Daddy Issues

The comments were seemingly innocuous.

We were at my husband's father's house, and the hubs mentioned to his stepmother how he had taken Isabella and the twins to a coffee shop to meet a friend and his kids earlier that day.

My stepmother praised my husband as if he had just announced a cure for cancer. She said how wonderful it was. How great for the kids and for him. She stopped just short of whipping some confetti out of her pocket and announcing an impromptu ticker-tape parade in his honor.

The hubs' stepmother is a very sweet woman, and she certainly didn't mean to hit a nerve, but her comments pissed me off.


Because I hear comments like those (about my husband and other fathers) All.The.Time.

Now, don't get me wrong. Those three hours the husband was gone with the Triple Threat a few Saturdays ago? Possibly the best three hours of my life thus far. I worked in uninterrupted silence. I enjoyed a full cup of coffee (or 12) that I didn't have to reheat 47 times. I basked in the ultra-rare silence in my house and seriously considered changing the locks to prevent them from entering when they returned.

But did he deserve the American Idol-winner treatment, because what he did went so beyond the boundaries of what's expected of fathers? I don't think so.

If I had mentioned that I had taken the kids to the coffee shop, to the store, the playground, the museum, or library storytime (all things I currently do or have done many times) no one bats an eye. I don't get back-slapped, praised, or made to feel as if my Mother Of The Year crown is in the mail. These things are Just What Mothers Do, aren't they?

But why is it, then, that when it comes to parenting, the bar for Fantastic!Fatherhood! is set so incredibly low?

Mothers who don't attempt to enrich their children's lives with cultural and social activities, who fail to enroll their offspring in the best preschools, the top-rated gymnastics class, the music class taught by a classically trained pianist are viewed just slightly better than Susan Smith. Mothers are dinged when their kids leave the house without their school lunch bags, when a permission slip is forgotten, when the three-year-old arrives at preschool without a hat on a cold day.

But fathers? Fathers just basically have to show up. And when they go slightly beyond showing up, they're made to feel like heroes.

The double standard enrages me, but what bothers me even more is why this low-bar treatment isn't bothering more fathers.

Why is it that being expected to meet such a low level of achievement is seemingly fine with them? Why aren't we hearing more about truly equal parenthood?

What's been your experience with this double standard?

25 Responses to “Daddy Issues”

  1. # Blogger Mom24

    The double standard is definitely there, and yes, it irritates me too. I must say I do sort of giggle now though when J&J ask if Daddy's babysitting them when I have something to do. Drives him crazy! LOL.

    I guess in our family, with 26 (yikes!) years of having little kids, we've settled into a routine that works for us, and that is that I handle home and kids and he handles work. It doesn't mean it's 100% that way, of course, but those are our domains, if you will. Most of the time it works really, really well, (again, for us), but sometimes it does contribute to the double standard. There are times the double standard grates on each of our nerves, but most of the time it serves us well.

    I'll give him his cookies and 'ata boys' as long as he keeps taking them places and doing outings. ;-)  

  2. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    Oh it irritates the living hell out of me too.

    Bu-ut, I'm willing to pour on the praise in order to train the monkey to repeat the previous steps in order to receive the treat.

    Seriously. Men are simple. A little pride swallowing leads to untold delights of 'me-time'.

    Go on, REACH for that Oscar Kristi!!  

  3. # Blogger Jesser

    Yep. People (my husband included, sometimes) act like he's father of the freaking year because he watches his OWN kids. WTF? We both work ... I don't get kudos for working, of course. In fact, I'm looked down up on by some because I do. It's a stupid ridiculous ancient double standard that we just can't seem to shake. But I have to admit that when I look at some of my friends' husbands and what they do (don't), I am exceedingly happy I married him. That counts for something, right?  

  4. # Blogger Melissa

    *standing up and clap, clap, clapping*  

  5. # Blogger Heather

    Excellent post and oh, so true!  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Go on Girl!--Kelly  

  7. # Blogger Sugar and Ice

    10+ years ago, my ex-boyfriend used to play video games with this guy from work. This idiot would sit around making comments like "I take care of my kids" in such a proud tone that I just really couldn't even stand to look at the guy. He was more of a "baby daddy" than a father, but his endless bragging about how he provided for his children bugged me to the core. This guy basically gave money to his kids' mothers (yes, motherS), and in his particular place in society, I guess that was out of the norm so he just couldn't get over himself.

    I think when our husbands get commended for doing more than bringing home the bread, it's just because our society got so used to the dads doing basically nothing but providing the cash. In the guy I mentioned above's neck of the woods, the guys were known to provide nothing, so he was commended for doing just about anything. In our place in society, the husbands have been known for decades (centuries? millenia?) simply handing over the paycheck. Thank GOD (literally), that we weren't mothers a hundred years ago. I really couldn't have made it back then. I wonder what the suicide rate was for mothers of multiples in 1809....

    Anyway, with all that said, it DOES drive me crazy when men get attention for doing what they are supposed to be doing. My grandmother will go on and on about what a great dad Jason is every time she hears that he is home with all three children. I guess it's because my papaw simply wouldn't have done it, but it does still get under my skin.  

  8. # Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Hon, it extends far beyond the fatherhood aspect. I mean, really? When a HUSBAND does something that is normally the wife's accepted chore, doesn't she usually act all sweet and overly thankful? But if she does something for him? The thanks may be there, but it's not the same. It's just not.

    This is a thorn in my side, too. Thankfully my family feels the same way, so they NEVER refer to Pat's watching of the kids as "babysitting" since he's WATCHING HIS OWN KIDS. But it's still a given that he gets more praise for doing less when it comes to kids and home.

    I think they're actually the smarter ones. They KNOW that if they act incompetent enough, the bar will be set lower and thus, the above will happen.  

  9. # Blogger Andrew

    I think a big part of it is society's portrayal of the typical dad. From Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy, to Dan Connor on Roseanne, and all those in between and currently on tv and in movies, the father is often seen as inept and sometimes completely useless when it comes to household chores and child care. Men can't clean, cook, change diapers, or do anything that doesn't involve a lawn mower or a hammer.

    This was a big theme on The Mommies in the 1980s, and really almost any popular portrayal of fathers and families. Sure, Mike Brady wasn't so bad, but even he couldn't manage to help his daughter cook to earn a merit badge.

    In recent years we see commercials where a child is going crazy and the father can't control him, and the father actually says, "Where's your mother??" (She was off shopping at a JC Penney sale.) And how about the one with the father trying to clean the floors, but the wife comes home, explains to him he's doing it wrong, and then whips out the brand new steam cleaner she's been hiding.

    I'm not saying this is anyone's fault, I'm not saying every father is portrayed this way, and I'm not saying this is necessarily the answer. But because time and time again we see fathers so helpless around home and children, and that meme has been hammered into our consciousness for our entire lives, how can we not be surprised and even pleased to see a father/husband do something right? The bar is set so low that it almost becomes the anecdote about the dog that walks on his hind legs (originally used to critique female preachers): "It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all."

    If we accept that "society" is doing harm to young girls through the portrayal of stick-thin, Photoshopped models, we should be willing to also examine society and ourselves when it comes to the way we portray our husbands and fathers and think about the impact that has on them and our own perceptions.  

  10. # Anonymous Anonymous

    When I read all the other comments (minus Andrews who was well spoken) it sickens me to think what you feel about your husbands

    Ness comments are ridiculous maybe you feel he is simple because he has you trained so that you dont ask him for anything and he can enjoy life while you are stuck with the kids

    Lets be honest, the reason why fathers get the compliment is because for the first time other family members do not hear the mother complaining about having to be home with kids
    Also, lets be honest again, men are less tightly wound than woman, so parenting is a natural for them

    Also, maybe if all you spent less time complaining on a blog and more time really enjoying being with your kids maybe family members would recognize the great job you do day in and out with them

    Sorry! Love your blog and I am one of your anonymous readers I just couldn't take this rah rah for all you poor mothers and nothing for the great fathers out there!!!


  11. # Blogger Sasha

    Michael: I agree there are great fathers and my husband is one of them, but it seems to me that you have NO idea what it is like to be a woman and how hard it is to see that double standard and how FEW men really do what they should be doing.

    Do you really think "men are less tightly wound so parenting is a natural for them"? Wow. If that is what you think than you are not only a misogynist, but also kind of a douche. Do you know any women?

    I am not talking about all men b/c you know what? My husband is currently making dinner, changing the kids into their PJs and entertaining them at the same time. He rocks.

    You, however, do not.  

  12. # Anonymous Anonymous

    ROFL laughing @Michael. Men are natural parents? Huh... What my husband says is that I don't get praised because it DOES come naturally to me. But it is HARD work for him because he isn't programmed to be the primary caretaker. I work full-time as does my husband and he does 150x more than the average Dad and husband, but it is still more frustrating and more work for him. Men and women are different blame the Y chromosome.  

  13. # Blogger Tom

    Wow. Lots of haters out there regarding competent fathers. I'm surprised - and especially annoyed by the person who commented that husbands should be treated like monkeys who need to be trained. Let's hope that any self respecting woman would also be committed to a man she loves and would defend against others' criticism... and not throw him under the bus. Anyways... please see my blog photo as an example of the types of things I enjoy doing with my good friends and their kids. The biggest hassle is that, when we're at coffee shops with our 6 kids, it's hard to concentrate on them with so many people coming up and telling us what a good, calm, soothing and competent job we're doing with all of our children. Glad someone appreciates us! Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone. -Tom  

  14. # Blogger Holly at Tropic of Mom

    I hear you. And because only my husband's family lives nearby -- and his sister's husband hardly ever did anything -- we get to hear about it a lot.  

  15. # Blogger Kristi

    Tom-Thank you for providing yet another example of this pervasive double standard. Had it been Nicole and me sitting there with the kids, would groups of people have approached us to tell us what a great job we're doing? Probably not.

    No one has expressed hatred about great fathers and husbands; only resentment that motherhood is undervalued while fathers receive great praise for doing what they should be doing.  

  16. # Blogger Melissa

    I was just thinking about an example of this this morning. My husband and I have friends - both doctors - who have four children, ranging in age from nearly 3 to 10 (the oldest are twins).

    Usually they are both present at school functions and local area activities, but on the rare occasion when I see just the dad with the four kids, I practically bow down to him in my mind. Even my husband takes notice! But when the roles are reversed and it's the mom with the kids, we think nothing of it, and it's totally unfair. Like Kristi said, it's what's expected of us as mothers.

    No one here is bashing husbands; we just want a little more recognition for doing our job. My husband does a lot to help, but I wouldn't consider him the primary caregiver. Parenthood certainly doesn't come naturally to him, and even he would admit that. He defers to me more often than not, even though I constantly remind him he is more than capable of fathering his children and making decisions that affect them.

    I love my husband and couldn't imagine raising our three kids without him present, but yeah - he gets praised profusely for doing what he SHOULD be doing anyway, while I get held accountable for everything that goes wrong.  

  17. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    It's so funny. I don't even notice those things. My mom traveled a lot when I was younger, so my dad a lot of the typical mom stuff (except for cleaning.) Bob, my husband, is just as involved with our sons. He gets frustrated when people ask if he's "babysitting," because they're his kids -- I'm certainly not paying him.
    We talk about it a lot. Different generations. I am so happy that we are in this generation where men (at least some of them) are so involved with the kids and even with the cooking and cleaning.  

  18. # Blogger JM

    I completely know where you are coming from, and it does actually bother my husband. He HATES the stereotype of the bumbling/incompetent father (the kind who gets a standing ovation for a standard parenting duty). Fathers are parents too and it shouldn't be so surprising when they do an equal share of the work.  

  19. # Blogger The Princess

    From what I have gathered from the many Mom's I meet from day to day, involved fathers is actually still rare! I can't tell you how many women I know who can't go out at night because their husbands don't know how to do the bedtime routine. Or simply can't leave the house without the kids b/c their husbands can't or won't take care of them. But who do I really blame for this? The women who are allowing this in their homes, who's expectations are so low they have never put their foot down and said: NO!

    Before my husbands and I got married, we discussed our expectations ranging from split checking accounts to kids. It was always agreed that we were a team here. Granted, my husband had no clue HOW to take care of kids, that's always been my expertise from my professional experience to personal experience of nieces/nephews and babysitting in my youth. But it was agreed that he'd learn and he did. When my daughter was born, I became very ill after giving birth to her. I was unable to take care of her for the first few weeks. My husband stepped right in and learned as much as he could from my sisters and the nursing staff.

    Now we have 2 girls, I'm a stay at home Mom and he works outside of the home fulltime. We are a good team. It's not 50/50 in our house at all times. Depending on the day, one person might need a break more then the other, but it all balances each other out. We give each other attaboys and pats on the back and encourage each other in our jobs. My husband constantly reminds me how great of a job I do with the girls and how it's a hard job that I have. I constantly thank him for the work he does outside of the house and commend him for being such a great team player here.

    But again, it's my expectation, I wouldn't and our marriage couldn't stand for nothing less then a partnership in this.  

  20. # Blogger Cape Cod Kitty

    I remember feeling the way you do and all I can say is it eventually evens out, or at least it did for me.
    In retrospect, I am happy that I had more time in to the process!
    Nonetheless, comfort and hugs and praise for being the amazing mother you are.
    Happy Thanksgiving!  

  21. # Blogger Simply-Mel

    I do resonate strongly with this post. I am eternally grateful to my guy for being such a hands on dad. Its one of the reasons I married him - I knew we would be partners in all spheres of life and that he would treat me with respect regardless of the *job* I was doing.

    Its others that piss me dad is the worst. When we go to their place for weekends he OFTEN comments that my husaband PLAYS with the kids so often, helps bathe them, gets them juice wada wada. He actually asked me why this happens??!!! This is a typical generational problem so I have learnt to laugh and play along.

    The worst is when my peers tell me how *wonderful* he is for taking the kids to McDonalds or taking them to the park. I mean, YES, its great but seriously?

    FYI - he hates it too. They are his kids,he adores them and he feels its insulting when people make out like he is some superhero because he hangs out with his kids.

    Another reason to love him....!  

  22. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    Oh dear it seems as though some of your readers (it would appear the men...) don't know me well enough to recognise the sarcasm in my voice when I speak. Those of you who *do* know me, know how much I love my husband, and am grateful for the great dad that he is. We're not generalising here people, we're just talking about *this* particular situation. If faking the praise gets me what I want, and keeps him happy? Then hell yeah.  

  23. # Blogger Simply-Mel

    ;-) Ness, those of us who do know you know EXACTLY what you meant!


  24. # Blogger Jayne

    Yep, it's all swings and roundabouts, while the kids are young mum's are the main caregivers while the men are generally clueless as they (usually) have no role model to copy.
    When the kids get older, however, especially for boys, they naturally spend more time with their fathers who (mostly) instinctively know how to communicate and spend time together.
    Swings and roundabouts.  

  25. # Blogger Suzanne

    I so needed to comment here.

    This infuriates me to no end. I get up every morning when the boys get up, I get them fed and clothed and changed, and I take Nick to his school (sometimes leaving Nate with his daddy at home, but not always, and I always ask if he's able to watch Nate before I leave the kid). Now, keep in mind the big reason Nick is in this school is because Daddy started working at home in November and finally couldn't handle the non-stop screaming that was continually disrupting his work. Yet *I* am the one who takes him to school and picks him up every afternoon, and when I get a job, I'll STILL be doing it...

    My husband's mother has taught him that mothers should be responsible for everything and dads should just show up. It pisses me off to no end. When I had Nate, Ryan didn't even stay the night with me in the hospital because his mother told him he didn't have to. Instead, he dropped Nick off with my mother for a few days, and he went home to drink and watch tv. If the situation would have been somehow reversed, I would have been deemed the most miserable mother in existence and would be a candidate for DSS.

    I'm venting. I'm sorry. This has been a tough few days here, and I'm feeling very resentful. But, yes, I would like a little freaking appreciation now and then too.  

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