Tonight as I tucked you in, I knew that this was going to be the last time I would kiss a sleepy infant good-night. Tomorrow night I will sing “Goodnight Willow” to a toddler. I shed a tear, not out some imagined grief over “losing my little baby”, but out of sheer wonder, amazement, and gratitude. How did we get so lucky? How did we get this far?
There is no shortage of memes out there depicting fathers as “another child in the house” or otherwise implying that men are essentially incapable of adequately caring for themselves or their offspring. Bashing men via social media is a very popular pastime, and bashing fathers is a big part of that. I’m sure you’ve seen one of the many daddy-bashing visuals circulating the internet. They are sent via email to colleagues, favourited on Twitter, liked on Facebook, commented on with “LOL”… and otherwise shared, tolerated and encouraged.
All too often I have heard groups of women in various social and workplace settings trash-talking their male parenting partners, referring to them as “babies” and complaining about men’s alleged inability to parent:
“Josh doesn’t know how to put Ali’s diapers on. She always ends up peeing herself. He has two University degrees and can’t figure out how to put a diaper on securely. It’s just easier for me to do it myself.”
“Mo dressed Mahmoud today, as you can see by the mismatched top and bottom. I can never let him dress the kids if we are going any place nice. They look like urchins when he dresses them.”
“Kai never puts a sweater or a hat on the baby. It’s like he doesn’t even notice her shivering in the cold.”
“When I go away for training and Raj babysits they end up eating pizza pockets and chips the whole weekend.”
“I can’t even tell the twins have been bathed when Seth does bath time. They still have dirt in the creases of their legs and arms. Seriously… Other than the wet hair I wouldn’t know that they had touched the water.”
“I have TWO babies to take care of now.”
“I always tell my husband: If at first you don’t succeed do it the way mommy told you to do it in the first place.”
First of all, are these women really such poor decision makers that they actually chose to live with and raise children with incompetent humans? Are they exaggerating to get pity or to elicit a laugh at their partner’s expense? Are they hoping to get a badge for their mommy martyrdom? Or are they possibly control freaks and perfectionists who, instead of working on their need to control people and situations, are focusing on and mocking their partner’s inability to live up to impossibly high standards?
I am not talking about women whose husbands refuse to change a diaper or to be involved in a child’s life in any significant way. There are men in this world who are, indeed, “deadbeat dads”. No, I’m speaking of women whose partners are trying their best to parent with whatever experience and confidence they have. Women who are (unconsciously) working toward further degrading the already low opinion that our society has of the capacity of men to be good partners and parents, and fuelling other women’s distrust of their own partners as parents.
Do we, as a society, want men to be involved in their children’s lives and in the day to day care of their children? Then why do we collectively put them down when they try their best to be good partners and parents? Why do we post cruel “jokes” on social media sites which depict fathers as incompetent fools? Why do some people still refer to daddy-child time as “babysitting”?!?
Are most mothers controlling by nature? I recognize that I have to fight my own inner control freak frequently on this journey of parenthood, from trying to hide my look of horror when someone suggests I put my child with no neck control in a high chair, to wanting to whisk my baby out of the baby blanket class at the Early Years Centre immediately when I see another mom in the room coughing or sneezing, to wanting to physically remove an inquisitive and grubby toddler’s hand from my daughter’s face. I know that one of the life lessons Willow is teaching me is about giving up control.
My husband doesn’t put diapers on the same way that I do. Our daughter is no worse off for it. He carries her differently. He cuddles her differently. He soothes her differently. He plays with her differently. His way is not wrong. It is Daddy’s way, and Willow seems to be cool with it… So why should I take issue with it?
I am not a visual person. When I dress my daughter she usually doesn’t “match” unless an entire outfit (including socks) was preselected and given to me. We often joke that Willow is a “fashion nightmare” when I dress her. I also have huge spatial sense issues. Despite being placed in “gifted” programs in school, I am utterly incompetent and frustrated when I try to put on a Baby Bjorn without my husband’s assistance. My parenting partner had to show me how to get the baby in the car seat and how to put the car seat in the car. He had to show me how to use the stroller, the baby swing, the breast pump, bottles, formula, and how to do up the snaps on various Jammies and sleepers. I still have no idea how the batteries magically fit inside the baby bouncer chair. Without my husband Willow would be naked, starving, bored, and unable to leave the house. And yet… my husband doesn’t post disparaging comments or pictures on Facebook to get a laugh from family and friends. He doesn’t tell all of his workmates how incompetent of a mother I am and how much of a martyr he is for “taking care of a baby AND a wife.”
Willow has a pretty awesome Daddy. He is learning how to be a parent, just as I am. He has strengths and weaknesses, just as I do. He is not perfect, and neither am I. There is nobody else on this planet I would rather have as my parenting partner, and I am so glad that he is thriving and growing in his confidence as a father despite the negative messages fathers receive in our culture.
Involved and loving Daddies of the world, thank you for doing things “your way”, even when you are told it is not the “right way”. Thank you for loving your children in the way that only a Daddy can, and for doing all of the thankless everyday jobs that we so often forget to notice. Thanks for taking things in stride when your partner is repeatedly praised by society for her hard work as a parent and you are often left out or ridiculed. An involved and loving Daddy is a gift to a child that leaves a lasting imprint on both the child and the human race. Thank you for making our kids and our world kinder, gentler, and full of love.