A few weeks ago, I posted an open letter to moms, which really seemed to resonate with a lot of you and I’m so thankful that it did. Every day I see how important it is that we remind each other as moms that we’re doing a good job, that we’re in this together, and that we’re not the only ones who struggle sometimes. But you know what we don’t do? Tell dads the same thing. And you know what they don’t do? Any of that for each other. Or at least not most of the dads I’ve encountered. It’s not how they seem to be wired, but I don’t think it’s because they don’t need to hear it.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for months, actually, long before this website even began. I’ve noticed this dumbing down of men that we’ve embraced as a society – in film, tv, and in our narrative of everyday life - and as a culture of moms who do it all. Except…I don’t do it all. Not even close. My husband does as much as I do when it comes to the kids. Sometimes he does more, sometimes I do. We’re in this together and we have to work on it every single day. Which is why it’s endlessly frustrating to hear what a great “hands-on dad” he is for doing the exact same things I do, except I don’t receive the awe and societal praise that he does. It’s expected of me and celebrated for him, which is super-annoying, don’t get me wrong. Yes, I’d love to live in a society where “hands on” parenting is expected of both partners, but it’s not. Not yet. Though honestly, I’m happy for him to get the praise over the alternative.
Because look, some dads are the worst. Some are inattentive, uninterested, and unhelpful. But those are not the dads I’m talking to, though those are the dads we seem to highlight culturally as the standard. What’s frustrating is that within my own friend circle, I’ll hear talk about their husbands as if they’re another child to rear. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard women talk about how they can’t leave their husband home with the kids to “babysit” because he wouldn’t know what to do, even though he’s fully competent and capable of doing so. He just might do it differently, is all. Or maybe he’s never done it before – hey, no time like the present! Also, spoiler alert: it's not babysitting when they're his kids, too. And I can’t count how many times I’ve heard women tell their husbands what they’re doing wrong and why it’s just easier to do it themselves. And you know what? It’s not fair for me to judge you, because I’ve not walked in your shoes – hell, I think we may own the same pair sometimes. And maybe you’re right. Maybe he is the worst. But my guess? At least some of this is a backwards way of feeling better about ourselves. Because somehow, if our husbands are incompetent fathers, we’re exceptional mothers. But it's not one or the other, mama.
I get it, ladies. I do. I fight daily with myself not to “correct” Ian on something he’s doing with the kids, simply because it looks different than how I do it. And you know what? He has pushed back on me from day one about this, thank goodness. He’s had to tell me, repeatedly, that his way of doing it isn’t wrong, simply because it’s not my way. That these are his kids, too, and he actually does know how to care for them as well as I do. And he’s right. He has a way with our girls that I don’t, and they adore him. He changes more of their diapers, he does nearly all of the baths, he does drop-off, he braids hair, he cooks with them, and he has kitchen dance parties with them. And when I travel for work? He shoulders all of the parenting responsibilities, no matter how hard I try to make it just a little bit easier.
And again, we work on it nearly every single day. We snip, we eye-roll, we talk it out, and we figure it out. It’s how we manage to enjoy our date nights without such a huge amount of resentment in the room that we need an extra seat at the table. Which isn’t to say that we’re perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But what it says is that we were fortunate enough to realize early that we’re in this together – when these kids turn on us, we want a partner in crime to be like, “Man, our kids are the worst.” And also? I liked this guy before we became parents. I liked him enough to become a parent with him. He’s not a child, he’s not someone to be sidelined, and he knows stuff that I don’t know. And I just hate seeing women treating their husbands like another chore, because that’s an awful way to live, it’s an awful way to feel, and it’s not teaching our kids anything that we should want them to learn.
Yes, I know that Ian’s one of the good ones (and when I forget, my mom is there to quickly remind me of this). But I also know that he’s not the only good one out there. I spent the weekend surrounded by attentive, loving, actively participating dads who didn’t seem to give it a second thought. Things are changing, but we moms could help out a little more with the narrative.
So guys? This one’s for you:
You’re doing a good job, dad. I know that sometimes we sideline you so that we can feed our mama egos with how much we can handle on our own. But we need you and our kids do, too, even though we’ve collectively somehow decided that your role is to follow behind us and not mess up the perfect parenting we do. But I’ve got a secret for you: she's not perfect and part of this whole charade is because she’s desperately trying not to embrace that reality. We need you. We need you to know where the diapers and wipes are, what goes into the lunches, what the soccer schedule is, what special day it is at school, and where the ballet slippers are. We need you to help with carpool. And if you can’t? We need you to find other ways to help. And we need you to speak up. Because we will barrel right over you if you let us, all the while resenting every diaper that goes unchanged or field trip that goes unattended (we’re fun like that.) We’re in this together and we need you.
You’re doing a good job, dad. We see you. We see you teaching your daughters how to dribble with their left and your sons that it’s OK to feel all of their feelings. We see you making the lunches and wiping their tears and folding their tiny little baby leggings. You’re doing a good job, dad. It’s ok not to know everything because, have you been paying attention? We don’t know everything, either, though we are very confident in our criticisms of you. I think it makes us feel like we’ve got this thing down. Which we don’t.
That isn’t to say that you can’t learn from us, too, though. Talk to us. You’ll be amazed at how quickly those walls come down if you talk to us. And we promise to curtail our criticism, to not treat you like another child for us to raise, and to remember that you knew just as much about parenting as we did when we started this whole thing. So maybe – just maybe -we could lean on each other a little bit more.
You’re doing a good job, dad. Pass it on.