Last updated on June 5th, 2021 at 12:49 pm
Why the World Has Fatherhood WRONG.
It took me until we had our second child to feel like I was getting a handle on fatherhood, much of the awkwardness I’d had from those early days with our first son melted away as I just sprang into action the second time around.
But I’ll never forget what happened a few weeks into being a family of four when Sarah and I decided to do some grocery shopping with our newborn while our oldest was away at daycare.
Grocery shopping as new parents is always easier when you have two or more people do it together, because trying to manage a baby and shopping cart on your own ain’t easy!
(Putting a car seat on top of a shopping cart is a no-no, so how do you carry you baby and have room for your groceries, too? Do you get a second cart? Get a stroller with generous bottom basket like the Uppababy Vista and take smaller trips? You have to get very creative to make it work, but a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.)
So, with two of us there to share the load, we decided to split up and have me walk our baby around the store for his nap while Sarah got everything we needed. And as I did a lap past the meat aisle, an older woman not much lighter in complexion than myself decided to strike up conversation about my baby and me.
“Awww—look at your baby! He’s so cute!”
“Oh, I miss those days—he looks so sweet while he sleeps!”
“Well, so far so good, anyway.”
“Where’s the mother? She let you take him out on your own?”
Spoiler Alert: Dads Can Parent, TOO.
What I didn’t understand then that I fully appreciate now is that for the longest while, men weren’t too involved with raising their kids. The idea of the dad as the breadwinner is very widely prevalent, making moms the de facto experts on parenting with so many of the dads keeping busy at work.
But as the years go on, the less this trope holds true, but the world is slow to change. Despite more and more moms making strides for equality, juggling jobs, family and homes in the process, the same equality doesn’t often extend to the dads who strive to do the same. From day one, dads step into a parenting world that wasn’t designed for them, trying to find a way without an ounce of guidance to work with.
Confused glances at mommy and baby playgrounds. The questions when you take them to the park. The things you hear in the early days almost make you feel like parenting kids as a dad is unnatural—that doing it without a mom constantly around could only result in failure.
“Looks like dad’s on babysitting duty today!”
“Yeah, it’s tough, right? Now you know how hard it is for moms.”
But we’re not out here trying to compete with any of the moms—we just want to parent like anybody else, doing everything we can for our kids until they’re old enough to do it for themselves.
And that’s more than any babysitter would do.
Dads, it’s not babysitting if it’s your kids. We just need to help the rest of the world UNDERSTAND that.
Dads don’t babysit because babysitters leave once their job is done, while fatherhood’s a vocation you keep for life. While there are many spaces that don’t traditionally see too many dads in the world of raising children, there are more dads stepping up to change that, trying to show that we can do just about anything our mommy counterparts can do, too.
I think of dads like Donte Palmer who uses Squat for Change to bring awareness to the utter lack of change tables in men’s washrooms. Or dads like Glen Henry who actively fight against the stereotypes surrounding Black fatherhood and try to show the humanity behind it all. You have more dads who are challenging the norm and finding ways to share that in the public eye—we need to show that others narratives are possible so that dads can feel inspired to be something different from what society says they should be.
So it’s not babysitting if you’re looking after your kids—it’s just parenting. And if the world will let us, we can do a better job at it than anyone ever imagined.
We’ll make sure to catch you at the next post!
Posts in my “Forty Days to Father’s Day” Series
- Forty Days to Father’s Day: The Intro
- What IS a Father? The Definition of a Dad.
- The Importance of Sharing Fatherhood Stories
- Who Wants to be a Dad, ANYWAY?
- Getting Ready for a BABY: First Steps to Fatherhood!
- First Steps to Fatherhood: A Year Makes a Difference!
- 13 Things Dads Need to Know When Having Kids
- It’s Not Babysitting if it’s Your Kid.