The bizarre thing about the recent Time Magazine cover piece on attachment parenting is that, while the cover was controversial, the actual article was pretty straight forward. In fact, if you read it without having seen the cover, you’d probably wonder what the hullabaloo was about. So what exactly was the problem with the cover? It had a lot to do with the caption, “Are You Mom Enough?,” which angered many who felt it fueled the fires of the media-driven mommy wars. This got me thinking about my fellow dads. Do we pit ourselves against each other as mothers are so often accused of doing? Is there such a thing as daddy wars? The answer, I decided, is yes, but in a very different way than you may think.
I’ve met a lot of fathers like me – men who take great pride in cooking our children’s meals, changing diapers, and giving out comforting hugs – and not once have I heard one of them make a judgmental comment about another father. This isn’t because we are so wonderful and swell, but because we already hear enough negativity about our ability to do the kinds of thing mothers have traditionally done. We see Huggies commercials on TV that present us as buffoonish parents, then take our kids to the store and get asked if we’re babysitting, and it’s disheartening. More men than ever before want to play a primary role in our children’s upbringing (this group includes stay at home dads, single dads, and regular dads who just don’t relate to Ward Cleaver), and we support each other in our efforts.
That’s not to say there isn’t conflict among fathers. If there are daddy wars, and I believe there are, the judgement is coming from dads who want things to stay exactly as they were in past generations. These fathers refuse to do the “women’s work” of taking care of their kids, and think they’ve done enough by bringing home the bacon.
“You got a vagina now?” one such dad asked me when I showed up at a get together with Annie and a diaper bag on my shoulder. Another dad at my old office openly mocked stay at home dads, totally unaware that only a few months earlier I was one myself. These fathers are proud of their inability to do the things mothers do, and don’t like dads who want to change the paradigm.
“So what?” you may be thinking. “Some dudes don’t give you props for wiping your kid’s ass. Get over it.”
Well, okay. But here’s the thing. Giving men respect as competent fathers who are the equal of mothers is actually really important. Believe it or not all the jokes and condescension are significantly harmful for the future of our country. Did you know that by 2020 more than 60% of the college degrees in America will be earned by women? That means that in the near future there will be far more qualified women in the workplace than men, but if we don’t teach men that being a stay at home dad or their children’s primary caregiver is a commendable role, then guess what? The workplace will be clogged with men who are not nearly as qualified as their female counterparts, and a huge amount of highly qualified women will struggle to find jobs or receive promotions they deserve. The result of this? A higher unemployment rate and a crappy economy.
That’s why it is so important that we support a shift in gender roles. We need to continue fighting for women to earn the equality they deserve in the workplace, and we need to acknowledge that men can be equals in the home. The good news is that a growing group of men are proving to be “dad enough” to be a new and improved kind of dad. Maybe Time Magazine should do an article on that.