Your wife or significant other, or baby mamma is expecting. You do a little shopping to prepare. You go to the baby shower to show support and love. You even go to the birthing classes with her, sit there and have pretend contractions with her breathing through them and focusing your center of mind for the big day. You are responsible and you want what is absolute best for your little bundle. You are proud and happy. You are excited and ready for the challenge of parenthood. You feel like there are going to be obstacles in your way, things to learn, but you are ready to face them and overcome them. So, why is it everywhere you look, society is telling you that you are doomed to be this fumbling idiot that doesn’t even know how to put arms through sleeves? On the racks of clothing, accessories like mugs and t-shirts with print on them. They all say that tired old trope: “C’mon daddy you can do this, it’s just a diaper!” “This shirt is daddy-proof” “Me+mommy= one broken daddy!” Why is it everywhere you look, you are confronted with this “monumental challenge” of being a father? Why does Hollywood depict first time dads with such glaring ineptitude? How about we do a little exercise and let the predefined roles play out theoretically. To a woman, motherhood comes naturally. I’ts easy. Cooking and cleaning and wiping butts and kissing boo-boos and putting the baby to sleep. And feeding the baby, washing the baby. Doing the baby’s laundry. Changing the baby’s diapers. To the father, Everything is foreign. He can not be trusted with anything. He is distracted by sports and cigars and other women. Caring for little things is for wusses and sissies. He forgets to feed himself, how could he possibly remember to feed another human being? He is rough and dirty and will most likely harm the child accidentally. Who is this unfair to? What kind of behavior does this endorse? Where is the truth in this? How do we fix this? Why is it in our society as a whole we try to push the father, and the role of fatherhood in to this caricature of caveman stupidity, while mothers are naturally perfect, caregivers that are totally in tune with what to do, all the time, forever? Have you ever seen my wife when my son chokes on something? I feel like this contributes in a small, yet profound way to gender inequality across a whole, and here is an example: Changing stations in a men’s restroom. What’s the deal? Is it because we just couldn’t be bothered with caring for our children’s cleanliness? Most fathers, at least the ones I know, would gladly change their baby’s diapers. Its part of being a good parent. So why no changing stations in the Men’s restrooms? Does it take a stretch of imagination to ponder why women resent fathers for not changing the baby in the airport?
At my wife’s baby shower, there were two totally different conversations being had with either of us. If my wife was talking to someone, they were telling her to relax and take things slow, one day at a time. “Let things come natural. When the baby sleeps you can sleep. The baby will tell you what it needs. Don’t be afraid.” If someone was talking to me it was a conversation that was totally different: “Are you ready for this? It’s a big change! Don’t forget to help out the Mrs. It’s stressful, so be prepared. You’re going to do a lot of drinking! Just remember, don’t drop the baby!” It’s as if people forget that first time parenthood happens to both partners. My wife was actually less acquainted with childcare than I was, as I had helped care for my two youngest siblings. I knew what a hungry cry sounded like, what a tired cry sounded like, what a painful cry sounded like. She didn’t, yet everyone, even people that knew me, were so quick to lump me in to this clueless idiot stereotype. I’m not saying that parenthood effects both parties equally, no. The female still has to carry the baby and all that good stuff, making motherhood far more trying and complex. What I’m trying to say is, that once that baby comes out. The learning curve starts, equally.
Fatherhood is tough. Parenthood is tough. You are already thrust into this foreign role of caring for another human’s life. And not just being responsible for their health, education and emotional stability, you are indirectly responsible for the role they play in the world and the impact they have on their community. I mean, we still talk about Hitler’s parents. Should we really continue to harp on the role of fatherhood and depict it pretty much the same false way in our movies and literature?
Most guys I know, and a couple girls, are great fathers. Wonderful fathers. They are Providing and caring and responsible. Not afraid to learn. Fluid and flexible. Compassionate and resolved. Committed and devoted. They make the best of a situation. They aren’t afraid to play with toys, or get lost in a childhood activity. This is what fatherhood is. Now whats the difference between that and motherhood? (after the childbearing of course). That’s just run of the mill parenthood, and most males and men I know fall in to this role as naturally as can be expected.
According to the direct needs of the child, the pressure to be a good mother is just as strong as the pressure to be good father. We (responsible human beings) don’t need extra antagonizing to remember that when we become parents, there is someone that needs us in a profound way. We all know that Stereotypes hurt. Prejudice hurts. Lately I’ve been quite proud of how humanity, at least in America, president notwithstanding, has tackled inequality and begun a transition into understanding that we are more diverse than we originally thought. Slowly, but surely, stereotypes and prejudice are becoming relics of past generations. Today you can have a vagina and be a tremendously wonderful father. We must put these “stupid dad, inept father, Dad’s only good to go to work and make money” stereotypes in the same box labeled “weak woman, women can’t drive, women don’t make good scientists”. We need to tape it up and store it under the ‘Shit we don’t need in our lives anymore’ category.