The women’s rights movement has gone a long way toward teaching men that women are their equals in the workplace. Unfortunately, some women do not show men the same kind of equality when it comes to parenting.
Men are treated as second class parents even before their baby is born. Whereas mothers-to-be are celebrated and even thrown a party (craftily referred to as “showers” to throw us men off all the fun you ladies are having), dads-to-be are all but ignored. And while the “couples’ shower” phenomenon is catching on a bit, the Dad-to-be plays Garfunkel to his wife’s Simon at these things.
Men aren’t treated much better once the baby is born. As a dude residing in a female dominated section of the Blogosphere and Twitterverse, I am privy to the thoughts of moms (via their tweets and blog posts) in a way that most men aren’t. And while I enjoy reading these moms’ often hilarious takes on parenting, every once in a while a negative attitude toward their male counterpart’s parenting creeps through. Here’s a totally fictitious tweet along the lines of what I’m taking about:
“@bloggingmama74 I’m so mad. The genius decided the kids could watch TV past eight tonight. He’s so not getting any tonight.”
Tweets like these are a bit disheartening, especially when the anger stems from the dad parenting differently than the mom, the inference being that the way moms parent is always right, and dads need to do it their way or get lost.
Imagine if a man expressed that kind of attitude in the business world. I doubt he would get much support in 2011 if he suggested a woman should do her job the way a man would or else she is doing it wrong. That kind of attitude was the way it was for many, many years (and still exists in some places), and you know what? It made it hard for women to succeed because it put them in a box and didn’t let them do what they thought was best. But is “Mom knows best” really any different than “Man knows best?”
The irony here is that I also hear women expressing the wish that their kids’ dads would be more active in their kids’ lives. If dads were given more credit when it comes to parenting, and treated as just as capable of parenting as their wives, they would be more active. So next time you differ with your kids’ dad you should ask yourself “Is he parenting wrong? Or just parenting differently?” Because if he is just parenting differently (and not being a jackass), you should cut him some slack. No Dad is enthusiastic about parenting when they only feel like they are the “mom’s assistant,” as one Dad I know describes how he feels in his family.
Now of course you may be thinking, “Oh, but the dads I know don’t want to be involved. They are deadbeats or uninterested.” But is that true? How much of that is stereotyping? Believe me, there were plenty of able women in the workplace back in the day who were thought incapable, but really just weren’t given a chance.
Men today may not be perfect, but many are clamoring to be more involved. If men are treated as more equals as parents they will be better parents. They will rise up to the level they are given credit for. Maybe it is time to give “Mom knows best” a rest.