Do Low Expectations of Dads Start with Me?

My husband has a rotation of daddy dates with each of our three children on Sundays at lunch. Each Sunday, he takes one on our children out to a restaurant (usually Braum’s) where they share french fries and milkshakes and talk about the deeper things in life… like, fire trucks and cutting earthworms.

He recently told me that each week at lunch, at least one person always stops to comment on how he’s such a “good dad.” He thought this was funny seeing as how he’s just taking one child out to lunch. I asked him if this is a regular occurrence when he has the children. He thought for a moment.

“Yeah… I took all of the kids to Winco Saturday and several people either stopped me to tell me I was a good dad or commented on how it was nice to see a dad out with their kids.”

Huh?

I tried to remember the last time I was told I was a, “good mom” simply for being out in public with my own children. I don’t think it’s ever happened. We do plenty of Aldi runs and solo dinners at Panera on nights when my husband works late… and, nope. I actually usually hear things like, 

“You’ve got your hands full!”

And… a couple of times, “Don’t you know what causes that?”

It seems we have accepted that women are fulfilling their assumed roles and meeting expectations by carting their children to and fro in public whereas fathers, on the other hand, are to be applauded for taking care of their own children. 

When did the bar for dads get set so low?

I processed this for several days, asking friends about their own experiences. Several confirmed that, yep, husbands are definitely praised more for simply doing dad stuff. But, I wonder, if this is a cultural problem initiated by the mass exodus of husbands from the home with the Industrial Revolution, or is this a problem we women have created at home?

Allow me to explain.

A lot of my friends feel incredibly guilty anytime their husbands keep their children. Myself included. I feel the need to only schedule things after the kids are in bed or during naps. My friends regularly (and nervously) joke that their husbands are, “babysitting” and that they need to get back quickly. When I was training for the OKC Memorial half-marathon this past year, I tried to schedule my long training runs either during naps or at 4:30 a.m., so my husband would have minimal time alone with the children. HIS OWN CHILDREN.

I should clarify that, at least in my home, my husband has never asked me to do any of this.

So, why do I not think he can handle it?

Why, when we are in newborn season and the baby is fussing, do I insist that I be the one to calm her down? Why do I take the frazzled child from my husband’s arms, as if I am the only parent in the home capable of settling our child?

Am I the reason for society’s low expectations of fathers? 

I won’t say that I bear the entire weight of the culture’s view of the role of fatherhood. It’s true that there’s an epidemic of absent fathers and broken homes, so maybe that’s part of what is at play when an elderly woman taps my husband’s shoulder to encourage him. But… is my insistence that I as the mother am the superior parent also a contributing factor? 

Perhaps we need to stop the profuse apologies anytime our husbands have to put the kids to bed without us, or when they have to keep the children all day on a Saturday? I’ll admit, maybe it’s a little harder on my husband to do so when he’s not part of the day-in and day-out of our lives Monday-Friday. So, I will surely give him a kiss and thank him. And I don’t plan on doing it EVERY Saturday. But I can’t bemoan the fact that I’m the frazzled stay-at-home mom at Aldi who, “has her hands full” while my husband is the calm, “good dad” with one child at lunch if I am not willing to adjust our own expectations at home. 

So, mamas, let’s change the conversation. Our spouses can handle it. They want to be involved and they want to do a good job. Let’s help them to succeed… and let’s give them the opportunity to do so. 

What about you? Have you noticed this trend of applauding the involved father?  

I realize my experiences are not universal and that a lot of homes look differently than mine does. I truly wish absent fathers and broken homes were not a reality, but they are.  I obviously cannot speak to those mamas’ experiences, but you are my heroes, and you do deserve all the applause.  

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