Ok, so don’t get me wrong. Dad’s are great! And, I know that my husband cannot wait for anything more than to get home from his deployment and BE a daddy to our little one. But, I have noticed a disturbing trend lately and I just couldn’t sit on this anymore. It might be that I’m more sensitive to this because my daughter’s dad isn’t able to be here and I’m doing the job of two parents, but honestly, I think I might feel the exact same if he had been here this entire 7 months so far.
Parenting is parenting and should not be defined or glorified with roles delineated based on gender (with the obvious exception of breastfeeding, but dad’s CAN feed a baby too…)
My two recent points of contention:
On July 9th, AdWeek posted this commercial http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/thailand-does-it-again-ad-will-leave-you-bawling-baby-158792 with the headline: “Thailand Does It Again With an Ad That Will Leave You Bawling Like This Baby Grab some tissues and your phone charger”
The ad, for those that haven’t gone and watched it yet, basically illustrates the following: A dad is looking over his daughter crying in her crib. Panicked, he calls mom who seems to be at the grocery store. He says “What do I do??”. Mom’s first guess: baby is hungry — dad cutely feels his chest with that “I don’t have boobs” goofy look. Ok. Fine. Cute. Then mom has an idea to play peek-a-boo over the phone. Then, after this, dad — with a look that is somewhere between pain, fear and the trepidation of a 14 year old who has to change a diaper for the first time — reaches down and, wait for it…PICKS UP HIS CHILD. The baby stops crying almost immediately as mom watches on through an iChat or some version of video chat and tears up. The look dad gives his daughter in this video is the same look that I saw on my husband on the day our daughter was born and every, single, day (numbered as they were before he deployed) of her first weeks of life: a look comingled between awe and love. The tagline at the end of the ad is “technology can never replace love”. True enough. But, I have to ask, would people be fawning over this if the roles had been reveresed and MOM was the one “freaking out” and then picking up her baby. No, I think not. I have to admit, sadly, that people would be up in arms and saying things like “what kind of mother does that?” and “why doesn’t that mom just pick her baby up?” It wouldn’t be a “Grab the Tissues” spot. This is parenting folks. Dad’s have to figure out how to console and sooth their babies the same way that moms do, every day, all day long.
Ok, so next: In the August 2014 issue of Parent magazine, there was a little blurb about how a 37 year-old father was traveling on an airplane with his two children ages 4 and 5. The article, which was admittedly also making a little fun of this situation, stated that the flight attendants “made sure [the father] and his boys…could watch nonstop movies and have free first-class dinners” because they knew “it’s hard to bring kids on a five hour flight [and she] wanted him to have the best experience possible.” (20). Um, seriously? I have been on eight different flights – BY MYSELF – with my daughter as a 3 month and then 6 month old and have seen at least three different mothers in my travels – also solo – with their kids who have gotten…wait for it…No Special Treatment.
But hey, let’s just assume dad here is doing something very special and needs all the help he can get.
Dad’s ARE NOT SPECIAL! I mean, not any MORE special than Mom’s. Parenting is a two person job and each of those two people should be able and willing to do ALL of the things required of them as parents. Doing the job of a parent doesn’t make you special, wether you are the Mama or the Daddy. These stories and examples are sending a message that I am uncomfortable with. They are sending a message about gender and norms and roles that I think does a disservice to parents of BOTH genders. Gendered norms that are antiquated and that I had hoped were disappearing (sadly, I realize this is not yet the case…). They are sending the message that dad’s, doing what parents just do, are doing something special. I have to think that MOST dad’s do not think of themselves as doing anything special or out-of-the-ordinary when they are just simply being a parent – a good parent, don’t get me wrong – but a parent…just like mom.
I know that dad’s like Daddy Doin’ Work (http://daddydoinwork.com/) and The Daddy Diaries (http://thedaddydiaries.net/) go about their daily daddy-duties simply as “parent duties” that sometimes are specific to dad, but also sometimes not. They are being parents. They aren’t, as most dad’s aren’t, asking for special treatment. I hope that most dad’s aren’t anyway and I hope that our media world can more closely examine the message that they send when they put one parent up on a pedestal for doing what they should be doing to begin with – being good parents.
NOTE: I would have, I believe, the same reaction to media that glorifies moms for these same things…as I said, I don’t want any parent praised for doing the job of being good parents, particularly when gender is defining those roles.