Context: I’m a man, a husband and a father living in Monterrey, Mexico.
I get called “a good dad” a lot. Stating this is by no means, an intention of bragging.
I get called a good dad when we’re at an airport, I notice my toddler needs a diaper change and I tell my wife “we’ll be right back, this one needs to go to the bathroom.” I get called a good dad when I take my kids out to breakfast on Sunday so that Mommy can get a much-deserved extra hour of sleep. People call me a good dad when I take my kids to a birthday party and endure the loud screaming, running around and ordinal chaos that occurs in such events. I get called a good dad when I calm my son down after a fall with a scraped knee, when I play tag with my daughters in the park or when I’m able to get them to an afternoon class on time. I get called a good dad by other mothers when I go to parent-teacher conferences at our kids’ school.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for any recognition I get. I am very conscious of my responsibility and role as a father to try to be the best paternal figure I can be toward my kids. I work on this every day and every way that I can. But consider the following:
- My wife does these and many other similar things as a parent to our children. She does them ALL the time and quite frankly, most of the time she does them better than I do (not because of her gender, just due to her personal talents). Does she get called a good mom? Sure… but not nearly as often and not nearly with the level of appraisal and amazement as the “good dad” comments I receive from random people in the street. My wife, as a woman and a mother, is socially EXPECTED to be a good mom. Apparently, being a good mom is considered normalcy, which raises several questions: does society think that good moms are good effortlessly? Do we really think that each and every challenge that drives other people crazy about dealing with kids has zero effect on mothers? If so, without any surgical operations, is there a way to turn me into a mother? Now? Please?
Sarcasm aside, being a mom is damn hard. It’s not something that happens magically or naturally. Even when you factor in your belief of the power “maternal instinct” may have, that only accounts for a mother’s intention to love and protect her children, not her talents to do so effectively.
- Apparently, society has very low expectations of what my duties as a father are. If what I am doing generates amazement and reasons for praise, what are average dads doing? Should we be worried about that? Why are we being way too complacent toward fathers? Even if you believe that traditional (old) roles where a mother stays at home and a dad goes to work apply (and trust me, even if you wanted them to, in this economy they don’t), that arrangement should not give men a pass at being fathers. What happened to the women’s liberation movement and why did it not tackle societal gender and paternal/maternal roles? We should be diligently working on reassessing society’s demands on dads. How can we get the ball rolling on that? Now? Please?
If we never expect fathers to be good fathers, they never will be. If we don’t demand fatherly figures to step up their game, we will continue raising children with less than adequate paternal examples who grow up to be less than adequate fathers themselves… in a downward spiral.
- People are very strange. As mentioned above, we apparently underappreciate good mothers and overvalue good fathers… But when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day come along, we tend to be way more festive on May 10th than on the third Sunday of June. Is that our guilt trip acting up on us? Do we know that we suck at valuing moms all year and hence try to overcompensate this in one measly day? I propose the following: let’s recognize good moms AND dads all year long and when deserved, equate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations. Meaning? If you suck at being a mom or a dad, you should not get a cool gift for it. And if you truly are a good mom or dad, congratulations and know that I applaud your efforts and admire you immensely. That is the best gift I know to give.
A guy trying to be a good dad, but not always achieving it.