is about creating a balance where both of you work to use your strengths.  Defining those strengths explicitly along gender lines is clearly just stupid.  

In some ways, gay couples have an advantage.  Since there are two members of one gender, they  inherently have to go and define their roles explicitly.  Discussing what strengths and weakness they have, and decide what's best for the child, free from the slots people try to put us in.  Heterosexual couples have implicit roles, enforced by silly ideas as presented in this article, that actually does the children and their relationship a disservice.

(Note, this is also posted at the NYC Dads Group blog, here.)