Just Call Me Dad

Dad_train_surfing

The National At-Home Dad Network has launched a campaign to try and change public perception of stay-at-home dads. You can read about it in The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic and sign the petition here.

I had a few quick thoughts about this:

First: I have been a stay-at-home dad for all seven years of Anna’s life (for the first three, Julia worked from a home office). I have never liked the term “Mr. Mom.” I am a dad, Julia is a mom. Which one of us is home and which one of us is out working doesn’t change that. To call me “Mr. Mom” belittles Julia’s role, says she is somehow less than a complete mom for not being home every moment that Anna is. It is a stupid, sexist term, even if it’s also the title of a funny, if somewhat outdated, movie. Just call me Dad. That’s who I am.

Second: The WSJ article, while well-meaning, indulges in some unfortunate stereotypes of its own.

At-home dads aren’t trying to be perfect moms . . . Instead, they take pride in letting their children take more risks on the playground, compared with their spouses. They tend to jettison daily routines in favor of spontaneous adventures with the kids. And many use technology or DIY skills to squeeze household budgets, or find shortcuts through projects and chores.”

So the standard is still the “perfect mom,” and any woman that falls short of that standard will be judged accordingly. Dad, meanwhile, takes pride in getting his kid hurt, finds shortcuts to skip chores, and uses technology—because as disorganized and slapdash as men are, they’re still the only ones able to work the TV remote. I’m exaggerating here for effect, but not by much. It just strikes me as lazy reporting. Yes, find the dad who takes his kids to the park and lets them get muddy, but also find the dad who takes his kids to the library and reads to them Ideally, find a dad who does both. I know they exist—I’m one of them.

Third: Anna has played on an identical play structure. It’s in a park on the south end of Halsey, Oregon, a little town halfway between Harrisburg and Albany on Hwy 99 East. She and a couple of other kids she met that afternoon had a blast playing on the train, but I refrained from climbing on top and surfing.

Maybe next time.

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