September 23, 2009

The Glass Ceiling Nobody Talks About

I’m a father.

And while that may seem like an obvious statement, the title of “father” means many things to many people. When one hears the word “Father,” certain images spring to mind – and many of those images are not positive. In fact, most of these images are ingrained into us at an early age. The traditional view of the Father is often that of the bumbling parent who cannot possibly survive parenthood without the help of his wife. This scene has been played out in countless sitcoms and television commercials. The father has his place when it comes to parenting and that place is firmly behind the mother.

And I have a problem with that.

Over the four years that I have been a parent blogger I have noticed a theme in countless blog posts and, more recently, several Twitter streams where wives/mothers complain about the ineptitude of their husbands when it comes to parenting their children. I have seen twitter conversations that basically say, “I don’t tell my husband what to do at his job so he shouldn’t come here and tell me how to be a parent.” How dare the father have a say in how his children are raised.

I have also had several women comment on this blog over the years telling me how they wish their husband was more like me. I assume they mean someone who can put on a diaper, read a bed time story, play with the kids, cook a meal and get the kids dressed in the morning or at night. Or perhaps they mean someone who connects to their children’s emotional needs and nurtures a bond between parent and child that is equal to their own. And when I see those comments I feel sad. But I also wonder if those mothers really mean what they say.

And here’s where I’m going to piss off some people who read this and I will acknowledge right off the bat that what I’m about to say is a huge generalization but I’m going to say it anyway. And here it is…

I often wonder if women really want their husbands to be equal partners in parenting. I wonder this because our society puts a lot of pressure on women to be the nurturer, the caregiver, the one who kisses owies and wipes noses and cooks dinner and cleans the house and earns six figures and looks fabulous doing it. And as soon as a man steps up and says I want to do those things too, I want to be a nurturer and a caregiver and have a real relationship with my child to the point that my child will come to me when they are scared or need something rather than my wife, then I think it’s possible that women could and do feel threatened by that. By allowing men to be more involved in parenting (and it has to start from infancy), then women are basically giving up part of what society expects them to be. This is an incredibly difficult decision for women to be in. They want to be everything to everyone. And in the end, nobody wins.

Nobody wins. Not the mother, not the father and most importantly not the children.

I am lucky. I have a wife who has accepted from the very beginning that I would be just as involved in parenting our children as she is. Aside from two very important details (pregnancy and breastfeeding), I have been equally involved with my kids. We take turns giving baths, we take turns feeding the kids (I do breakfast, she does dinner), we are both involved in the bedtime routine. If the children get sick we take turns taking time off from work and if a child needs to be comforted or nurtured in any way, we take turns doing that too.

The beauty of this parenting relationship is that we both get to be parents. We both get to experience the joys of snuggles and kisses and laughter and smiles and we both get to experience those powerful moments that build character through discipline and/or hugs.

And we both do things differently. Boy, do we do things differently. But I think that is the greatest aspect of our parenting relationship. My wife’s way of doing things is entirely different from the way I do things. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok. It’s what makes our kids so well rounded. They get to see different styles. They are comfortable with Mommy’s way of doing things and Daddy’s way of doing things and I believe that it helps them be more adaptable in their everyday lives. I am thankful for how we have parented our children and I’m thankful for my wife because she has been incredibly generous in allowing me to share in the parenting responsibilities when it would have been very easy for her to stake her claim to the role of parenting our children. After all, our society expects it of her.

Now I also know that there are men out there that just don’t get it. I realize that men also have to overcome long-standing stereotypes about fatherhood being the emotionally detached breadwinner. Or that changing diapers or dressing your children is somehow the woman’s job. I get that and I do acknowledge that more men need to step up to the plate. But at the same time I can’t help but wonder if women, often subconsciously, send out messages to their partners that in effect tell them that they are not an equal in this parenting gig.

So how do we take the next step? It’s already begun, of course. I’m too lazy to look it up but I recently read somewhere that men are now spending significantly more time with their families than men did a generation ago. This is good but we’re nowhere close to being equal in parenting. A lot more has to happen before we men can bust through the glass ceiling of parenthood and be accepted as equals in the parenting world. For starters, early on, before the child is even born, roles have to be discussed. Expectations have to be laid out. I was clear to my wife that I wanted to be involved in parenting our children from the very beginning. To her credit, she heard me and gladly surrendered some of those expectations that society puts on her. Of course, having twins certainly helped because we very much needed each other in those early days. But we also talked about how we wanted to parent before the twins arrived and it set the tone for the first four years in an incredibly positive way.

So, someday I do hope that people won’t be surprised to find out that I dressed my daughter in the incredibly cute outfit she’s wearing or that I cook breakfast every morning or that I give my kids baths at night or that I did my daughter’s hair that day. I also hope that someday I won’t get praised for doing this simply because I’m a man. This isn’t revolutionary work. Women have been doing it for generations and they never got a medal for making sure their children were fed. Someday, expectations for fathers will be so high that simply bringing home a paycheck won’t be enough anymore. And I won’t be just a father anymore.

I’ll be a parent.


  1. I’m glad you wrote this Matt. Very well said.

    Comment by Miss — September 23, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

  2. I was raised in a home were my parents equally shared the parenting responsibilities. My husband was not. He was raised in the mom is mom and that’s her job and dad is the guy who goes to work. He tries hard but he still has a lot of that mentality. However, to his credit, if I ask for help he does give it willingly and wholeheartedly. Believe me this has made things a little difficult.

    This is amazing and very well said (written?).

    Comment by Kel — September 23, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  3. I think you’re right. We (women) have a lot to live up to. Some of it comes from society, some from ourselves and some from other women (IMHO). My husband is a great father. And he’s a great husband. But, not always at the same time.

    It’s as though he only has the energy (or interest?) to be one or the other. That means for me, I have to be able to pick up whatever slack is left behind. Sometimes that means I have a LOT of balls in the air.

    I don’t know what the answer is, what will make both men and women feel that they are equal in this journey, but I think you’ve made a great first step in getting the conversation started.

    Comment by Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy — September 23, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  4. Great post! I wish my hubs would have been more like that. He would help if I asked him. He changed diapers, fed, gave baths, dressed them, with no problem. The thing is, he didn’t really enjoy it, he didn’t savor the little moments together. I’m sad for him really. Our girls are almost grown up now. You can never get that time back again.

    Comment by kathygee1 — September 23, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  5. Controversial? Yes. True? Also yes. And it drives me nuts. You’ve pushed a button.

    As a working mom who also shares parenting duties with my child’s very competent dad, I hear those same snipes against husbands quite a bit. And I do think in some cases — I’ve seen it up close — the mom will complain one moment about the lack of help from dad and turn around the next moment and push dad out of the parenting duties. There are lots of ways they do this, from outright taking duties to criticism to setting extremely low expectations. I just don’t get it, but I’m pretty sure it is rooted in insecurity. There are plenty of good reasons to feel insecure with the expectations society puts on us to be supermoms, but it seems like inviting our husbands to be equal parenting partners shouldn’t be one of them. There are so many things I’ve learned watching my husband’s parenting, and so many things he does better than me. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got him beat in some areas. And the more we get to know who excels at what parenting skill, the more we can give our little one the absolute best. She deserves it.

    Comment by Violet's mom — September 23, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  6. Great post, Matt! Having to be the “single” mom for longer than just since I separated… I can say that I admire your style and commitment and hope to find it for myself someday. *applause*

    Comment by laprimera — September 23, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

  7. Very interesting topic and well-done post. I don’t have a horse in this particular race so I don’t have a strong opinion on it other to feel that if someone wants to be an an active parent, they should have the opportunity to do that. Yes, the mom’s need to make room for that, but the dads really have to want it, too.

    Comment by Maura — September 23, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  8. I totally agree w/you. I’ve watched several friends push eager dads away for not doings “right” & I also heard the heaps of praise given to my husband for being the great dad that he is. Kinda drives me nuts, b/c why wouldn’t he be a great dad? And when asked by a friend how I got so lucky my answer is that, “I expect him to & let him be the dad he is”. No kid ever died from having a diaper put on backwards & how many times do I do things imperectly every day. People meet your expectations. If I expect you to be a good dad you will , partly cuz I’m handing you the kid & saying , “go for it”.
    On the other hand, it would be nice if the house wasn’t completely trashed when I’m away from it. I shouldn’t have to be the “bad guy” all the time. AND it drives me nuts when dads say they’re babysitting. No! You’re watching the kids, b/c that’s your deal too!

    Comment by Mamaspeak — September 24, 2009 @ 1:29 am

  9. Thank you for this posting. I love it and do agree… but I do feel there is another issue here.

    My husband and I are equal parents as well. I married him and agreed to have children with him because I knew he would be an equal parent. Before we had kids, we talked about our goals and philosophies on raising kids. And we agreed that children learn best by example, so we needed to set the example we want them to live by. We want them to grow up in a household where neither parent has a gender role.

    I am very firm on this as I attended a college that was 75% men (the hidden secret of Caltech and MIT and similar schools) and I was STUNNED at how little the men there knew about general housekeeping. I had to teach my friends how to do laundry, cook, and clean because their moms did everything for the family.

    When I hear women complaining about their husbands, I try to explain the philosophy on why we do things the way we do in our house. Yet I still see plenty of husbands who are happy to do only the fun part of parenting because that’s what they learned from their parents.

    Great post, hopefully this will get a lot of people out there thinking!

    Comment by LauraC — September 24, 2009 @ 5:24 am

  10. I made a comment in your session at BlogHer to the effect of – I do wish my husband was like you.

    What I meant by that was that you, and other dad bloggers that I read, have deep thoughts about your parenting. You are analyzing your roles, you are expressing the sorrows and joys of parenthood, you are engaging with other men and women in the discussion (in the blogosphere and in real life) about what it is to be a parent.

    I don’t get that level of engagement from my husband. I rarely see him think this way. I’ve been surprised on the rare occasion when it does happen.

    In my house, we both work outside the house full time. For me (just for me, I’m not putting this on anyone else), I feel that this gives us a TOTALLY level playing field, particularly as there are no babies breastfeeding, etc. There is nothing to be done with the kids that precludes one of us.

    So when it feels like I am lefting ‘holding’ the kids again while he flits around the house getting housework done, going on the computer, doing his hobbies – it bugs me. Because I do know that he will do a fine job taking care of them if I was able to do those things too.

    So that’s why I said I wish my husband was like you. Engaged, thoughtful, supportive of equality in parenting. We’re not quite there.

    Sorry for the essay.

    Comment by Emma — September 24, 2009 @ 6:00 am

  11. You know, I do see this a lot. This is true at church and at home. Even at work it’s hard for me to get time off to go to doctor’s visits, school functions, etc, because that’s not my job. Being a sailor is my job. I’ve had to fight that a little. Kind of ironic to try and be the new male in an all old-male world.

    Comment by Dan — September 24, 2009 @ 6:25 am

  12. I see this ALL the time. I happened to have a lot of guy friends that fit quite nicely into that detached dad stereotype. It has always been my mission to not be that kind of father. Great post and thanks for speaking out about good fathers.

    Comment by DadUnmasked — September 24, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  13. Great post. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for over a year now and I sill get the occasional surprised reaction from people. Yes, I can tie her hair in bunches, yes, I can pick out a nice outfit and dress her, etc etc… I took our daughter for an inoculation jab a while back and the doctor said “Oh, so you’re looking after her today then?” in a half-joking manner (which p*ssed me off a little) and when I replied “No, I look after her every day actually” you should have seen the look of shock on his face!

    To me, it’s no big deal, I’m a stay-at-home dad and I look after our daughter, that’s it. On the other hand it’s one heck of a big deal, what could be more important than raising a happy, well balanced and contented child? I don’t try to analyse things too much though, I just do the best I can!

    Comment by DadsNursery — September 24, 2009 @ 8:23 am

  14. The view from my place is something like this: When our daughter was born last June, nothing changed for my husband. Everything changed for me. From the time I wake up in the morning, to the time I head to bed. The meals that were eaten cold because I was always the one to feed her. I eat last because I make sure she has her water, her food, etc. I changed 99% of the diapers, gave the baths, got her dressed.

    Matt, it damn near ended my marriage. I begged for help. I pleaded for it. I didn’t care if he washed her the same way I would…I didn’t care if his style of feeding her was different from my own. I just needed help. I wasn’t asking him to do it all. I just wanted a partner. We both hold full time jobs. Why was I the only one juggling things?

    A typical conversation in my house went something like this…
    Me: “honey, would you please come help me with [insert chore here].
    Him: “yeah, sure no problem.”
    10 minutes later…
    Me: “honey, please, I really need your help.”
    Him: “yeah, no problem, be right there.”
    10 more minutes…
    Fine, I’ll just do it myself.

    That repeated itself hundreds upon hundreds of times in the last 15 months. We came as close as a couple can get to splitting up without actually doing it.

    Then, I hurt my back. So bad I couldn’t even get out of bed without taking a Vicodin first. For four days he had to take care of the house, me, and Ava. It finally hit him how hard I’d been having it. He realized I was drowning and needed help.

    Things have been much better since. It’s not perfect, nor do I expect it ever will be. But it’s damn better than where it was.

    Comment by avasmommy — September 24, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  15. I don’t know what I’d do without my husband. When our son was a baby he was terrified but willing to learn. We took turns changing diapers, giving baths, feeding well with everything. There were times when our son was a baby and he just wanted his mommy like when he was and that was fine. I think it hurt my husbad but he understood. My husband’s father wasn’t really involved in his life and that really bothered him so he has taken a very active roll in raising our son. At this point I can say that he most likely does more in our house and with our son than I do. This isn’t because we have chosen it that way but because my back goes out and I’m not able to walk of and on since our son was in 1st grade. Now he is almost 18 and has a very close relationship with both of us and I’m very thankful for that. Boy are we going to miss him when he goes off to college next year.

    Enjoy your babies they grow up way to fast!

    BTW great post!

    Comment by Jackie Hall — September 24, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  16. Nicely said Matt. I wish more men (an women, too!) would embrace and relish their parenting role as you have.

    Comment by Nancy from Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas — September 24, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  17. You have made some very good points but, as you wisely stated, you have made a huge generalization. You have put too much emphasis on “society”. If you think I make my decisions based on what society expects, you might as well insult me some more by telling me that I make my decisions based on what Oprah says. Society may want me to cook and entertain but I don’t like to do those things so I don’t – society can kiss my ass. Parental roles are influenced by so many other things such as the mom’s personality, the dad’s personality, their relationship, how each parent was raised. You don’t need to have a degree in psychology and be a medical professional to know that the role you play in your kids lives is a direct result of the death of your own father (you’ve probably said it yourself here).
    I do think you’re right that parental roles are changing. In medicine for example, older doctors are annoyed that younger doctors want to spend time with their families and view medicine as a job and not as their life.
    You’re a good father – keep up the good work!

    Comment by Lori — September 24, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  18. Important thoughts, definitely.

    Both my husband and I have had great successes and great failures at parenting – and I admit there have been times when he’s decided to approach a situation differently than I would have, but I’ve learned not to freak out about it so much.

    Now I still DO freak out about how he leaves Coke cans all over the house. In that way, I wish he could share in domestic responsibility. But then of course I’m torn when I see how hard he works for his paid job, and how he MUST be incredibly tired after late nights at meetings.

    What frustrates me is that his boss and office-mates talk about how AMAZING he is at his job. And then at family gatherings my relatives talk about how AMAZING he is as a parent because he happens to be playing with the kids. But I don’t get any applause for my work, paid or not. And in many cases, my unpaid work is cleaning up his messes. So yeah, there is resentment there.

    Neither he nor I can juggle it all. And I know that realistically we are both appreciated in our own ways, even if it isn’t said aloud. But it is tough to remember sometimes.

    Comment by Kari — September 24, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  19. *applause*

    Comment by Deanna — September 24, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  20. To large extent you are a product of your father’s parenting. While he was not a saint, compared to many of his peers he was. His firefighting schedule was very flexible and he took care of you 2 days a week while I worked full time. The other days you attended pre-school/daycare. During that “quality” time he and you took care of business: took the car to the mechanic, visited your grandmother and/or friends, mowed the law, went to the dump, hung out at the fire station, listened to music, vaccumed, mopped the floor, read the newspaper, went to the library, etched glass… The point is, that 6 years spent with a man who loves you, doing the mundane stuff that helps a family function made a huge difference in your life and how you view the world.

    I agree that some women don’t allow their partners to share the responsibility equally. I also know that some men don’t want it. So, for the moms who have children with that type of man, it may wise to carefully consider if you want to have more children with this man.

    Comment by Grandmother — September 24, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  21. I think the stereotypes come from the days when a father worked and a mother stayed home with the kids. (SAHD then were also looked down on and made fun of) He wasn’t as involved because he wasn’t there as much. When women went to the workplace – but also had to have the kids since they couldn’t share that taks – it became a point of pride that they could do it all. So it is subconscious and it is there. And it’s mighty insightful of you to poiint it out so diplomatically.
    I think I’d like you in real life.

    Comment by Jane — September 24, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  22. Excellent post. I agree with you on the role of dad in society. It drives me nuts to no end when someone sees me in the grocery store and asks me if I’m babysitting. No, I’m parenting. This is my kid and I am doing a dad’s job.

    It is obvious that a generational shift is happening with men’s roles as it relates to parenting. Whether it is because women are just as career minded as men or whatever, the fact of the matter is the days where dads were there to provide a paycheck and meter out discipline are gone.

    It is very possible that some mothers would like their husbands to be more involved, but on their terms. I don’t know. My wife and I are equals in this parenting thing. We tag team things like bath time so we can run a constant Toddler Two defense. We have to use the fact that we outnumber him to out advantage while we can :)

    All I know is that in my local neighborhood I am not accepted by the other mothers. Sometimes it bothers me, but in the long run I’m pretty sure I don’t care. The moms that I’ve met through blogging have been awesome. Supportive and willing to share stories and experiences. Many of these things have helped me shape my ways in which I plan to parent.

    As for the dads that don’t want to get involved, it is sad. They don’t know what they are missing. I have plenty of days where I feel like my hair is going to catch fire I’m so frustrated, but the hugs and smiles make it all better.

    Comment by PJ Mullen — September 24, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  23. Dammit man! You’re going to ruin my gig. I’ve looked so much better than my typical counterpart because I decided to do everything my wife was expected to do. And I rocked it. If that’s status quo, I’m left with nothing. Think about your brothers in blog before you go doing stuff like this.

    ;) Glad you finally wrote this. Is this what you were alluding to at our panel?

    Comment by BusyDad — September 24, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

  24. Amen! And well said. Dh and I have twins and we too are partners. Sometimes it is hard to give up certain things, but I know he is probably doing more than me.

    Comment by Sonya — September 24, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

  25. I agree, many women feel threatened by their husband’s involvement in parenting. I do think there is way LESS of this now than there was 10 years ago. Roles are evolving for the positive. It’s to everyone’s benefit that they do.

    Comment by Twenty Four At Heart — September 24, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  26. While there are moments in time when I complain about my husband, I am ever so thankful that he is my husband. He is fabulous with our kids and is way more involved with them than his father and my own father in our upbringing. I am not alarmed by his involvement, I cherish it. Not only because it gives me a break, but because it brings him so much closer to the kids.

    Comment by Grace — September 25, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  27. Great post Matthew. If it wasn’t too late, I’d nominate it for Five Star Friday.

    I am lucky. My husband is a lot like you. His dad was as well. We are equal parents. I don’t have to tell him what to do with our kids, he knows and does it. He also cleans (or doesn’t clean) as often as I do.

    One of the things that I see a lot of, is moms who are so unwilling to let things not be a certain way, that they run their husbands off, when it comes to parenting. They scare them away and then wonder why they are parenting solo. It’s a control thing, that some people just can’t seem to let go off.

    On the other side of this, I despise it when people say, oh how nice, he’s watching his kids, in regards to my husband, say when I left for BlogHer and he took them camping for a week. Like he’s somehow baby-sitting our children. Makes me crazy. Well, crazier.

    Comment by Issa — September 25, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  28. Great post, I think you expressed your thoughts very well and made some important points.

    I know my husband has walked this parenting thing equally at my side every step, and sometimes he has even pulled my weight. It was a huge shift when he started staying home with them a few months ago and I went back to work…partly because I was so accustomed to having the home role. But it has taught us so much and he does it his way, and in many ways, better than I ever did. He got them to give up the pacifiers. Now that takes balls. :)

    Maybe it is twins, maybe it would have been the same with one. But I am glad there is a place for this discussion in this day and age…and I am hella glad there are men like you and mine in the world. You are making better people by being such wonderful parents.

    Comment by mamie — September 25, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  29. You are SO much like Daren, it’s scary. And yes, I do like the way things are – we are very much a team with our own parenting styles. I don’t feel threatened in the least – I only wish every kid in the world could have an awesome dad like my kids have. (including me)

    Comment by Karen Sugarpants — September 26, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  30. Good post.

    Comment by Backpacking Dad — September 26, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  31. I think my husband would agree with you wholeheartedly. He has always been an enthusiastic and involved parent and is often offended when people think that’s unusual “for a man.” Parenting has always come naturally to him and, quite honestly, he’s much better at it than I am. Luckily he’s as patient with me as he is with our daughter. :o )

    Comment by Andi — September 27, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  32. My husband also wanted to be very involved. It took me a long time to loosen up and realize that there was more than one way to do things “right”. My children thrive having two involved parents – although I draw the line at letting daddy coordinate outfits (he’s semi-color blind – in 9 years of marriage, I haven’t even let him pick out his own outfits).

    Comment by Stacy — September 27, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  33. Oh, Matt…And to think you spent four years across the street from a women’s college. Let me explain to you what you are not understanding –

    “I have seen twitter conversations that basically say, ‘I don’t tell my husband what to do at his job so he shouldn’t come here and tell me how to be a parent.’ How dare the father have a say in how his children are raised.”

    No, she does not want to deny him a say in how his children are being raised. What she is asking for is respect and acknowledgment of her expertise.

    For example, your generally reasonable friend will come home from work and on occasion think he is re-inventing the wheel with some of his parenting ideas. I will say to him, “No, it’s not going to work. Don’t bother.” Does he listen to me? No. Why should he bother listen to the person who is home full time and therefore has a lot more experience with the children than he does? Then, of course, he implements his idea and it doesn’t work as I expected, and I’m pissed off. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often, but when it does I feel disrespected, because my expertise was not acknowledged.

    Likewise, how would you like it if someone came by your office who was rarely there and started making suggestions that you knew wouldn’t work, but then implemented them anyway with the corresponding negative results you had anticipated? I’m sure this has happened to you somewhere along the way, and you probably didn’t like it. Wouldn’t you be annoyed or resentful that your expertise wasn’t acknowledged? This is what these Moms are feeling.

    Ironically, what you are missing, Matt, is that the respect you would like as a parent is the same thing that these women are asking for. In this society, discrimination against women is subtle, so that many women have difficulty expressing what bothers them. When a woman prefers to carry many parenting responsibilities or she makes snide comments about her husband’s abilities, she isn’t saying, “I don’t want you involved.” What she is saying is, “This is my domain. This is where I am knowledgeable. This is a task that I own.” Everyone wants to be respected for what they do; mothers are no different. I don’t think that women want to reinforce traditional stereotypes, as much as they are looking to be acknowledged and respected for the work that they do.

    Comment by Sarah — September 27, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  34. I really liked your post. I hope I can break all the “stereotypes” raising two daughters!

    I’m sure you’re a great parent.

    Check out what I have to say here:

    Comment by Jeff — September 29, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  35. Great post! I’d never thought of it that way, but I bet you’re right about many women being subconsciously (it took five tries to spell that…) possessive of their role as primary caregiving. Kudos to you and your wife for bucking the trend.

    Comment by Holly — October 2, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  36. As a guy who will, as of tomorrow as my wife goes back to work full time, be the primary care-giver of a newborn baby, I really appreciate your point of view. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Will Goldstein — October 6, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  37. The one piece of advice I give to new mothers above all else is to let the Dad take care of the kid. Babies cry sometimes, and you have to let him figure out how he’s going to deal with that. There is usually a general agreement that that’s a great idea, but…. And there are a number of things that follow that but, and it all boils down to some expectation on the mother’s part that she has to do it all, or she’s not a good mother. No one seems ready at this point to accept the fact that you can’t be a perfect mother. We should all be striving towards and equal ground, where both parents are doing most of the work involved with raising their kids.
    I’m a stay at home mom, but my husband has always done his fair share of the work when he’s home. Sometimes more then his fair share, so that I don’t go crazy. And he does it happily and confidently. And I let him. If he wants to play video games while he’s watching her, fine, it means I get a break. And yet, I still have friends and family who extravagantly compliment or thank him for “babysitting” and it drives me crazy.
    Thank you so much for putting this out there in such a thoughtful way.

    Comment by Shannon — December 29, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  38. Just a couple notes: Even when parenting is shared in a largely egalitarian way, it seems that often, there’s still the idea of a deficit when it comes to fathers. Statements like “dad’s babysitting today” (how can a father ‘babysit’ his own kids?!), “I let my husband…” (‘let’? seriously?), and similar sentiments undermine the same efforts made by fathers as mothers.

    Also, for those out there also hoping for a change in tide, take some comfort in Nancy Chodorow’s* work on gender segregation in domestic labor: when children grow up seeing a man engaging in domestic tasks (childcare, household labor), they internalize that this is/can be men’s work, and the notion held by much of society that these are women’s roles begins to deteriorate. Granted, these ideas are still up against what is set out by countless sitcoms, greeting cards, advertisements, and all other possible media adaptations, but it’s a great start for the next generation: to grow up in a household in which men happily participate in caring for children. That’s perhaps the best gift we can give them.

    *There have since arisen better sources for this information, but Chodorow was the first to hit the nail on the head with this one, so credit where credit is due.

    Comment by KB 111 — December 29, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  39. So incredibly well put. We have had a few times of bumping heads because I or she “was not doing something right” in the view of the other, but once we got past the important stuff (will it hurt her physically or emotionally? No, then do it) my wife and I are really good at equal responsibilities. I can not imagine being a dad who did not get my daughter dressed in the morning. (For us, morning is my deal, bedtime is moms) It took six months at day care for them to acknowledge that I was dressing her – and cutely!

    Comment by RobMonroe — December 30, 2009 @ 3:05 am

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